Not getting sick is a crucial part of pregnancy, and to some degree, that unspoken rule carries over to motherhood. It's just hard when moms get sick especially when you have a newborn. But what happens if a new breastfeeding mom does get sick?
Claire Santos Mogol, a L.A.T.C.H. Philipines- and Arugaan-trained peer counselor, said that a new mom who is experiencing cough and colds should continue to breastfeed. "The mother’s body develops antibodies that help fight off the virus and protect the baby from getting sick," she wrote in an article for SmartParenting.com.ph.
Registered nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Joyce Zaragoza Martinez agrees, but she highly advises moms to take extra precautions. “Wear a mask and wash your hands religiously to help prevent the spread of disease,” she shares in another Smart Parenting article.
It's all well and good if a nursing mom is just feeling a little under the weather, but it might be a different story, however, when she needs medication to help her feel better.
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Certain medications aren't safe for breastfeeding moms to take. For example, combination birth control pills are not recommended for nursing moms since progesterone can affect their milk supply. (Click here for a list of the safest birth control alternatives for nursing moms.)Other medications can seep into your breast milk just like alcohol and caffeine, which can have some adverse effect on the baby.
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"Medication that a nursing mother takes can transfer into breast milk," Dr. Laura Glenn, a naturopathic physician from the Rejuvena Health & Aesthetics, told PopSugar. "I recommend that moms ask their doctors for advice prior to starting any new medication," she added.
Be careful also with alternative medicine or home remedies. "'Homeopathic' is not the same as 'herbal,' and there are many herbal products that are not appropriate for use by breastfeeding women," Dr. Glenn stressed.
If a quick consult with your doctor isn't possible, Dr. Glenn recommends the website LactMed. It is a database that contains information on drugs and chemicals breastfeeding mothers may be exposed to. It tells you details like the levels of such substances in breast milk and baby's blood, plus the possible adverse effects on your baby. The website also contains study results and suggests alternatives to the drugs. It is updated monthly, too.
To demonstrate how LactMed works, a quick search for paracetamol (acetaminophen) in LactMed reveals that it is a good choice for fever reduction in nursing moms. "Amounts in milk are much less than doses usually given to infants. Adverse effects in breastfed infants appear to be rare," the website read.
A search for aspirin shows that "long-term, high-dose maternal aspirin ingestion probably caused metabolic acidosis in one breastfed infant," according to the website. In this case, a metabolic acidosis means the chemical balance of acids and bases in your baby's blood get and thrown off, and his body makes too much acid.
You can also search for the relief you need. For example, you can search for decongestant and LactMed will show you the different generic drugs that can help ease your symptoms. Choose one, say, pseudoephedrine, and it will tell you if it's okay to take or not. The website's search box can identify some big medicine brands (it recognized Calpol and Ventolin on the search box), but it does not provide actual medicine brands.
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LactMed is a handy website, and it's even available as an app on The Apple Store and Google Play Store. However, it should NOT replace a consult with your doctor. There are some unfamiliar medical terms that that can easily be misinterpreted. Whatever symptoms you're having can be a sign of a more serious underlying illness, so consulting with your doctor to be sure is still your best option.