Although it offers many benefits, breastfeeding your baby isn’t always for the faint of heart. Cracked nipples, all-night nursing sessions, and sore, engorged breasts can complicate even the most determined new mom’s efforts to give your child breast milk — and those are side effects you deal with when you’re healthy. So what happens when you catch a cold? Does your milk supply drop when you’re sick?
It might, but thankfully, there’s something you can do about it. “Being sick doesn’t inherently cause a dip in supply, but the habits and steps surrounding being sick may interfere with supply,” Ashley Georgakopoulos, Motif Lactation Director and IBCLC, tells Romper. “For example, trying to sleep sickness off and skipping feedings or pump sessions can affect supply.” Which makes sense, because if you’re feeling achy, you might want to shorten a nursing session or, if the baby is sleeping, eliminate it entirely so you can get some rest, too.
But if you’re worried that your baby might catch your cooties through your breast milk, don’t fret. Colds and other illnesses are not spread to babies through maternal milk, reported the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In fact, the CDC found that “mother’s breast milk contains antibodies and other immunological factors that can help protect her infant from flu and is the recommended source of nutrition for the infant, even while the mother is ill.” So even though you might not feel entirely up to it, breastfeeding while you’re sick can actually help boost your baby’s immune system. Just be sure to wash your hands thoroughly to minimize contact and the potential spread of illnesses.
Although you can safely feed your baby despite your itchy eyes and runny nose, you might not be up to the task. In that case, you can always pump your milk and have someone who is healthy give your baby the bottle, advised What To Expect. If you still want to breastfeed your baby, there are ways to make it more comfortable — for you both. “To maintain your milk supply while recovering, practicing reclined and side-lying feeding positions may help to continue to feed on demand without compromising comfort and rest,” advises Georgakopoulos.
To keep up your milk supply (even when you’re rocking a 101 degree fever), you should continue nursing as normal if possible. “Continuing to breastfeed whenever your baby is interested will help maintain milk production while you are ill and increase it afterwards if needed,” reported La Leche League. But in order to have an adequate flow, you’ll need to drink often. “It's important to stay hydrated to help the body flush out the system while not causing dehydration from lactation requirements,” advises Georgakopoulos. “This is especially important for fighting bacterial infections.”
That said, there are medications that have been known to decrease a mother’s milk supply. For example, pseudoephedrine is a decongestant and a commonly used ingredient cold and allergy medications, as per WebMD. But it can also decrease your milk production, reported Parents. So be sure to speak with your doctor before taking any medication if you’re concerned that it might affect your ability to produce breastmilk.
To ensure that your milk supply doesn’t drop when you’re sick, you’ll have to put yourself (and your health) as a top priority. “Ultimately, being sick or stressed is not a cause of low supply, but rather the catalyst if handled incorrectly,” says Georgakopoulos. Eat when you can, and above all, stay hydrated, and soon, you’ll be back to boobing your baby in no time.