Breastfeeding While Sick: Avoid A Decrease In Milk Supply

Avoid Decreased Milk Supply: Breastfeeding While Sick

If you’re a breastfeeding mama, you already know some of the challenges associated with breastfeeding. Things like the on-call demand from your little one for food no matter what time it is. Or the invisible yet noticeable chain that keeps you tied to your baby while nursing. The worst, however, might be breastfeeding while sick in order to avoid a decrease in milk supply.

As a healthy mom, breastfeeding can be HARD.

But when you’re a sick mom, breastfeeding during your hour of need seems next to impossible as you attempt to care for yourself as well.

I’m going to share my experiences with you on breastfeeding while sick and provide you with some tips to help get you through this hard time and help you avoid a decrease in milk supply.

Breastfeeding While Sick With The Stomach Flu

I'm so offended when my body decides to be sick. Like, I gave you a vegetable last week... How dare you?! Regardless of what we eat, we're bound to get ill at one point or another. If you're breastfeeding while sick, check out these tips to maintain your milk supply.
Photo Credit: rawpixel.com

I work in early childhood education and when children in my classroom get sick, I worry about my own health, and about breastfeeding while sick.

When my son was 10 months old, I caught a stomach bug that landed me on the bathroom floor worshipping the porcelain god, begging for relief.

I couldn’t even keep water down.

It was horrendous. I couldn’t control what my body was doing and had to also hear my baby crying because he was hungry and wanted to breastfeed.

I had run out of my freezer stash of breastmilk a couple weeks earlier so my only option was breastfeeding while sick.

As hard as my husband was trying to soothe our son and offering him baby food, my baby was not having any of it.

The day after this stomach bug had taken over my body, I felt weak and sore. All I wanted was to lay still in my bed.

But as I’m sure you know, that’s not possible with an infant.

My boobs were still on-call.

Throughout that day, I noticed I was feeling more deflated than usual and I feared that this illness had tanked my supply.

I tried to pump between feedings and barely got an ounce from both breasts despite typically being able to pump five to six ounces with no problem.

I was at a loss.

Fast forward about a month later and I catch a cold that has me sneezing uncontrollably and coughing something fierce. My supply again suffered despite breastfeeding while sick.

I was worried that I wouldn’t fully recover to maintain my breastfeeding relationship.

At this point, since my son was close to his first birthday, I considered ending breastfeeding altogether. However, he wasn’t ready to wean.

Remedies For Maintaining Milk Supply

Mother's milk is liquid love. Feed your baby while you're ill - that's just one way to maintain your milk supply if you're breastfeeding while sick. Find out the other tips to get through your illness with your supply in tact.
Photo Credit: rawpixel.com

I did a variety of things to help keep my breastfeeding relationship going and maintaining my milk supply while breastfeeding while sick.

It’s important to remember that simply breastfeeding on demand is the most important “remedy” to preventing a decrease in milk supply. Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand, so if at all possible, feed your baby that liquid gold, straight from the source.

1. Increase Water Intake

There are many reasons to drink more frequently when you’re breastfeeding while sick.

Staying hydrated will to help prevent dehydration from being ill. It will ensure your body has the fluids necessary to maintain or increase your supply, and overall help alleviate the need to vomit and might even help flush out the sickness.

Since water can become a little bland after a while, I incorporated some Gatorade to increase my electrolytes on top of staying hydrated.

2. Sleep When The Baby Sleeps

It seems everyone says to sleep when the baby sleeps when they’re newborns, but it is especially wise advice when you’re breastfeeding while sick.

Sometimes it’s a challenge, but you should definitely sleep whenever you have the opportunity – to help recover from illness and recharge your batteries a bit.

The rest and sleep will also help you drudge up the mental resources to keep feeding your babe, even if you feel like death warmed over.

3. Ask For Help

These boobs are made for nursing, and that's just what they will do. And one of these days a boob might up and, pop out into view. Check out these tips to ensure you don't lose your milk supply when your breastfeeding while sick.
Photo Credit: rawpixel.com

I employed my husband to do everything except the breastfeeding (obviously).

This helped me rest up more. Doing as little as possible was exactly what I needed.

My husband changed all the diapers. He fed our baby some baby food at meal times. And he did the parts of the housework that couldn’t wait. He also entertained our son and made me some small meals to help build my strength back up.

If your partner isn’t able to lend as much of a hand as you need (because let’s face it, sometimes work schedules just don’t allow time off to help out at home), ask others.

If you have relatives or friends nearby, ask them for a hand with a specific task. For example, “Hey Sue, I am soooo sick! And I’m still breastfeeding while sick, too. It’s rough. Any chance you could pop by and give me a hand with some vacuuming?”

Requesting a specific task can sometimes make it feel more doable for the friend you’re asking.

4. Pump Between Feedings

I was able to pump between feedings to help get my supply back faster.

Prior to getting sick, I didn’t know that my breastmilk would be so impacted by this and therefore I panicked a bit when I felt my supply dwindling.

By pumping I continued to demand more milk from my body in order to increase my supply quicker – it’s all about that supply and demand. Of course, if you’re reading this before you get sick, you might be able to maintain your supply without a decrease, simply by following many of the tips.

