Breastfeeding when sick
How to safely nourish your child when you feel unwell.
If you are breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed your baby, it is natural to wonder what to do when you fall ill.
The good news is that the evidence is overwhelmingly in support of continuing breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact and early, exclusive breastfeeding helps your baby to thrive and provides lifelong health benefits.
Read on to get answers to some of the most common questions from new and expecting mothers to help provide the safest experience for you and your baby when you’re feeling unwell.
Can I safely breastfeed my child if I’m feeling sick?
With most common illnesses like a cold or flu, it is safe to continue breastfeeding your baby as long as you take proper hygiene precautions like handwashing. Continuing to breastfeed will help you to maintain your milk supply and will provide your baby with protection against the illness you are experiencing.
Can I take medication while breastfeeding?
If you need to take any medication while ill, let your health care provider know that you are breastfeeding and ask for baby-safe options.
What should I do if I’m too unwell to breastfeed?
If you are feeling too sick to nurse, try to find other ways to safely provide your child with breastmilk. Try expressing milk and giving to your child via a clean cup or spoon. Speak to your breastfeeding counsellor or healthcare professional about the options available to you.
Expressing breastmilk is also important to sustain milk production so you can breastfeed your child again when you feel well enough to do so.
Should I breastfeed if my child is sick?
Continue to breastfeed your child if they become ill. Breastfeeding boosts your baby’s immune system, and your antibodies are passed to them through breastmilk, helping them to fight infections.
What precautions should I take when breastfeeding if I’m sick?
If you are sick or suspect you may be, speak to your healthcare provider for guidance.
Be sure to follow simple hygiene steps to help protect your child. Your hands should be washed with soap and water before and after touching your baby. You may also use an alcohol-based hand rub. It is also important to clean and disinfect any surfaces that you have touched.
Wash breastmilk pumps, milk storage containers and feeding utensils after every use as usual.
Should I breastfeed if I have or suspect I have COVID-19?
Yes, you should continue breastfeeding with appropriate precautions. The transmission of COVID-19 through breastmilk and breastfeeding has not been detected.
Precautions include wearing a mask, washing your hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand rub before and after touching your baby, and routinely cleaning and disinfecting surfaces you have touched. Your chest only needs to be washed if you have just coughed on it. Otherwise, your breast does not need to be washed before every feeding.
Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I'm breastfeeding or providing expressed milk?
Yes, the COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for healthy individuals who are lactating or expressing milk.