By Wendy Colson, RN, IBCLC, RLC
Getting sick when you are a mom is unavoidable, but knowing how to navigate through it if you are breastfeeding/pumping is a must to avoid accidentally dropping your supply! No medicines can "cure" colds and the flu, but you can ease your symptoms with some over-the-counter medication and some natural immune-supporting herbal supplements.
While 99% of prescription and over-the-counter medications are safe, they are not always safe for your milk supply. Since medical schools skim over human lactation and all the facets, your physician will likely know about which medications are compatible with breastfeeding and protect your milk supply. Consult your local IBCLC or call your hospital’s lactation department to guide you and send evidence-based information to your doctor.
You can take over-the-counter medications to treat your symptoms. Most are safe to take and will not harm your baby, but a few of them have side effects that cause a drop in milk supply. Who wants that, right? You can use Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Motrin) for fever or achiness symptoms. However, use caution when using Antihistamines (Benadryl) and Decongestants (Sudafed) which contain pseudoephedrine as some moms have reported a significant drop in their milk supply. Use Claritin as an alternative which is more compatible with breast milk supply. You can use antibiotics if breastfeeding if prescribed for an infection, but add a probiotic to prevent a yeast (candida) infection which can be accidentally spread from your genitals to your breast which is very painful.
How can I speed up my recovery?
For everyday illnesses such as a cold, sore throat, the flu, and food poisoning, rest and taking good care of yourself are the priority. General principles that can support recovery include eating nutrient-dense food and adding supplements packed with immune-supporting superfoods, staying hydrated, and getting adequate rest. Comfort measures such as humidifiers can provide a cool mist and keep moisture in the air. Since 80% of your immune system is in your gut, add a daily dose of prebiotics and probiotics- or drink BOOBIE* Body Superfoods which include these! Of course, be in touch with your primary care providers as needed to monitor your symptoms.
How do I prevent getting my baby sick?
By the time you show symptoms, your baby has already been exposed and your milk has adjusted to make the “antidote” for your baby. Your baby will avoid the illness or come down with very mild symptoms. Therefore, breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed and use standard hygiene protocols while continuing to breastfeed or pump (if you're an exclusive pumper) to prevent passing the illness along to your baby.
Be sure to:
- Wash hands frequently.
- Always ensure you cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Disinfect surfaces regularly.
If being ill drops your milk supply, rest assured it will come back up with frequent breastfeeding (remember, breastmilk is medicine for your baby). You can also add galactagogues into your daily routine for the days following an illness. While it can be stressful, your milk supply and the health of your baby will be safe and return to levels prior to illness. Stay well and nurse on!