It’s that time of the year again when everyone in my family has a cold. Headaches, runny noses and eyes, coughs and aches and pains– no one likes it and once one person gets it, it seems inevitable that we’ll all catch it.
It can be particularly hard when your breastfed baby gets a cold. His nostrils seem so full of gunk that he can’t breathe while he nurses. Nighttimes are particularly tricky since he’s lying down and mucussecretions can make it so hard for babies to breathe with ease. But breastfeeding is a brilliant way to help your baby feel more comfortable and to help him fight off those germs.
As usual, your breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for your baby. We all know what it’s like to have little appetite when we’re ill. You might worry that your baby isn’t eating enough and wonder how you’ll get him to eat or drink. Fortunately, your baby loves to suck, which means that while he’s nursing at the breast for comfort because he feels icky, he is also receiving small amounts of easily-digested nutrition and fluids to boot! Nursing is so comforting for him, and being close to you makes aches and pains seem more bearable.
Your breastmilk also supports your baby’s immune system. As soon as you come into contact with those germs, you start producing antibodies, which are sent back to your baby via your milk. By nursing him you are supporting him as his little body fights off the cold or other illness.
Don’t forget that studies* have shown that breastfeeding has an analgesic effect. Breasfteeding helps reduce the sensation of pain, so nursing him during illness is a great way to help him feel better.
When you’re ill, breasfteeding can be a big help too. Tuck yourself into bed with your young baby and rest while he nurses. I have been known to throw all the sofa cushions on the floor and lie down while my crawling baby plays in our safe, baby-proofed living room.
One thing every nursing mother with a cold or allergies should remember is that decongestants and antihistamines can have a dramatically adverse effect on milk supply, even with one dose. Safe cold remedies include steam inhalation with menthol and eucalyptus and analgesics known to be safe with breasfteeding such as ibuprofen and paracetemol, though do check with your health care team before taking any medication. Have a look at this helpful Breastfeeding Network info sheet on cold remedies and breasfteeding for more information, and if in doubt contact an IBCLC or La Leche League Leader. http://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/pdfs/dibm/Cough-and-Cold-Remedies-October-2011.pdf
*Gray, L. et al. Breastfeeding is analgesic in healthy newborns. Pediatrics 2002; 109:590-93.
Photo credit: Flickr, mcfarlandmo.
About Lisa Hassan Scott
Lisa Hassan Scott is a stay at home mother of three little ones, age 2, 6 and 9. An American living in Great Britain for over 15 years, Lisa is a Yoga teacher certified by the British Wheel of Yoga, and a La Leche League Leader. She blogs about mothering, breastfeeding, Yoga and the mind at http://www.lisahassanscott.co.uk. Follow her on Twitter: @lisahassanscott