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Breastfeeding if you or your baby is sick

Do you know that when breastfeeding, the baby is usually much less susceptible to disease? Despite the fact that it is impossible to completely avoid them, the protective properties of breast milk help babies get sick less often and recover faster than babies fed with the mixture.

Breast milk contains antibacterial and antiviral substances. The longer you breastfeed, the lower the risk of a cold and flu, ear and respiratory infections, nausea and diarrhea. Scientists are already exploring the possibility of using breast milk to treat many diseases – from conjunctivitis to cancer.

Should I breast-feed a sick child?
Yes. Breastfeeding helps to recover, and also helps calm the baby. Breast milk contains antibodies, white blood cells, stem cells and protective enzymes that are involved in the fight against infections and help the baby recover faster. In addition, the composition of breast milk (balance of vitamins and nutrients) is constantly adjusted to the baby’s body to help him recover as soon as possible. Thus, you will spend less time on sick leave and less likely to see a doctor.

“Breastfeeding gives the baby everything he needs during an illness. This is his medicine, food, drink and comfort. For the baby, this is the best that can be in the world, ”says Sarah Bison, a foster sister from the UK.

What is surprising, when the baby becomes ill, the composition of breast milk changes. Upon contact with pathogens of bacterial and viral infections, your body begins to produce antibodies to fight them, which are then transmitted to the baby with milk. When the baby is sick, the level of cells that strengthen the immune system (white blood cells) also increases sharply in your milk.

In addition, breast milk is very easily digestible, making it an ideal food for babies with an upset stomach.

“At 12 months, my daughter contracted Norovirus and could only eat breast milk,” recalls Maya, the mother of two children from Spain. “By that time, we had reduced breastfeeding to once before bedtime, but as soon as I needed to feed her more often, more milk. It was just awesome. Already after 48 hours I was able to provide the daily need for milk. It saved my baby from the dropper. ”

It should be borne in mind that sometimes during the illness it is necessary to change the usual regime of breastfeeding. For example, with a cold, the baby may want to eat more often, but little by little, both for sedation and because of nasal congestion, which prevents it from being applied to the chest for a long time. If the baby has a stuffy nose, the vertical position for feeding may be more convenient, so do not be afraid to try different postures for breastfeeding.

What to do if the baby is seriously unwell and cannot suckle?
Sometimes, with poor health, the child may lack appetite or strength for feeding. If your baby does not eat well, seek the advice of your doctor, supervising physician or breastfeeding consultant to prevent dehydration.

You may be asked to express milk to feed your baby from a syringe, cup, or other suitable method that requires minimal effort. Expressing according to the usual schedule of breastfeeding will also help to maintain stable milk production.

If you are concerned about the baby’s health or the amount of milk they consume, consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Can I continue to breastfeed if I get sick?
If you feel unwell, you are unlikely to want to do this, but in most cases it is better to continue breastfeeding. If you have a cold, runny nose, diarrhea, vomiting or mastitis, with the approval of your doctor, continue breastfeeding as usual. The baby is unlikely to get infected through breast milk. Moreover, the antibodies contained in your milk will help reduce the risk of a baby becoming infected with the same virus.

“Breastfeeding during illness is not only most often safe, but also beneficial. “Your baby is the least at risk of catching your upset stomach or a cold, as he is already in close contact with you and receives a daily dose of protective antibodies from milk,” says Sarah Bison.

However, breastfeeding during illness can be very tiring. You need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of the baby. Try to drink more fluids, eat when you can, and get plenty of rest. Take the baby under the covers for a few days and ask relatives or friends to help to take care of him if possible, so that you can direct all your energy to recovery.

“Do not worry about milk production, it will persist. Most importantly, do not stop abruptly breastfeeding so that mastitis does not develop, ”adds Sarah.

Proper hygiene is very important to reduce the risk of spreading the disease. Wash your hands with soap before and after breastfeeding, preparing and eating, using the toilet and changing diapers. Use a handkerchief when coughing and sneezing, or cover your mouth with your elbow.

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