Can I breastfeed if one of us is sick?

Breastfeeding has proven to provide the best nutrition for babies, but what happens when one of you is ill? Learn when to stop breastfeeding in times of illness.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) explains that the breastfeeding is most beneficial for babies because breast milk provides them with natural nutrition and antibodies needed to ensure their health. But what if you’vre breastfeeding and fall ill? Should you continue to breastfeed? Or perhaps your baby is sick, and you wonder if it is still okay to breastfeed?

If you are feeling down in the dumps with a cold or the flu, your first thought may be to take a break or stop breastfeeding, but that is not the best option for you and your baby. There are only certain conditions or medications that will actually have you stop breastfeeding all together.  

If your baby is sick, it is generally recommended that you continue to breastfeed. Breast milk can have many benefits for a sick baby. If you are sick with a common illness, such as a cold or flu, you can continue breastfeeding. Your milk will contain antibodies. These antibodies help prevent your baby from getting your illness.

Make sure to check with your health care practitioner before taking over-the-counter or prescription medicines for common illnesses.

Breastfeeding is not advised if you are:

  • Infected with HIV or have AIDS
  • Sick with untreated, active tuberculosis
  • Undergoing radiation treatment
  • Infected with human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I or type II
  • Taking certain prescribed cancer chemotherapy treatments that interfere with DNA replication and cell division
  • Taking antiretroviral medications

More information on certain conditions and medications is available through Medications and Mothers Milk.

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