Breastfeeding has great health benefits for your baby, but it can be difficult for moms to be on-call 24/7 for feedings. Babies do not seem to care if their mom is overworked, sleep-deprived, or just flat-out exhausted; they still need you to care for their every need. But what happens when a breastfeeding mom starts running a fever? Can you breastfeed if you have a fever? If you feel lousy, you may worry about passing your sickness on to your baby via breast milk.
Well, part of that depends on how high your fever is. According to Mayo Clinic, if your fever is at 103 degrees or higher you may want to get medical help to get that temp down. After all, you need to be pretty healthy to take care of that baby. But, if you’re running a low-grade fever then there may be some benefits to continuing breastfeeding while feverish. In fact, doing so may actually help prevent your baby from getting sick.
According to La Leche League, most mothers can continue to breastfeed while sick and feverish, and notes that your breast milk may pass important disease-fighting antibodies to your baby. With this in mind, if you stop breastfeeding when you have symptoms of a fever, you may increase your baby’s likelihood of getting sick, too.
Also note that fever (and flu-like symptoms) may be a sign of mastitis, an infection of breast tissue that may affect breastfeeding women in particular. Even in this case, the Mayo Clinic recommends women continue to breastfeed for your baby’s health.
According to New Jersey Women, Infants and Children, there are only a few illnesses — such as HIV, active tuberculosis, or HTLV-1 — that are considered problematic for breastfeeding. That said, if your fever worsens or appears to be a symptom of another illness, you may want to check in with a healthcare provider just to be on the safe side.
Of course, if you do decide to breastfeed with a fever you’ll want to take hygiene precautions to reduce your baby’s risk of infection. Washing your hands often, and even wearing a face mask while breastfeeding to prevent transmitting germs may be a good idea to lower your baby’s exposure to the illness, according to Kid’s Health. You may also want to get a partner or friend to act as pinch hitter for your baby’s other needs so you can catch up on your rest and feel better. Because taking care of yourself is the only way you can truly take care of your little one.