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Breastfeeding When Sick

It’s hard to nurse your baby when you’re trying to nurse yourself back to good health, but it’s often wise to keep on breastfeeding. Here, what breastfeeding moms need to know if you or your baby is ill.

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Hi. I'm Kimberly Durdin. I'm a board-certified Lactation Consultant and I've been helping women breastfeed for over 20 years. You might be wondering, if I get sick, can I still continue to nurse my baby? As a general rule, if you get sick, you can still continue to breastfeed your baby. So, we're talking about flus and colds, stomach viruses, things of that sort. We actually recommend that you continue to breastfeed your baby. The great thing about breast milk is that it protects your baby from any illness, virus, pathogen, allergen that you come in contact with. When your body comes in contact with a germ, a pathogen, the body begins to make the antibody for that germ or pathogen and it passes out the antibody through your breast milk. So, if you've been around someone who's had the cold and then you start feeling sick, your breast milk does actually already beginning to make the antibodies to protect your baby from that very same sickness, that very same illness. Your body starts making the antibody or any pathogen that your body comes in contact with, even before you'd begin feeling symptoms of that particular illness. It does that and starts passing out those antibodies through your breast milk to your baby to help protect them from that same pathogen. The breastfed baby tends to be the healthiest. Sometimes, the breastfed baby will acquire a little of the illness that has been going around in that family, but they're usually the least sick out of everyone in the family. So, breast milk does a great job of protecting our babies against illnesses. And that's one of the reasons why breastfeeding is just so important for your baby. I have older children and a young baby and, when my older children come home from school, sometimes, they have colds and flus that they- from the germs that they've encountered in school. But I'm confident knowing, by breastfeeding my baby, I'm actually protecting them against these germs that are coming into the house. There are some illnesses and conditions that are contraindicated for breastfeeding. In this country, for instance, we don't recommend that moms breastfeed at this time if they have the HIV virus and, maybe in the future, as we get more information about how the HIV virus works. A great place to go to get current information on those illnesses is the CDC website. www.cdc.gov and search for breastfeeding to get a list of illnesses that are contraindicated during breastfeeding. If your baby is sick with an illness or condition, most of the time, breastfeeding is still recommended. Actually, it can help your baby recover from illnesses faster. You might find, if your baby is sick, that they wanna breastfeed more often and they may seem very clingy. Breastfeeding provides comfort and great nutrition and, again, protection against illnesses. So, even though your baby may seem more clingy, you wanna breastfeed more. We encourage it. There are a few illnesses such as Galactosemia which would contraindicate a baby receiving breast milk from its mom. For more information on specific illnesses that would prevent a baby from breastfeeding, go to the CDC website. That's the Centers for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov. Thanks for watching.