12 July 2012

breastfeeding when mom is sick

It stinks. Being sick is never fun, but being sick when you're responsible for another person is worse. When I was lying in bed so sick a few weeks ago, I kept thinking, God should have made it so moms don't get sick. He didn't. But He has provided amazing protection for a breastfed baby. 

I found some info about breastfeeding while sick on the KellyMom website. I've known for a long time that the baby gets good immunities from his mom, but then when it was me and my baby, I definitely needed some reassurance. At first I didn't know if I had food poisoning, or some stomach/ intestinal virus, but it doesn't seem to matter. Here is what I learned:

During any “ordinary” illness such as a cold, sore throat, flu, tummy bug, fever, mastitis, etc. you should continue to breastfeed. Just remind your doctor you are nursing so that if medications are needed he can prescribe something that is compatible with breastfeeding. . . If mom has food poisoning, breastfeeding should continue. As long as the symptoms are confined to the gastrointestinal tract (vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps), breastfeeding should continue without interruption as there is no risk to the baby. . .
The best thing you can do for your baby when you’re sick is to continue to breastfeed. When you have a contagious illness such as a cold, flu, or other mild virus, your baby was exposed to the illness before you even knew you were sick. Your milk will not transmit your illness to baby, but it does have antibodies in it that are specific to your illness (plus anything else you or baby have been exposed to) – they’ll help prevent baby from getting sick, or if he does get sick, he’ll probably not be as sick as you. (Go to the KellyMom website for more info.)

The challenge could have been making sure Eliad got enough to eat over those couple days I was sick. The first 12 hours all I could keep down was some ice; the next 24 I had diluted unsweetened apple juice and gatorade and eventually a banana. But I knew he was getting adequate milk because he continued to have wet diapers. I didn't know I could be so excited about a wet diaper. But if things hadn't gone as well, I would have gotten IV fluids before I supplemented my milk. Giving him anything from a bottle would have been worse for us in the long run. I needed him to nurse to help maintain my milk supply.*

Eliad hung out in bed with me a lot, which made frequent nursing doable for me. Thankfully he napped easily. When Jonathan had to run an errand for us, and Eliad was awake with me, he held his friends, we read a few books, or I helped him sit up and he talked to me with his baby words. We usually sing lots of songs during the day, but apparently singing takes more energy for me, so I think we sang half a song and I was done! Jonathan took care of us in the morning before work, and my mom came for the afternoon and evening to help.

So even though it was miserable, I did feel good about continuing to provide the best thing I could for my baby-- my milk with the healthy antibodies and superior nutrition to help him stay healthy. I'll probably say it a million times, God created our bodies so amazing. 

Hanging out in bed. Eliad is holding my baby doll; I think he likes the texture of her terrycloth clothes. It's funny to me that Jonathan changed Eliad out of his pajamas that morning, but didn't get him dressed since he was going to be in bed with his sick momma.

* It should probably go without saying, but I still feel like I need a disclaimer here. I'm not a doctor or lactation consultant, so I'm just sharing what I feel was the right thing for my baby and me.