Breastfeeding through illness

Breastfeeding through illness

While becoming ill while breastfeeding can be exhausting and an additional worry, it is generally fine to nurse through most common illnesses. Always, if you are worried consult your GP, but in the vast majority of illnesses, it is fine to carry on breastfeeding as normal. In fact the only illness considered to have contraindications with breastfeeding, is HIV.

With common viruses and bugs, you will provide antibodies to your nursing baby as you breastfeed through it. So, not only is it ok to feed through illness, you are actually protecting baby from getting the illness as you do it.

The one thing you will need to be aware of, however, is treatments/medications and their effect on breastfeeding and the nursing infant. If you are with the GP, please remind him/her that you are breastfeeding.

Certain medications may not be suitable (far less medications than may be suggested!) but there is ALWAYS an alternative. Being a nursing mum does not mean you have to ‘suffer on through’ illness. There is a lot you can take to help.

The UK’s Breastfeeding Network has loads of information on breastfeeding and illness, including what medication is suitable. You’ll find the information here.

Breastfeeding Through Tummy Bugs & Food Poisoning

Mums often worry about whether they can continue to nurse through vomiting bugs and food poisoning and the answer is yes. Please make sure you are getting hydration as a nursing mother may become more dehydrated. You may only be able to take sips of water but keep doing so. Dioralyte would be a good idea to keep you hydrated and it’s perfectly safe to take while breastfeeding. There is more information on nursing through a vomiting bug here.

Breastfeeding through colds & flu

While you might worry about passing on a cold or flu on to baby, you are actually protecting baby from it with your amazing milk! Take to the bed and snuggle up together until it passes.
You can safely take paracetamol and ibuprofen for colds and flu, but you should avoid pseudoephedrine and other decongestants as they can dramatically reduce milk supply with just one or two doses. More info here


As always, antibiotics should only be prescribed and taken where absolutely necessary. Antibiotics (Amoxycillin, Amoxil ®) are perfectly safe to take while breastfeeding and requiring them is not a reason to stop nursing your infant.
According to Breastfeeding Network “Most antibiotics can produce excessively loose motions in the baby, with the appearance of diarrhoea. Some infants appear more unsettled with tummy aches or colic. These effects are not clinically significant and do not require treatment. The value of continued breastfeeding outweighs the temporary inconvenience.”
Taking antibiotics can leave mum and baby vulnerable to thrush (link breastfeeding and thrush article written previously) so it is a good idea to take a high strain probiotic also.


Paracetamol and Ibuprofen are compatible with breastfeeding. It’s recommended that nursing mums avoid Aspirin and Codeine. For more information on analgesics and pain medication there is a great fact sheet here.

Lots of medications are not licenced for breastfeeding women. This does not necessarily mean that are dangerous, but more that they have not been adequately trialled with lactating women. You can cross-reference the suitability of any advice and or prescription against the drugs database on the Drugs and Lactation Database at LactMed® or the National Medicines Information Centre in St James Hospital Dublin publish a list of medications suitable for lactating women here.

And remember if you are ill and looking after a baby, don’t be afraid to ask for help and support. Mums need minding too!

Always if you are in doubt seek advice from a medical professional before taking any treatment/medication.

About the author: Emily McElarney

Emily McElarney

Emily McElarney is a mum of three, all of whom were birthed naturally in Dublin maternity hospitals, using Hypnobirthing.     She is a huge advocate of hypnobirthing and of promoting natural birth and of the normalcy of birth. Empowering mums and dads to be are hugely important to Emily and her goal in classes is always to empower couples to make informed choices around the birth of their children.   A qualified yoga teacher, Emily teaches pre-natal yoga and postnatal mum & baby yoga in The elbowroom.   A former journalist, Emily currently contributes to media discussion on birth and normalcy of birth on a regular bases.  She also writes for several publications on birth, birth preparation and infant bonding and engagement.

The elbowroom has an extensive range of classes for all ages and abilities. We offer such an eclectic mix to enable you to find something that will suit you. If you need any advice, please contact our class advisor who can point you in the right direction.