Sick Mother and Breastfeeding

breastfeeding, Baby Shop Club

Did you know that breastfeeding is less likely to make your baby sick? Although it won’t completely prevent you from getting sick, the protective properties of breast milk make breastfed babies tend to get sick less often and recover faster than babies fed formula.

Breast milk has antibacterial and antiviral elements. Depending on the length of breastfeeding, you will reduce your baby’s risk of contracting colds and flu, ear and respiratory tract infections, nausea, and diarrhea.1 Scientists are investigating the potential of breast milk to treat problems that range from from conjunctivitis to cancer.


The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and then supplemented with healthy and adapted foods until at least two years of age, and can continue until mother and child want. Therefore, we are facing a stage that can extend over time, and throughout which it is inevitable that the mother will go through some type of ailment or disease, which can vary in severity and which will require in some cases pharmacological treatment or even surgical interventions.


For this reason, and to clarify doubts at, we will explain you about the fundamentals of knowing which medications are compatible during breastfeeding and which ones are recommended to avoid, although the truth is that the vast majority of drugs and interventions are compatible with giving the breast your baby.

On the other hand, also know that there are very few diseases that are incompatible with breastfeeding because, even viral processes such as influenza, are not a problem that forces the end of lactation if it is not the mother’s express wish.


Can the baby be infected if you breastfeed while sick?


Common illnesses such as a gastroenteritis, flu, or cold from the mother are not a reason to stop breastfeeding if not desired. It should be clarified that the newborn or child will not be infected through breast milk even if their mother suffers from some common acute illness. On the contrary, new antibodies are generated that will beneficially affect their health in the event that it is spread in the future or while the mother is ill through other means.

What can be done in this regard to prevent this contagion is the use of a mask while picking up or feeding the child, in addition to washing hands frequently and disposing of used handkerchiefs.


Breastfeeding while having mastitis


Mastitis is another recurring concern for breastfeeding mothers. In this case, you can not only continue breastfeeding without interruption, since milk from the sick breast does not pose any risk, it is recommended to treat this process. Emptying the chest, through breastfeeding and manual removal in case of severe pain, together with emotional support to cope with this painful process while it lasts and brief application of local heat before breastfeeding and cold compresses afterwards, are part of the most appropriate treatment today.

In the case of a lot of pain and inflammation, ibuprofen can be taken, whose excretion in milk is practically negligible (0.2%). Regarding the use of antibiotics in cases of severe mastitis, it is generally recommended when symptoms persist for more than 24-48 hours or when severe symptoms do not subside with previous measures of heat, emptying and anti-inflammatory.


Serious or infectious diseases that are not spread by breastfeeding


Neither other more serious diseases such as hepatitis, rubella, tuberculosis, chickenpox, syphilis or gonorrhea are reasons for ending the lactation period, since they are unlikely risk pathologies for the infant. In fact, there are very few pathologies that prevent doing so.

Most chronic or long-term diseases, such as heart disease, kidney disease, arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy or depression, allow breastfeeding to be maintained, the scientific societies that deal with these diseases usually do so. recommend, since many of the medications to treat these diseases are either compatible with breastfeeding, or can be exchanged for an alternative that is.


Diseases that do pose a risk if breastfeeding


In reference to the consultation on compatibility with breastfeeding, a list of more than 80 diseases is collected and classified based on their risk with respect to breastfeeding. Among those that do pose a high risk, they include psychosis, drug addiction or the human leukemia virus (VLHT-I), and the human lymphotropic virus T-II cells, since these last two pathologies are transmitted through breast milk .

Others, such as AIDS, hypopituarism, herpes simplex or cancer, although they are not contraindicated, are considered to be of high probable risk, more for the treatments than for the disease in question, so they recommend carefully analyzing the risk-benefit relationship with a healthcare professional.


Can you take medications while breastfeeding?


There is no problem with taking acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and some antibiotics while breastfeeding, as long as you discuss this with a healthcare professional in advance and take the recommended doses. Remember that ibuprofen has contraindications for asthmatic mothers.

Mothers were previously advised to avoid aspirin, but a recent study indicated that in low doses, their use may be safe during breastfeeding. Conversely, high doses have been associated with a very rare but serious problem in infants called Reye’s syndrome, so it is best to discuss aspirin use with a healthcare professional.


The use of more powerful prescription pain relievers, such as codeine and tramadol, is not recommended. Since the guidelines and recommendations are continually updated, a healthcare professional or pharmacist will be able to offer you more information about specific medications if you have any questions.


Some medicines used for the flu, cold and cough contain decongestants or expectorants that can reduce your milk supply. Do not use medications that contain phenylephrine, phenylpropanolamine, or guaifenesin among its ingredients. It is also better to avoid those medications that cause drowsiness during lactation.

Consult the packaging and, if you still have doubts, ask a healthcare professional, and if your baby was born prematurely, with a low birth weight or if he has any medical problem, you should consult a healthcare professional before taking any medication during lactation, including paracetamol.


Whenever you go to a doctor or pharmacist, for whatever reason, make it clear that you are breastfeeding and ask that they offer you the best possible option.


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