By Erin Rodriguez, Lactation Counselor
It’s that time of year again, flu season. For a breastfeeding mother this can be a hard balance knowing if it is ok to breastfeed when you are not feeling well. The answer is yes, you can still breastfeed when you are sick. There are only a few exceptions as to when you cannot breastfeed.
When you feel that you may be coming down with something it is important to continue breastfeeding at the breast. Your body will be producing antibodies needed to help baby fight off whatever it is that you have come down with.
This is the most effective protection you can provide to baby to combat any illnesses and viruses they may come in contact with. I know you may not always have the energy when you are not feeling well to breastfeed. However, this is the best way to ensure that baby does not get sick.
There are very few illnesses that would require you to stop breastfeeding as it could be dangerous for baby. One of the illnesses is untreated, active tuberculosis. Another is HIV or human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 or 2. These illnesses can be pasted to baby via the milk, which can harmful to baby. These are the only reasons to stop or not breastfed.
Should you contract the flu or even the COVID-19 breastfeeding is still possible and very important. In these cases, it is better to pump and have a healthy caregiver feed baby. According to the CDC if you do choose to feed at the breast best practice is to wear a mask (CDC, 2020). As always you should follow proper pump cleaning guidelines based on the manufacture recommendations.
Ensuring that you get the flu shot and anyone in your household over the age of 6 months of age is great protection for the little ones in your family. Even though babies under 6 months of age cannot get the flu shot, if a breastfeeding mother receives the shot the antibodies will be pasted to baby and keep him or her protected. Also make sure all members of your household are up to date with their vaccines. Overall staying up to date with yours and your family’s vaccines, breastfeeding as much as you can whether at the breast or with the pump, and following proper hygiene such as hand washing and covering your cough is the best protection for baby.