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Breastfeeding & Food Poisoning

author image Shannon Thorn
Shannon Thorn began writing and editing in 1990. She received a Roy H. Park Fellowship for graduate study in medical journalism at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since 2004, she has focused primarily on editing educational materials for health professionals. Thorn holds a Master of Science in speech-language pathology from UNC-Chapel Hill and is a practicing speech-language pathologist.
Breastfeeding & Food Poisoning
Breastfeeding is safe while you're sick.

Food poisoning results from eating food contaminated with harmful bacteria or toxins and can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. It’s no fun caring for a baby when you’re sick, but breastfeeding moms can continue to breastfeed during a bout of food poisoning, with certain precautions.

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About Food Poisoning

Food poisoning occurs when you eat food contaminated with bacteria or toxins. Botulism (Clostridium botulinum), listeriosis (listeria), salmonella, shigella, ciguatera and E. coli are among the toxins and bacteria responsible for the unpleasant symptoms of food poisoning.

Breastfeeding and Food Poisoning

As long as your food poisoning symptoms are limited to the intestinal tract, the bacteria won’t enter your breast milk, so breastfeeding poses no risk at all to your baby. In fact, you should nurse your as regularly as possible while you're sick to maintain your milk supply. Abruptly reducing or stopping breastfeeding can cause painful engorgement for you and deprive your baby of a prime source of comfort, nutrition and antibodies that protect him from becoming ill himself.


The goal of treatment for food poisoning is to help you feel better and avoid dehydration. This is especially important for breastfeeding mothers, whose fluid needs are already increased by milk production and who need to be physically comfortable enough to continue nursing.

Drink non-caffeinated, non-dairy beverages to replace fluids lost from diarrhea and vomiting. If you have diarrhea, you should avoid solid foods and dairy products until it passes.

If you are unable to drink fluids due to nausea or vomiting, you may need intravenous fluids and should call your doctor. You should also seek medical attention if you’ve had diarrhea for more than two days, have a fever over 101 degrees or notice blood in your stools.


While you’re sick, wash your hands frequently to avoid infecting others. Improper or unhygienic food handling can cause or spread food poisoning. Ideally, you’ll be able to avoid handling food while you’re sick, but that may not be possible if you’re caring for your baby or older children. Be especially conscientious about hand-washing before preparing or handling food, and before breastfeeding your baby.


In some rare cases of food poisoning, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Tell your physician that you’re breastfeeding and ensure that the antibiotic you’re prescribed is compatible. Many antibiotics are considered safe for breastfeeding babies.

Some of the bacteria that cause food poisoning can be spread through airborne transmission or direct contact. If you’ve been infected with one of these bacteria, your baby could be at risk of infection. Careful hand-washing is one of the best ways to prevent transmission from you to your baby.

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