When a Nursing Mother Gets Sick


By: Anne Smith

When you are sick, you and your baby will almost always benefit from continuing to breastfeed. There are very few illnesses that require a mother to stop nursing. Continuing to breastfeed will help protect your baby from the infection, because your body produces antibodies to the specific bug that is causing the infection, and you pass them on to the baby in your milk. Often, a breastfed baby will be the only member of the family who doesn't get sick. If he does get sick, he will usually have a much milder case than the older members of the family.

Here is some general information about OTC (over the counter) drugs and breastfeeding – remember, though, that drug manufacturers often change their active ingredients, so always read the label carefully and/or consult your health care provider before taking any drug when you are nursing.

For sore throats, avoid lozenges and sprays which contain phenol, or hexylresorcinols. (These include Cepastat, Listerine, and Sucrets lozenges, and Vicks Chloraseptic Sore Throat Spray). Instead, choose Celestial Seasonings, Cepacol Lozenges, NICE Lozenges, and Vicks Lozenges (these contain menthol/and/or benzocaine rather than phenol. You can also use Sucrets Lozenges if they contain dyclonine rather than hexylresorcinols.

For allergies and sinus congestion: Actifed, Benadryl, Benylin, Chlor-Trimeton, Dimetapp, Drixoral, Gualifed, Sinutab Non-Drying, Sudafed, Tavist-D, Triaminic, and Vicks Dayquil Sinus Pressure and Pain Relief are usually ok.

If you want to use a nasal spray to relieve sinus congestion, look for preparations that contain sodium chloride or phenylephrine (such as Afrin Saline Mist, Nasal Moist, and St. Joseph Nasal Decongestant, and Neo-Synephrine Spray and Drops) rather than those which contain oxymetazoline, naphazoline, or phenylephrine (such as Afrin, Dristan, Privine, or Vicks Sinex Nasal Spray or Inhaler).

Always avoid long acting forms and multiple ingredients, and watch for drowsiness in the baby or a decrease in your milk supply. Drink extra fluids, because drugs that dry up secretions in other parts of your body may decrease your milk supply as well. Your supply will build up when you feel better.

For coughs: Avoid products with an alcohol content of over 20%. Benylin, Robitussin (DM, PE, and Maximum Strength), Triaminic Expectorant, and Vicks 44E and Vicks 44 Dry Hacking Cough are not harmful, but watch for infant drowsiness. Avoid multi-action formulas such as Tylenol Multi-Symptom Cough medication and Vicks Nyquil Liquid or Liquicaps.

For constipation: Use formulations containing pysillium, docusate, methylcellulose,or magnesium hydroxide (Citrucel, Colace, Fiberall, Fibvercom, Maalox Daily Fiber, Metamucil, Mylanta, Philips' Milk of Magnesia, Serutan, or Surfak. Avoid those containing mineral oil, phenolphthalein, bisacodyl, and castor oil (Correctol, Dulcolax, Ex-Lax, Feen- a-Mint, Peri-Colace, and Senokot. These may cause stomach upset in the baby.

Most sleep preparations, including Nytol QuickCaps, Sleep-Eze, Sominex Formala 2, and Unisom Maxium Sleepgels, are ok. Avoid those which contain doxylamine, (such as Nytol Maximum Strength, and Unisom), and always watch for excessive sleepiness in your baby.

For nausea and vomiting: Benadryl, Emetrol, and Dramamine aren't harmful. Again, watch for drowsiness, and try to take the dose after you nurse. Avoid compounds containing meclizine or cyclizine, such as Bonine, Dramamine II, and Marezine.

Most weight control products such as Acutrim and Dexatrim contain phenylpropanolamine and large amounts of caffeine. It is best to avoid them.

Let's discuss specific illnesses now. First, the scariest one of all – cancer. If detected early and treated promptly, many types of cancer can be cured completely. When cancer is suspected, there are several types of diagnostic tests that may be used; some affect breastfeeding more than others.

Other illnesses in the mother include:

NOTE: The text of this article was reduced for this publication. For more information on this topic, click here.

To find out about cold medicines that are compatible with breastfeeding, go to http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Prairie/3490/cold-remedy.html

To check out theAAP's list, go to http://www.aap.org/policy/00026.html

Here's a site that lists some common drugs: http://www.parentsplace.com/expert/lactation/medications

Anne Smith is an IBCLC – International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and La Leche Leader since 1978. More importantly, she is a mother to 6 breast fed kids with twenty plus years experience of counseling nursing mothers. Her site, www.BreastfeedingBasics.com , provides expert advice and solutions to breast-feeding problems and gives basic information on how to breast feed. Anne also features her recommended breast feeding products and breast pumps.

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