This post has been updated for 2018! I believe the same benefits apply and breastfeeding while sick is safe to continue and most likely beneficial to your baby!
I recently wrote a post about breastfeeding while sick and the reasons why you can continue to breastfeed even if you are sick. Then, this past week I took a trip and while on this trip most of my family 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 toddler. One of the few who did not come down with it was my baby boy. He is 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 not really the correct term
It’s not actually the ‘flu’ since the flu is respiratory virus. It’s just different kind of virus, also called gastroenteritis, but many people call it stomach flu. I’ll spare you all the lovely details but if you’ve had it you know it’s rough!
I’ve now had a stomach virus three times in the last two years and two of those times I was breastfeeding and during one of them I was pregnant. How did I get so lucky ha?
Luckily 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. I think of breastfeeding as this protective shield and it really is amazing.
Now will you feel like breastfeeding while dealing with the stomach flu/virus/bug?
Probably not, but if you can manage it’s a good idea to continue, and it’s definitely perfectly safe. It’s always hard on us moms when we are sick and still need to care for our babies.
Some tips to help get through it:
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.
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.
Of course the age of your baby will matter in this too. If your baby is much younger and needs to eat frequently try to keep it up. 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 then 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! I know this is easier said than done when taking care of kids. 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.