It is heartbreaking when your baby gets sick. Sure, breastfeeding helps protect your baby from getting sick, but it doesn’t guarantee that your baby won’t get sick. It is, however, believed that breastfed babies become less severely sick.
Your sick baby may not be able to eat very well, especially if he has nasal congestion. Since babies primarily breathe from their noses, nursing with a stuffy nose can be a real challenge.
If, after a number of shorter, more frequent nursing sessions, your breast feel fuller than usual, pump. If baby is eating less (aka decreased demand), your breasts are at risk for becoming engorged, leading to plugged ducts and possibly mastitis. Leaving your breasts too full for too long puts your supply at risk for decreasing.
Keep a close eye on baby’s diapers when he is sick, especially his urine output. He should have at least five wet diapers. His urine should not smell particularly strong nor should it be notably dark yellow. A nice, heavy, clear wet diaper means baby is well hydrated.
If baby doesn’t even seem to be tolerating short, frequent nursing sessions, consider pumping and bottle feeding. Typically a breastfed baby should be offered a slow flow nipple, but if he is really struggling to eat, try a medium or fast flow nipple. This will allow the milk to fall into his mouth without much effort on his part.
If not even the bottle is working, try using a dropper or syringe to get milk into your baby. Ideally, he will eat the equivalent of one to one and a half ounces per hour.
Try a breastmilk ice cube in a mesh food feeder. It will give baby a little milk and the icy cold may feel good to him.
If your baby is old enough to be eating solids, he most likely won’t be interested while he is sick. No worries. Hydration is the most important.
Having a sick baby is extremely exhausting for the breastfeeding mother. Baby will most likely be very clingy to you and want to sleep only in your arms. You won’t get much sleep and you will be riddled with worry. Self-care is really important. Be sure you are staying hydrated and eating. Try to peel baby off of you and place him in someone else’s arms long enough to take a shower every day.
It is so hard to stand by helplessly when your baby is sick. But, if you are able to give extra snuggles and breastmilk, you are giving your baby everything he needs to feel better fast.