From runny noses to sore throats to upset stomachs, the symptoms of an illness are something every breastfeeding mother dreads. Feeling icky on top of our regular motherly duties can be downright exhausting, and the medications we used to take without a second thought now carry the possibility of affecting our babies. Fortunately, there’s plenty of pills and other concoctions that are perfectly safe for both a nursing mom and her little one. Read on to find out how to make it through that persistent cold or nasty flu while keeping up a healthy milk supply and continuing your successful breastfeeding relationship.
Over the Counter and Under the Weather
Before we began the adventure that is parenthood, our first instinct when we got the sniffles was to reach for a bottle of cough medicine. We’d take a dose, turn on our favorite movie and rest up. Now that we’ve got an extra life to think about, things are a little different. Every breastfeeding mom knows that some of what goes into her body also transfers to her milk. Therefore, it’s best to avoid over-the-counter medications unless you truly need them. Sometimes a cold will pass in a few days without the help of pharmaceuticals, letting both mom and baby return to their regular routine drug-free. When being sick is really getting you down, however, it’s time to check the ingredient list on your preferred bottle of pills.
Labels Never Lie
When it comes to figuring out which medications are safe to take while breastfeeding, there’s no clearer clue than a list of ingredients. Every over-the-counter medication is required by law to list its ingredients, and taking a peek at these will tell you exactly what you need to know. This article from Breastfeeding Basics has a comprehensive list of safe and not-so-safe ingredients. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen, for example, are common painkillers that help with such ailments as body aches, fevers and headaches. Both ibuprofen and acetaminophen, which are commonly seen under such brand names as Advil and Tylenol, are safe to take while nursing. Aspirin, on the other hand, carries the risk of a condition known as Reye’s syndrome and should be avoided. If you’re battling a sore throat, ingredients to avoid include phenol and hexylresorcinols, so put down the Listerine and Cepastat. Instead, look for lozenges that contain menthol or benzocaine, such as Celestial Seasonings and Vicks Lozenges. For blocked sinuses, pseudoephedrine is a safe and effective ingredient contained in most popular nasal decongestants. While safe for both mom and baby, pseudoephedrine does have the unfortunate side effect of lowering milk supply. If you find yourself low on milk, try a nasal spray instead. Sodium chloride, oxymetazoline and phenylephrine are all safe constituents for nasal sprays.
Is It Contagious?
Even when we’re thoroughly knowledgeable on which medications will affect our hungry little ones, every nursing mom is certain to worry about her actual illness being contagious. After all, the last thing we want is our aches and pains to turn our innocent little one into a fussy, crying mess! So, can illnesses be transported through breast milk? For common afflictions like a cold or the flu, the answer is a resounding no. Those germs don’t pass through breast milk. In fact, special antibodies against the illness are created by the mother’s body, and these antibodies do pass through breast milk. So, even if junior catches the cold from being physically close to mom, he’s getting a uniquely tailored cocktail of medication when she continues to nurse him, raising the chances that he’ll be able to fight off the sickness quickly and efficiently. Of the few conditions that can be transferred through breast milk and require the mother to stop nursing, HIV is the most notable. As long as you’ve been tested and cleared, rest assured that breastfeeding while sick is actually helping your baby instead of harming him.
Being sick is never fun, and it’s especially challenging while caring for a young life. When we used to pop a pill at the first sign of a scratchy throat, we’re now scrutinizing labels to ensure each ingredient is safe for our little one. Regardless of whether you’re battling this year’s flu, a fierce cold or a persistent infection, you can take one worry off your list and know that you won’t have to stop breastfeeding while you heal. With the help of some mother-approved medication and a little extra rest, you’ll be back to your regular self in no time, all while maintaining the beautiful breastfeeding relationship you’ve worked so hard to create.