Breastfeeding a Sick Baby

When breastfeeding a sick baby remember, if your baby can drink anything, he should be drinking breast milk.

Should I continue to breastfeed if my baby is sick?

If your baby is sick, then this is the best time to continue to breastfeed as breast milk contains antibodies that can fight infections & illness and on top of that, breast milk is easily and quickly digested.

Breastfeeding a sick baby is also very calming and will speed up a baby’s healing process.

Things that your Baby will be Getting if you Continue to Breastfeed:

  • Your baby will receive antibodies that fight the infection and hasten the healing process.
  • Hydration: Breast milk will help keep your baby well hydrated. 
  • Nutrients are absorbed faster. 
  • Comfort during nursing.
  • Gut protection and easy digestion (therefore fewer colic symptoms than formula fed babies)

Baby is Struggling to Breathe while Breastfeeding

mommy and breastfed baby, breastfeeding a  sick baby

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Nurse as often as possible; this will ensure that your baby is getting in enough milk and protective antibodies that will get rid of the cold quicker.If a sick breastfeeding baby has an ear infection, it could help a lot if the mother carried him/her in a sling during the day, so that the mucus can run out freely. Learn more about the benefits of babywearing.
  • Breastfeed your baby in an upright or semi-reclined position. This will ensure that your baby’s airway stays open more efficiently, allowing him/her to breathe with no trouble.
  • If your baby has a stuffy nose, use saline drops or a few drops of breast milk. Put them in a dropper and put two drops in your baby’s nose, let it sit for a minute or two, then use a rubber suction bulb to suction some of the mucus out of your baby’s nose. This should always be done before your baby nurses, not afterward as a baby might spit up if you do it after he has breastfed.
  • Close the door and use a humidifier. This should open your baby’s passages enough for a good breastfeeding session. You can also boil some water and add some essential oils. This will open up the nasal passages. NEVER PUT ANY MENTHOL OILS OR LOTIONS DIRECTLY ON YOUR BABY’S FACE. This could make the breathing problems worse.

What if Baby is Refusing to Breastfeed

This can occur if your baby has a sore throat or ear infection, which makes it difficult for him/her to nurse. Here are some suggestions about breastfeeding a sick baby who is refusing to breastfeed…

  • Also, breastfeed in an upright or reclined position.
  • If your baby is refusing to breastfeed, you can use an alternative feeding method like cup feeding.
  • Try giving your baby your breast milk as an icicle or ice cream. Get the recipes here
  • Mix your breast milk with all of your baby’s foods (For babies who are older than six months.).
  • Learn more about breast refusal.

What if Baby has Diarrhea or is Vomiting

  • Breastfeed exclusively; this will provide your baby with as many nutrients and antibodies as possible. Breastfeeding has also been found to keep babies well hydrated.
  • Breastfeed more often, but for short intervals at a time so that your baby can absorb the milk instead of spitting it up.
  • Sometimes mothers are advised to stop breastfeeding. There is a myth out there that states that breastmilk is the same as a dairy product. BUT breast milk is not a dairy product, it is entirely different to cow's milk.
  • Learn more about normal stools in the breastfed infant.

What if a Breastfeeding Sick Baby is Unable to Nurse?

  • A mother can try alternative feeding methods, such as cup feeding, feeding with a syringe, spoon or finger feeding expressed breast milk. 
  • A mother will need to pump often, as to avoid engorgement and also to avoid her milk from decreasing.

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