If not, and you’re currently breastfeeding while sick, don’t worry, you can do this. If you don’t have a pump, you can always express by hand into a bowl, and then pour that milk into the bottle. (Here are some excellent directions on how to express by pump or by hand.)

Here is a video tutorial on hand expressing techniques.

The Basics of Breast Massage and Hand Expression from Maya Bolman on Vimeo.

5. Relax

When I was breastfeeding while sick, I took it easy whenever I could.

I didn’t walk from one place to another in the house if I didn’t need to.

If housework didn’t need immediate attention, then I didn’t do it.

When my baby was content to play with his daddy and didn’t need me to entertain or comfort him, then I let my husband and baby be. As much as I missed his cuddles, I needed the ultimate “me” time at that point.

Use your time to relax any way you like… Have a nap. Read. Sit outside to get some fresh air. Nothing strenuous, however. The goal is to get better, not to get worn out. Consider it an all-day extension of your usual morning routine, minus all the “getting ready to go out” activities, and more “taking time for yourself”.

Breast Milk Is Magical

Your body is incredible and the fact that you can produce breast milk is magical. Trust your body to know what it is doing. Help yourself and your baby by hydrating, resting, and nourishing you both.. ~Samantha Flores
Photo Credit: rawpixel.com

While these illnesses didn’t last forever, at the moment it sure felt everlasting!

It was a difficult couple of days as I fought to get better and keep up with my baby’s needs after each illness.

Fortunately, breastmilk contains antibodies to whatever moms are fighting off. It means our babies are less likely to become ill, too. That meant I didn’t have to also take care of a sick baby.

But not to worry! Although it might feel impossible, you can do this. You can keep breastfeeding while sick, and while your baby is sick. It’ll help your babe recover more quickly and possibly have a milder infection.

Your body is incredible and the fact that you can produce breast milk is magical.

Trust your body to know what it is doing. Help yourself and your baby by hydrating, resting, and nourishing you both.

For more information on breastfeeding while ill, check out this resource from the International Breastfeeding Clinic: Breastfeeding and Maternal Illness.

Have you ever had to continue breastfeeding while sick? What did you do to keep up your supply? Let me know in the comments below.

Breastfeeding While Sick: How to Avoid a Decrease in Milk Supply will provide you the information you require to keep up your milk supply, and provides tips to increase your supply should you have experience a dip.

Breastfeeding While Sick: Don't Lose Your Supply will outline important tips to keep up your milk supply when you're breastfeeding while sick.

Spread the love and share with your friends. Or, love yourself and save it for later.
Samantha Flores Contributor
Founder, Writer Her Journal Blog

Samantha Flores is a first time mom to an incredible little
boy living in Northern California. She holds an M.A. in Education with a
Specialization in Culturally Responsive Education. Her mission is to help other
moms and those seeking parenting advice by writing about her experiences
and providing answers to questions. She is always looking for new ways to
connect with others and develop her writing skills through freelance work.

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21 thoughts on “Breastfeeding While Sick: Avoid A Decrease In Milk Supply”

  1. this is so beautiful and informative post. i am agreed with you that sometimes it is very struggling and difficult situation. you gave so good advice here so i bookmarked your post.

  2. 4x mom here and this is totally solid advice. Hydrate, don’t stress & feed on demand! And if you feel like you’re supply isn’t keeping up, definitely let them suckle for a bit even when you know you’ve hit empty…supply & demand is right!

    • I think it’s really hard for first time parents not to stress, but it’s wonderful when they can read the advice of experienced moms and know they’re doing it “right”. Helps alleviate that stress. Thanks for your support! And kudos for breastfeeding your littles!

  3. As a 3rd-time mommy, all of whom were breastfed, I’ve learned that we put way too much pressure on ourselves. I truly believe the key is to stay calm, drink lots of water and do what comes naturally. AND keep the baby on the boob! That is the key to success.

    • Exactly! I learned this lesson the hard way, after breastfeeding my middle kiddo despite many challenges. Once I let off on that pressure, my experience with my youngest was much more pleasant, and in fact, let me be okay with weaning her because I needed to be done even though she wasn’t.

  4. It’s so important for women to honestly talk about their struggles and successes as breastfeeding mamas. It can be such a difficult time.

  5. When I did breastfeed, it was different for all the kids and I couldn’t even breastfeed my 3rd child, but my 4th child breastfed until he was 15 months. Before I was forced to stop 🙁

    • All of my three were different experiences as well. Cat (eldest) was formula fed 100%, Monkey (middle) had mostly breastmilk with a bit of formula at the beginning, expressed milk by bottle, and then from the source. Youngest was exclusively breastfed, no formula. Every kid has different needs. Fortunately, I didn’t ever get sick while breastfeeding, so I didn’t have the misfortunate experience of having to maintain my supply while feeling ill.

  6. Pumping twice a day, once in the morning and once at right helped me out with my supply a lot. And drinking lots of water too! Great tips!

  7. I am a breastfeeding mom. It was really a struggle when I am sick. I used to stay hydrated when I am sick. And as much as possible if I am taking any medicine I consult my doctor if it was safe for the baby.

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