A Guide to Breastfeeding While Sick With A Cold Or Flu

During cold and flu season, breastfeeding moms ask two questions: how do I keep germs away from my home? And can I still breastfeed while sick?

It’s that time of year again – cold and flu season. Breastfeeding moms may be asking two questions:  how do I keep flu and cold germs away from my home? And can I still breastfeed with a cold or flu?

​​​​​​​Protect your Environment

The best way to prevent the spread of germs and viruses is to keep things clean. The CDC recommends washing your hands (a lot!) and cleaning and disinfecting the surfaces and items at home, work, or school that are touched most often. And that includes your pumping supplies! That’s why we’ve added a Breast Pump and Accessory Sanitizer Spray to our Quick Clean™ family of products. Use it to safely eliminate 99.9% of bacteria and viruses – including H1N1 (Influenza A) and common cold (Rhinovirus Type 37) – on your breast pump parts and accessories, and on other surfaces that see a lot of traffic, like changing tables, counters, door handles, TV remote controls, and handrails. Better safe than sick!

Can I still breastfeed with a cold or flu?

In most cases, moms do not have to stop breastfeeding when they’re sick. In fact, being sick is even more reason to keep breastfeeding often! You’ll help protect your baby (more on that below), and taking a few moments to sit back and nurse may give you some much needed downtime. If you are too sick to breastfeed or care for your baby, pump your milk and have a healthy caregiver feed your baby until your doctor gives you the go-ahead to nurse again.

Note: If you have a newborn and are in a healthcare setting and have been positively diagnosed with the flu, the CDC has recommendations that may guide your healthcare provider in caring for you and your breastfed baby: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/infectioncontrol/peri-post-settings.htm

Why is it safe to continue breastfeeding while sick?

Breast milk gives your baby the best protection against sickness. The protective antibodies it contains help your baby’s developing immune system fight off infection and illness. In most cases, if you have a contagious illness like a cold, flu, or minor virus, your baby was exposed to it even before you showed symptoms. Of course, it’s still important to make sure you wash your hands often, avoid coughing or sneezing near your baby, and put those kisses on hold for a few days!

Does cold medicine affect breastfeeding?

Yes. Some medications may contain ingredients that can impact milk supply. If you need to take antibiotics or other medicine, just check with your doctor or Lactation Consultant first

My supply dropped while I was sick. What can I do?

A mom’s supply may decrease while she’s ill, but it should return to normal once she’s well. While you’re sick, continue practicing ways to increase milk supply like breastfeeding and pumping often, eating as best you can, and keeping hydrated. This will help you maintain your supply throughout the time that you’re sick.

What happens if I need to be hospitalized due to illness?

Some hospitals allow breastfeeding moms to bring their babies with them. If your baby can’t be with you, it’s important to pump on your usual feeding schedule. A hospital-grade (multi-user) breast pump like the Symphony is highly recommended.