Diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps. All these can be symptoms of the dreaded tummy bug, gastroenteritis.
Gastroenteritis is usually caused by a virus and can spread easily between family members.
Gastroenteritis is never fun, but when you’re a mother who has to care for your children it is even harder to cope.
If you’re breastfeeding and come down with gastroenteritis, you might be concerned about whether it’s okay to continue to breastfeed your baby. You might think it best to stop temporarily, to prevent passing the illness to your baby – but is that necessary?
Breastfeeding and Gastro (Stomach Flu)
Here are 4 things you need to know about breastfeeding and gastroenteritis:
#1: See A Doctor
If you’re unwell, it’s important to see your doctor so that an accurate diagnosis can be made and correct treatment can be prescribed. It is important to rest as much as you can (e.g. breastfeeding while lying down) and to drink plenty of clear fluids.
#2: Very Few Maternal Illnesses Preclude Breastfeeding
Rarely will a mother have to stop breastfeeding due to illness. You can read more here about maternal illnesses which might preclude breastfeeding.
During any common illness (e.g. a cold, sore throat, flu, gastroenteritis or mastitis) breastfeeding can certainly continue.
#3: Continuing To Breastfeed Will Help Protect Your Baby
When you’re exposed to a virus, your immune system makes antibodies to help fight off the infection. You’ll pass these antibodies to your baby through your breastmilk. As a result, your baby is less likely to become ill. If she does get sick, it’s likely to be less serious than if she wasn’t breastfed.
If your baby is unwell, it’s important to see a doctor. You might also find the information contained in this Royal Children’s Hospital fact sheet helpful.
#4: Your Supply Is Unlikely To Be Affected
Although a few mothers feel that their supply has dropped somewhat after a bout of sickness, this is more likely due to not breastfeeding as often during their illness. If you maintain the frequency of breastfeeds during illness, keep up your fluid intake, and don’t take any medication that could lower supply, then it’s likely that your supply will be maintained. If you believe there’s been a temporary dip in supply, feeding based on baby’s cues will help you and baby to get past it, and return to normal.
As horrible as gastroenteritis can be, at least you know that by continuing to breastfeed your baby, you will help protect her from getting it as well. Or, if she does become ill, continuing to breastfeed can help her overcome it sooner.
Recommended Reading: How To Breastfeed Lying Down (And Why You Should Try It!).