SingaporeMotherhood | Baby & Toddler

September 2023

Don’t Give Up Breastfeeding when You are Sick: Here’s Why

Can you continue breastfeeding your baby when you are sick? The short answer is yes, if it is a common illness — with some exceptions. The illness will produce antibodies, and these antibodies will lower your baby’s risk of getting the same germs, says Mount Alvernia Hospital Nurse Manager Fonnie Lo. Hence breastfeeding your baby when you are sick can actually help your little one gain immunity from the virus that you have.

“If it is a common illness such as a cold or flu, a COVID fever, diarrhoea and vomiting, or mastitis, we will still encourage mummies to continue to breastfeed,” assures Fonnie, who is also the Head of Department at the hospital’s Parentcraft Centre. “What is important is to inform your doctor that you are breastfeeding, so that he or she can prescribe you medication that is safe for you, and your baby,” she adds.

Having been in the profession for 21 years, Fonnie is a fount of invaluable knowledge when it comes to breastfeeding and taking care of a newborn. We get more of her input on whether you should, or should not breastfeed your baby when you are sick.

When is it not advisable to breastfeed my baby if I am sick?

If you have a specific illness or are on certain medication that will affect your baby’s health, your doctor will advise you not to breastfeed. Such illnesses include untreated or active tuberculosis, herpes lesions on the breasts, or HIV infection. Mothers who are on chemotherapy drugs, illegal drugs, mood stabilising medicines or certain anti-epileptic drugs will also be advised not to breastfeed.

Photo: Pixabay

What do I need to consider about breastfeeding when I am sick?

We strongly encourage mothers to continue breastfeeding except when your doctor advises you otherwise because of certain illness or medications that might affect your baby. It is important to take a baby’s health into consideration as you will continue to protect the baby by breastfeeding. It is also good to plan together with family members how they can help you through the process so that you can recover as soon as possible.

(See also: Maternity Packages 2023/2024: Pregnant? Use this Ultimate Guide to Find the Perfect Hospital to Give Birth in)

Will my breast milk supply fall?

Unfortunately, a decrease in breast milk supply does happen to some mummies due to stress to the body. It is ideal to continue breastfeeding as much as possible. Alternatively, you can express your breast milk if you are too tired to take care of your baby.

You might also want to consider topping up your supply with infant formula if your baby needs more milk than you can supply at that time. Not to worry though. It has been found that mummies can improve breast milk supply by having sufficient stimulation and supplements after recovering from an illness.

(See also: 11 Best Breast Pumps for Breastfeeding Mums in Singapore)

If the medication is safe for pregnancy, does it mean it is also safe for breastfeeding?

Some medications that are considered ‘safe’ for pregnant mothers might not be safe for breastfeeding as they might suppress the central nervous system or reduce breast milk supply.

In addition, a pregnant woman’s body is able to detoxify and excrete medication through her liver or kidney before it reaches her unborn baby through the placenta, while a breastfed baby has to process the medication on his/her own once it reaches his/her body.

How can I protect my baby from getting sick as well?

Strict handwashing habits and personal hygiene are important. It’s common sense and obvious, but do not face your baby when you are coughing or sneezing. Wear a mask before you handle your baby and change your mask regularly. Ask your family members to help if need be.

Image: Freepik

What are the most important things to note if breastfeeding when sick?

Apart from maintaining good hygiene practices to prevent the spread of germs, make an effort to take care of yourself well so that you can recover as quickly as possible.

  • Inform your doctor that you are breastfeeding, and check that your medicine is safe to take when breastfeeding
  • Eat well, and take adequate fluids
  • Rest as much as possible
  • Use side lying or laid back positions for breastfeeding so that you can rest while nursing your little one
  • Express regularly if you are too tired to latch
  • Always have a family member at your side while breastfeeding so that they can help to take care of your baby once you fall asleep
  • Stay positive!

Similarly, what should I take note of after I recover?

The same as above, but you can also start working on improving your breast milk supply if it has decreased while you were sick.

The St Anne Mother & Child Centre at Mount Alvernia Hospital is a new 10-storey maternity and paediatric building that caters to mothers and their children. WIth more single rooms available, mums and mums-to-be can welcome their little ones, and recover from childbirth in comfort and privacy.

Here, parents will also be able to get expert advice from the hospital’s OBGYN specialists, learn about babycare and breastfeeding from Parentcraft and Lactation consultants, and bring their babies for consultations with their paediatric specialists.

Visit and tour the new St Anne Mother and Child Centre at Mount Alvernia Hospital today. Book your appointment here

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Don’t Give Up Breastfeeding when You are Sick: Here’s Why