I have written previously about breastfeeding while sick and the reasons why you can continue to breastfeed even if you are sick.
Here is a fun personal fact, until I had children I had never experience the typical “stomach flu” which hits so many of us often in the fall and winter months.
The first time I experienced it was when my first baby was just turning one. I wasn’t sure about the safety of breastfeeding while sick with the stomach flu, but I already was nursing her when it happened and it was too late to avoid exposure.
Luckily she did not get sick even though my husband and I both did.
Since then I have learned much more about the safety of breastfeeding while sick with a stomach bug.
I had another incident with my second baby while on a trip with most of my family, and everyone on the trip became sick with the stomach flu.
We were with my in laws in a house in the North Carolina mountains. It was cold and wet outside, but inside we were having a great time.
Then, very suddenly my husband was the first one to get sick. It quickly moved through most of us in the house including my older toddler and of course, me.
One of the few who did not come down with it was my baby boy. He was still nursing and this incident made me think about all the amazing protective benefits of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding while sick with the stomach flu is not only doable, but most likely protected him.
Stomach flu is a term which is used frequently but it is not the correct term. It is usually a case of Norovirus or Gastroenteritis.
It is not actually the 'flu' since the flu is respiratory virus. It's a different kind of virus, also called gastroenteritis, but many people call it the stomach flu or a stomach bug.
It can be caused by Norovirus which is extremely common and moves quickly, or bacteria, or another type of virus.
I have also seen questions related to breastfeeding and food poisoning.
At time it can be hard to know if you have a virus or food poisoning when experiencing this kind of illness, since the symptoms are extremely similar.
It also has protective elements.
I've now had a stomach virus four times in the last few years and three of those times I was breastfeeding and during one of them I was pregnant. How did I get so lucky?
While breastfeeding I have never passed this on to the baby I was nursing at the time. Again, I have to think this is due to the amazing immunity benefits of breastfeeding.
When you are sick your body makes antibodies to the virus that are then passed to your baby through your breast milk.
So not only can you breastfeed even if you are sick, it's the best thing you can do since your baby has already been exposed to your illness before you even show symptoms in most cases.
Every time I have been sick and especially when dealing with something as horrible as a stomach virus, it has made me feel great to know that I am doing everything I can to protect my baby.
After three children and many illnesses while breastfeeding, I have been amazed by the protective breastfeeding benefits shielding my children from my illness despite exposure.
Will you feel like breastfeeding while dealing with the stomach flu/virus/bug?
Probably not, but if you can manage it is a good idea to continue, and it's definitely safe.
It's always hard on us moms when we are sick and still need to care for our babies.
Tips for getting through breastfeeding while sick:
Try to have someone else available to help you take care of your baby, and bring your baby to you to breastfeed when needed.
If you can stay in bed and rest, and have someone help you with your baby this will make dealing with it much easier.
This is completely obvious, but drink fluids to help prevent dehydration. Now sometimes it's impossible to get even a little water down so just do what you can.
Take a sip of water and then put it down and wait 15 minutes if needed. Then take another sip and wait again. I received this advice from a nurse the first time I had this virus and it works well.
If you absolutely cannot stomach any water, ice chips can be used.
Try to nurse as much as possible but don't stress about your supply. In most cases your supply should rebound once you are feeling better even if it takes a temporary dip.
The age of your baby will matter in this too. If your baby is much younger and needs to eat frequently try to keep up the frequent feedings.
Keep your baby in bed with you and let your baby sleep with you, or next to you in a bassinet if this helps.
If your baby is older hopefully you will have someone to help you get through it and you will not need to nurse as frequently
And most importantly rest as much as you can!
Check out more tips for getting through a stomach virus here.
When it comes to resting and breastfeeding while sick, I know this is all easier said than done when taking care of children.
Luckily most stomach bugs are quick movers and usually you will be feeling better in 24-48 hours.
It feels so hard when you are going through it though so hang in there. Please let me know if you have any questions!