Breastfeeding a Sick Baby

Breastfeeding a sick baby can be challenging for both Mom and baby. Baby needs to nurse for comfort and benefits from the antibodies in breast milk, but being sick may make it difficult to nurse well. I’m often happy to catch whatever germ my baby has because I know I’ll make the antibodies he needs to get well. However, symptoms like a stuffy nose, fatigue, fever and generally not feeling well can interfere with nursing. How do you breastfeed a sick baby? As often as you can! I’ll tell you my experience:

breastfeeding a sick baby

     “Breastfeeding has been shown to be protective against many illnesses, including painful ear infections, upper and lower respiratory ailments, allergies, intestinal disorders, colds, viruses, staph, strep and e coli infections, diabetes, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, many childhood cancers, meningitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, salmonella, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome(SIDS) as well as lifetime protection from Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, some lymphomas, insulin dependent diabetes, and for girls, breast and ovarian cancer.” (1). However, breastfed babies can still get sick. One thing that we know for sure, is that breast feeding a sick baby helps them through their illness. Unfortunately, it can be difficult.
I remember taking my first son to the pediatrician “Stay away from other children, they carry tons of germs.” She warned. This was easy with one baby, however as the Mom to 4 babies…keeping my baby away from other children is literally impossible. When he caught his first cold, luckily several months after he was born, we had a few hurdles. The primary issue was having a stuffy nose. When my baby breastfeeds, he breaths through his nose. If his nose is stuffy…it makes for one seriously unhappy baby who can’t do his favorite comforting activity ever…breastfeeding!


     My baby was nursing peacefully, after a long day of fussiness and not feeling well. I looked at my husband and said “he has a fever.” How can you tell? Did you take his temperature? No, I said, I can tell with my nipple! One easy way I can detect my baby’s fever is by literally being his thermometer. I gathered the ear thermometer and sure enough…I was right! Hand on the forehead hunh, nippple in the mouth….awesome thermometer!

Clearing Nasal Stuffiness

     My baby was sick and I was watching him nurse. While typically he sucks a few times and breathes through his nose, he was sucking a few times and unlatching to try and breathe through his mouth. His nose was very stuffy and he was crying. How do I make this better? I keep a little saline spritz our pediatrician gave us, a great booger sucker, a cool mist humidifier and some baby nose strips on hand. Breastfeeding is comforting and baby especially needs to be comforted when he’s sick! (affiliate banners below)

Breast Feeding On-Demand

     One drop of breast milk contains around one-million white blood cells, or germ eaters (2). This being the case, it’s important for baby to nurse on demand. While breastfed babies are supposed to nurse on demand as a general rule of thumb, gathering up a list of movies to watch or catching up on social media is a great way to make sure baby has breast milk available whenever needed.

The Pediatrician

While I often find myself at the pediatrician, learning that I didn’t really need to go to the pediatrician…it’s nice to hear that baby is just getting over a viral hurdle and will be better soon. When all else fails, sucking out boogers, using our lillebaby carrier, humidifier and nursing a lot don’t help, I like to make a phone call. I feel fortunate that our pediatrician will even take all of my kids at one visit to make sure we’re all well!

If your baby is feeling stuffy, teething or fighting a stomach bug, breast milk is a wonderful addition to his immune system. It hydrates, provides antibodies and even comes at the right temperature. Remember to nurse on demand, use a cool mist humidifier and suction out boogers if needed and call the pediatrician if necessary. When baby isn’t happy…no one is happy!Remember to watch for wet/dirty diapers, check for temperature and watch for signs of lethargy and vital signs. If you’re concerned it doesn’t hurt to make a trip, but having supplies at home can make getting through a cold much easier on everyone.





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[…] beginning of my nearly 6 year long nursing “success” including breastfeeding in public, breastfeeding a sick baby and breastfeeding through pregnancy 3 […]

Bailey Tulak
Bailey Tulak
4 years ago

Everyone around us is sick so this is great preparation! We’ve made it 5 months without a bug but I’m not sure it will pass us by this time.


[…] clearing mucus from his nose is key. As a breastfeeding Mom, I know that a clear nose is vital to nursing a sick baby. Baby breaths through his nose while breastfeeding, and is nearly impossible when his nose is […]

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