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Breastfeeding While Sick with Diarrhea

by
author image Jessica Lietz
Jessica Lietz has been writing about health-related topics since 2009. She has several years of experience in genetics research, survey design, analysis and epidemiology, working on both infectious and chronic diseases. Lietz holds a Master of Public Health in epidemiology from The Ohio State University.
Breastfeeding While Sick with Diarrhea
Have someone else take care of the house while you are sick with diarrhea. Photo Credit IT Stock Free/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Diarrhea is an unpleasant experience that everyone goes through at some point. Breastfeeding mothers experiencing diarrhea may fear infecting their babies and worry about whether it is safe to continue breastfeeding while sick. Fortunately, diarrhea usually goes away on its own in a few days with simple home care measures, and continuing to breastfeed helps prevent your baby from becoming ill.

Causes

Most cases of diarrhea in adults result from viral gastroenteritis, the Mayo Clinic explains. Consuming contaminated foods or drinks is another common cause. Taking antibiotics to treat an infection such as mastitis is another cause of diarrhea in breastfeeding mothers. Using laxatives to combat postpartum constipation causes diarrhea in some new mothers. Stress and worry over difficulties with breastfeeding or the baby's health cause some new moms to experience diarrhea.

Considerations

Viral gastroenteritis does not pass into your milk, and breastfeeding your baby will not make him catch the virus. Continuing to breastfeed your baby is the best thing you can do during your illness, the website Kellymom says. Your body produces antibodies to the virus, which pass into your milk to protect your baby. A temporary decrease in your milk supply is not uncommon while experiencing diarrhea. If your milk supply decreases, offer your baby expressed milk after you breastfeed him, or increase the frequency of nursing sessions.

Treatments

Continue to breastfeed your baby while you are sick with diarrhea. Start treating your diarrhea with home care, such as drinking plenty of water or electrolyte solutions to prevent dehydration. Dehydration reduces your milk supply, potentially causing dehydration in your baby if she does not get enough milk. Drink at least 1 cup of water for each episode of diarrhea. Slowly add bland foods to your diet, such as bananas, toast, oatmeal and rice in small amounts every couple of hours until your symptoms resolve, then return to your usual diet. Get plenty of rest and ask for help with other activities around the house, allowing yourself the time to rest with your baby. Do not take over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications, as these sometimes may worsen your symptoms and pass into your milk.

Prevention

When changing your baby and spending time around young children, wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading infections such as viral gastroenteritis, which are common in babies and children. Use proper food handling and storage procedures and avoid drinking untreated water, which can harbor microorganisms that cause diarrhea. When taking antibiotics for mastitis or another infection, eat yogurt containing live probiotics or take an over-the-counter supplement of probiotics such as acidophilus, as these can prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea. Check with your physician before taking any supplements.

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