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Treating a Cold or the Flu while Breastfeeding

Many mothers wonder what to do when they get a cold or the flu. Should you stop nursing? What remedies or medications are okay to use?

Is it okay to breastfeed your baby if YOU get a cold or the flu?

Absolutely. You will help pass antibodies to your baby that will protect your baby. Drink plenty of fluids and get rest while you are recovering. You can also protect your baby by washing your hands frequently during cold and flu season.

Is it okay for your baby to breastfeed if your baby is sick?

It is more than okay! It is best for your baby. Breast milk is the perfect nutrition and hydration for your baby and it is full of protective antibodies. In addition, babies are comforted by breastfeeding - which is especially helpful when they are not feeling well.

Is it okay to obtain a flu vaccination while breastfeeding?

Yes, you may have a flu shot. (The Centers for Disease Control no longer recommend the nasal spray flu vaccine as of June 2016 due to lack of effectiveness.) 

Can your baby have a flu vaccine?

Not if your baby is younger than 6 months of age. However, breastfeeding will help your baby’s immune system fight off infections and viruses. Breastfed babies are less likely to get colds and the flu and less likely to experience severe cold or flu symptoms.

What remedies can you take to help with cold and flu symptoms?

Most over-the-counter cold and flu remedies have not been proven to be very effective. If you choose to take cold or flu remedies, the amount that passes through your milk is usually very small and unlikely to affect baby. However, pseudoephedrine, a common decongestant in Sudafed, DayQuil, NyQuil and Theraflu may cause a decrease in your milk supply. It can decrease prolactin, the main hormone involved in making milk.

When you are ill, drink lots of fluids (water, hot lemon tea, soup), get plenty of rest, and take hot baths or showers. Sleep will help your body recover and fluids will help you feel better and decrease congestion. You may use a nasal saline irrigation (e.g. NeilMed Sinus Rinse), throat lozenges or a zinc oral mist (e.g. Zicam). These are all local or topical treatments. If you have body aches and/or a fever, you may take ibuprofen (Motrin) and/or acetaminophen (Tylenol). If a cough is keeping you from sleeping, you may take dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant (Robitussin DM).

Do not exceed recommended doses on any of the above mentioned medications. Tamiflu, a treatment for influenza A and B, is safe for breastfeeding mothers to use, but it must be administered by a physician within 2 days of infection and it only shortens the duration of the flu by about 36 hours.

Please note: MilkWorks is a well-child facility. If you, or your baby, have had cold or flu symptoms in the past 24 hours, please re-schedule your visit to MilkWorks. Please call us at (402) 423-6402 and we will gladly answer any questions you have until you and your baby are well.