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.
Breastfeeding with food poisoning is also perfectly safe and encouraged.
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!
Wednesday 8th of April 2020
Thanks for the reassurance. My son is 8 weeks old and I feel so sick and was wondering if I should stop breastfeeding so he doesn’t get it too. This really helped
Thursday 9th of April 2020
Good luck, hope you feel better soon.
Saturday 1st of February 2020
Thank you for the encouragement. I want you to know I needed that. I think I caught the bug too. I didn’t know what to do at first with my babies. Scared they’ll get sick too and I’m breastfeeding my 7 month old. Thanks to you and God for reassuring me. I don’t need to worry
Sunday 2nd of February 2020
Good luck, hope you are feeling better soon!
Friday 31st of January 2020
Thank you for writing this. I am traveling in Mexico with my husband, grand mother and daughter (16 months). My daughter randomly threw up day 3 of our trip, no other symptoms and was seemingly fine prior and after. I didn’t think more than maybe the food is just too different and her body is trying to adjust. Day 5 I unfortunately got massively ill with all the nasty symptoms of the Norovirus. My husband took care of our daughter while I rested, but I nursed her way more than usual as she asked for it every time she saw me. I think she missed me but also I found this article and knew it was good for her so I nursed despite how bad I felt. Day 6 late at night my husband starts to vomit and I had him go into a different room. I’m still not 100% but can feel myself being slowly on the mend. Of course you read the Norovirus stays in your system and can be contagious for a few days.... so I am just praying/crossing my fingers in hopes that she does not get it full blast tomorrow or worse, the day we leave on the airplane. She has never had any illnesses before and I’m scared because we are so far away from home. Maybe her virus was just that one incident of throwing up and we just happened to get sick from it? Who knows...
I’m hopeful after reading your experiences that a baby can be exposed to the virus and NOT get sick due to breastfeeding... please please please!! Sending my love to all the mommas out there that feel horrible and scared. This too, shall pass.
Sunday 2nd of February 2020
Hope you are on the mend now and baby doesn't get sick. Good luck!
Sunday 26th of January 2020
I love to see all the mommas on here who are commenting and praising each other and keeping it up while sick. Thank you, because I too suspect i have the stomach “flu” :( just hoping my 3mo old is protected. I’m so weak right now, that the last one was tough, but I know this will pass and I can probably manage to still feed her when she wakes up tonight. Just gotta keep down the ice a little bit.
Monday 27th of January 2020
I hope you feel better soon! Usually the worst is about 24 hours so hopefully it's almost over. Hope your baby is okay too. It is so hard to know what to do when we are sick and trying to protect our babies. While breastfeeding while sick isn't always ideal it hopefully will provide some protective benefits.
Friday 13th of December 2019
Thank you for this and all the other moms commenting ! I have 5 children and my youngest is 4 months old , breastfeeding, and I have a stomach bug. Can hardly get up off the bathroom floor. And praying my baby doesn't get it! It's nice to know that one does survive this!