Q: Can I breastfeed if I'm sick?
A: Most of the time you can keep right on nursing when you're under the weather, especially if it's just a run-of-the-mill cold or flu. If you have questions about your specific condition, check with your pediatrician. However, there are two main exceptions to this rule:
• Your baby is less than 3 weeks old. Babies this young are especially vulnerable to infection, so if you're very sick, your pediatrician may advise that you avoid breastfeeding until you recover. (You can pump and dump milk to keep up your supply and prevent engorgement while you wait it out.)
• The medication you need is unsafe for your baby. Anytime you're prescribed medication or want to take something over-the-counter, ask your doctor if you can continue nursing. If not, find out if there's a baby-safe alternative for the drug.
It's natural to worry about getting your baby sick if you're coughing 24/7, but breastfeeding now is actually a good thing for you baby. Here's why: When you're ill, you're often most contagious 24 hours before you even have symptoms -- and your body has already started building up antibodies to the germs, which are transmitted to your baby via breast milk. This means your baby receives a dose of protection against a particular cold or flu strain before you've had the chance to unknowingly expose him to it. Of course you should still take precautions to protect your baby while you're sneezy, like washing your hands thoroughly before nursing (and anytime you touch him) and keeping his hands and face away from yours (that means no kisses, at least for a few days).
Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.