by Katie Madden, RN, BSN, IBCLC

Getting sick just isn’t quite the same. Gone are the days of resting all day and getting extra sleep. You’re a mother now. Even worse, you’re a breastfeeding mother. This complicates things a little more. But, you can take drugs to feel better when you are breastfeeding! Here is a basic overview of what to do when you get sick and you are breastfeeding.

When you feel like you are getting sick:

Slow down, increase fluids, eat healthy, get extra rest, and increase Vitamin C (3,000mg-4,000mg/day).

This is similar to the mastitis flush protocol. Whenever you are feeling like you are getting sick, you should be on the look out for plugged ducts and mastitis as well. Anytime your immunity is down, your breasts are more likely to act up. If you are in tune with your body, you will know when you are starting to feel under the weather. If you listen to your body, you may be able to cut illness off at the pass. But, most of us don’t do this. Most of us feel ourselves getting sick, pop a couple ibuprofen, and keep running ourselves ragged.

If you are working mom, this is a great time to take a day off work, but still send baby to daycare. If you are a stay at home mom, this is a great time to call your own mama to ask for help or have your partner take off a day from work.

When you get sick:

Slow down, increase fluids, eat healthy, get extra rest, and increase Vitamin C (3,000mg-4,000mg/day).

If you have allergies, sinus pressure, or general snottiness: Neti Pot. Have you done this yet? I know it is a little weird and gross, but it really is amazing.

Keep a look out for plugged ducts and mastitis, especially if you are taking longer naps and lying around more (which you should be doing). Keep your breasts well drained with nursing or pumping.

Be prepared for a drop in your milk supply, especially if you have a GI bug. Many women report a decrease in supply when they are sick and/or dehydrated. Don’t be discouraged. As long as you are stimulating your breasts as usual (not skipping pumps or nursing), your supply will rebound once you are feeling well again. Don’t be surprised if you need to borrow some milk from your freezer during this interim. Here are some more tips on boosting your supply.
There is no reason why you have to separate yourself or abstain from nursing while you are sick. Your illness is not in your milk. In fact, the antibodies to your illness (aka the vaccine) are in your milk. So you want your baby to drink your milk! However, your illness is on your hands, in your spit and in your snot. Hand washing is critical and kisses should be kept to a minimum :(. Ideally, when you are trying to recover from illness, someone will bring the baby to you to nurse, then take the baby away when he is all done nursing so you can go back to resting and healing.


When considering an over the counter or prescription medication have a reference app on your phone. As a provider, I use the Infant Risk App. Published by Dr. Thomas Hale, PhD and Texas Tech University. This is the most up-to-date and detailed resource on medications and breastfeeding for providers. For you as a breastfeeding mother, I recommend the Mommy Meds app. This app is from Texas Tech and Dr. Thomas Hale, PhD as well, but is designed for use by mothers. This app is $3.99, but well worth it. I like it a lot more than the free Lactmed app. I also love that you can participate in research through this app.

Here is what you need to know about using the Mommy Meds app:

Drugs in breastfeeding are rated on a scale of L1 (safest) to L4 (possibly hazardous). This app simplifies this even further to a color coded, “safest-hazardous,” breakdown. If a drug is rated as green “safest” or blue “safer,” don’t think twice. You are safe to go ahead and take this drug while breastfeeding.

Obviously anything possibly hazardous, hazardous or unknown is out of the question. Don’t take these while breastfeeding.

Now, the yellow, “probably safe,” are the tricky drugs. These are the drugs you probably want to discuss with your OB, Pediatrician, or IBCLC.


Bottom line: As a breastfeeding mother, it is your duty to take good care of yourself so you can take good care of your baby. Your best defense is to listen to your body at the first sign of feeling run down. If sickness comes anyway, ask for help so you can nurture yourself and feel better fast!

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