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How to treat a cold while breastfeeding isn’t something that people usually research while they’re pregnant. It’s only while they’re snuggling a little baby, barely able to breathe, hacking up their lungs, and using all the kleenex that it comes up.
Here’s a question I received recently, about how to treat a cold while breastfeeding:
I had to leave work early today I am dizzy and my head feels heavy I believe it’s my sinuses I have been sneezing like crazy. I need some ideas on things that are safe to take for head congestion while breastfeeding.
Note: I am not a lactation consultant or a health professional. I’ve breastfed nonstop for the last 5.5 years, so I’ve dealt with a lot, but this isn’t medical advice.
First of all, bravo for realizing that you CAN and SHOULD breastfeed while you have a cold. Some mamas don’t know that it’s perfectly safe, and even beneficial for the baby! You’re not going to get your baby sick with your milk, and since your body is working to produce antibodies to the viruses you’ve been exposed to, your milk contains those antibodies… instant protection for your baby for the very cold you’re suffering from right now!
It’s absolutely crucial that you stay hydrated while you’re ill. You know that this is always important, but when you’re sick, your body is working extra-hard to fight off the infection. Plus, you still need to make milk for your little one. Your supply might take a little dip due to your illness, but you can protect it as much as possible by staying hydrated.
Drinking coconut water will help you stay hydrated too (This is the kind I like), and it replaces electrolytes as well as any sports drink, without all the nasty crap-ingredients.
Another thing I find protects my supply is making sure to eat enough protein. A few eggs always gives me a boost, so try making something like egg drop soup for yourself – the bone broth will be warming and hydrating, and the eggs will give you the energy and protein you need to keep going.
No decongestants, sorry:
Unfortunately, decongestants can cause your milk supply to drop temporarily (or even permanently, from anecdotal evidence), so try to avoid those at all costs. I know, it sucks.
For a stuffy head:
When my head feels like it’s going to explode, one of the fastest things to help is ibuprofen. It’s safe for breastfeeding, and really helps to take down the inflammation in your sinuses so that all of the other remedies can work. I don’t like taking medications while nursing if I can avoid it, but this is one that’s helpful when your sinuses are completely plugged (and for that horrible sinus headache).
Once the ibuprofen brings down the swelling in your sinuses, you can use a saline rinse to keep your sinuses hydrated and clear. Some people prefer neti pot, but I like to use the neil-med squeeze bottle version. I resisted for years… it sounds so scary and gross to pour salt water through your sinuses. But once I got over the hurdle, I was convinced. It’s SO gross, yes, but SO rewarding to see clumps of snot come out… TMI, sorry, but it’s true. Kind of like those Biore nose strips, when you get to see all the crud that comes out of your pores. Horrifying but addictive.
For headache or pain:
If you have a bad headache or pain that doesn’t go away with the ibuprofen, it’s okay to take Tylenol too.
Essential oils can help a lot too, but unfortunately a lot of the ones that are helpful for colds aren’t safe to use around children. So, maybe try diffusing them in the bathroom while you take a hot shower (the steam will help your sinuses also) while someone else has the baby, or the baby is asleep.
Eucalyptus and Peppermint will help to open up your sinuses. Peppermint can also help with headaches, but be very careful with using this too much, since it can have a negative effect on your milk supply. Lemon is good too, since it kills germs. And I love to make a room spray of this germ fighting blend – just mix 20 drops with an ounce of vodka and an ounce of filtered water, then shake well before spraying in the air. It smells SO GOOD too.
Get well soon, friend! I hope you feel better quickly.
Products mentioned in this article for treating a cold while brestfeeding: