Can I Breastfeed If I Have a Cold or Other Illness?

Breastfeeding is an incredible journey that not only nourishes your little one but also creates a bond that lasts a lifetime. However, as a nursing mother, you may find yourself under the weather at times. The key question then becomes – Can I breastfeed if I have a cold or other illness? This article aims to clear all your doubts and provide you with the necessary information.

“Explore the safe practice of breastfeeding while dealing with a common cold or other illnesses. Learn how to nourish and protect your baby while maintaining your health.”

Breastfeeding With a Cold

Mothers often worry that breastfeeding during a common cold may harm their babies. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics supports breastfeeding even when the mother has a cold or flu.

A common cold doesn’t usually pose a risk to your infant, especially if you continue to breastfeed. In fact, breastfeeding can be beneficial when you have a cold. Here’s why:

Immune System Boost

When you get a cold, your body creates antibodies to fight off the infection. These antibodies are present in your breast milk and are passed to your baby when you breastfeed. This means that your baby receives some level of immunity against the cold virus you’re carrying. This is particularly important for newborns, whose immune systems are still developing.

Continued Nourishment and Hydration

Even when you’re ill with a cold, your body continues to produce breast milk that is rich in nutrients. This milk provides all the nourishment your baby needs, including hydration, which is especially important if you’re feeling feverish or dehydrated.

Comfort for Both Mom and Baby

Breastfeeding offers emotional comfort and security for your baby. At a time when you might not be feeling your best, this close contact can also offer you some comfort, knowing that you are continuing to support your baby’s health and well-being.

Precautions While Breastfeeding With a Cold

Even though it’s generally safe and beneficial to continue breastfeeding when you have a cold, you’ll want to take some precautions:

  1. Practice Good Hygiene: Wash your hands often, especially before and after handling your baby. Use a tissue or your elbow to cover coughs and sneezes.
  2. Wear a Mask: If you’re coughing or sneezing a lot, wearing a mask while breastfeeding can help prevent the spread of the virus to your baby.
  3. Rest and Hydrate: Make sure you get plenty of rest and stay hydrated. This will help your body fight off the illness more quickly, and will help maintain your milk supply.

Breastfeeding during a cold can be beneficial for both you and your baby. However, always consult a healthcare professional if you’re unsure or if your symptoms worsen. Your health is essential for you to take care of your baby’s needs.

Breastfeeding While Ill: Exceptions

While breastfeeding is generally safe during most illnesses, there are certain exceptions. Mothers are advised against breastfeeding in the following circumstances:

  • HIV/AIDS: Mothers with HIV should not breastfeed as the virus can be transmitted to the baby through breast milk.
  • Tuberculosis: Active tuberculosis can be dangerous for the baby. Mothers should consult with healthcare providers to determine the best course of action.
  • HTLV-1: Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) can also be transmitted via breast milk.

Safe Medications During Breastfeeding

When you’re ill and nursing, it’s vital to ensure the medications you take are safe for your baby. Here are some more examples of generally safe medications to take during breastfeeding, but you should always consult your healthcare provider before taking any medication.

Cold and Flu Remedies

  • Pseudoephedrine: Although this medication is generally safe, it may decrease milk supply if used in large amounts or for an extended period.
  • Nasal sprays: Most nasal sprays, such as oxymetazoline (Afrin) and fluticasone (Flonase), are considered safe.


  • Loratadine (Claritin): This antihistamine is usually considered safe during breastfeeding.
  • Fexofenadine (Allegra): This is another antihistamine that is generally considered safe.


  • Sertraline (Zoloft) and Paroxetine (Paxil): These are preferred choices for nursing mothers who need an antidepressant.

Pain Relievers

  • Naproxen (Aleve): This is safe for short-term use but should be avoided for long-term use due to the risk of infant harm.

Digestive Aids

  • Famotidine (Pepcid): This medication is generally safe for treating heartburn.
  • Loperamide (Imodium): This medication for diarrhea is safe during breastfeeding.

Remember, this is not a complete list, and the safety of a medication can depend on many factors, including the age of your baby, the dose of the medication, and your overall health. Therefore, it’s always best to discuss your medications with a healthcare provider who is knowledgeable about breastfeeding. They can provide you with the most accurate and current information about medication safety.

Always consult your healthcare provider before taking any medication while breastfeeding.

Precautions To Take While Breastfeeding When Ill

When breastfeeding while ill, take the following precautions:

  • Practice Good Hygiene: Washing hands frequently, avoiding coughing or sneezing directly on your baby, and using a mask can help prevent spreading the illness to your baby.
  • Stay Hydrated: Illness can dehydrate you faster. Drink plenty of fluids to maintain your milk supply.
  • Rest Well: Getting enough rest can help you recover faster and maintain a steady milk supply.
  • Avoid Close Contact: When possible, try to limit your baby’s exposure to your illness. This could mean avoiding unnecessary cuddling or kissing when you are particularly symptomatic.
  • Use a Pump: If you’re feeling too ill to breastfeed directly, consider expressing milk with a breast pump. This allows someone else to feed your baby without breaking the feeding routine.
  • Separate Utensils: During your illness, use separate dishes and utensils to further prevent the spread of germs.
  • Clean Commonly Touched Surfaces: Disinfect commonly touched objects and surfaces in your home, like doorknobs or your phone.
  • Keep Your Breast Clean: If you have a respiratory infection, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze to prevent the germs from reaching your breast. It might be helpful to wear a mask during breastfeeding.
  • Maintain a Balanced Diet: Eating a balanced diet ensures that you and your baby get necessary nutrients, and it can help your body fight off illness.
  • Check Temperature: Keep a regular check on your and your baby’s temperature. If your baby develops a fever or other symptoms, consult a healthcare provider immediately.

It’s also important to remember that breastfeeding should be comfortable for both you and your baby. If you find it stressful or uncomfortable, reach out to a healthcare provider or a lactation consultant for advice. They can provide guidance and suggestions to ensure a smooth breastfeeding experience during your recovery period.

While it’s natural for mothers to worry about breastfeeding during illness, it’s important to remember that in most cases, breastfeeding can continue and is even beneficial for the baby. Always consult with a healthcare professional if you’re unsure or if you have a more serious illness. Remember, a healthy mom equals a healthy baby!

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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