Nursing Mom's Guide to Cold & Flu Relief

Baby 23

Put the cleaning aside and try to get better.
With the cold winter months coming around, common colds hitch a ride. I'm currently writing this while breathing through my mouth, surrounded by used tissues (okay, they're in a little trashcan, I'm not THAT gross), as I battle a cold that smacked my whole family, but me worse of all. I'm glad my job is typing because I can barely talk!

I'm incredibly grateful, though, that despite my illness, I can still breastfeed my daughter and help her get better or even prevent her from catching the bug I have, but best of all, I can still take medication if I need to and nurse her safely.

There's just a couple of things you should know about nursing through the cold and flu season -- especially when mom is sick.

First, try the medication-free route. No need to even turn to drugs if you can handle your issues without them.

  • If you can still breathe through your nose at ALL, use a Neti pot. I know the idea is too freaky for some, but I promise, when performed correctly (and it's not that hard), you cannot feel the water anywhere other than at your nostrils. It's a life-saver. If you just can't bring yourself to do it, follow the instructions on a saline nose spray, though it's not as effective.
  • Steam! We all know steam can help a ton, so use it as an excuse to hop into an extra-hot shower by YOURSELF and stay in there as long as you can. Humidifiers help too, especially if you get your face in it (CAREFUL if it's hot steam!). You can also do the super-old school towel-over-the-head-above-a-pot thing, but be careful with that, as well. Try dropping a little tea tree oil or eucalyptus in for an extra punch.
  • Help your immune system. Everyone knows that vitamin C is helpful when you're sick, but vitamin D and zinc are just as important, some argue possibly even more. Take some probiotics as well. Make your own elderberry syrup to boost your body, or try my friend's favorite: oscilloccinum ($10 at Walgreens).

For my sore throat, I've been drinking hot tea almost all week, especially strong black tea with honey (has its own anti-inflammatory properties, even the super-weak store-bought kind) and lemon. Peppermint can help open up the sinuses as well. Gargle with salt water or even with apple cider vinegar in hot water. One of the things that ends up irritating throats a lot is sinus drainage, so try to blow your nose as much as possible and avoid sniffing (which sends it down into the back of your throat) and spit out anything you cough up. Nasty, I know, but important.

If you feel like you need some drugs to help you feel human, I totally understand. When Mom gets sick, she still has all the responsibilities she normally has, no matter how bad she feels. It can really be tough to get through illness when your husband still has to work and you still have butts to wipe and dishes to wash. When you're breastfeeding, you have to take the kiddo into consideration, but fortunately, there's really not much you can't take.

  • For throat pain and overall aches and pains, both acetaminophen and ibuprofen are totally safe, as long as you take them according to the directions, like I know you will, right?
  • Things with dextromethorphan don't actually help other than apparently to up your brain's "cough threshold," but it's safe ... however, there is another other ingredient in Robitussin and Mucinex, and it's called Guaifenecin, which is NOT necessarily safe for nursing moms. However most places, including Kellymom, say there isn't evidence enough to suggest that it shouldn't be used.
  • Throat lozenges/cough drops and even those disgusting numbing throat sprays (which have been the only way I could sleep this week) are considered to be totally safe, but avoid excess menthol, since it can actually mess with your breastfeeding supply.

ANYTHING that is designed to help try up your sinuses can make you a little more dehydrated, and dehydration actually worsens congestion. So regardless of how you choose to deal with your illness, drink lots of fluids, and try to get as much rest as possible. It's a good time to work on discipline other than yelling too, since that can just make your throat worse ... or end up sounding so ridiculous that everyone ends up laughing at you instead. I don't speak from personal experience or anything, really ... *cough*

And of course, when in doubt, call the La Leche League at 877-452-5324 or The InfantRisk Center at 806-352-2519. Both will help you find a medication that will help you and let you continue nursing your baby safely.

What's your favorite nursing-safe method of dealing with cold, flu, and cough symptoms?


Image via freedryk/Flickr

breastfeeding, natural health, medicine, cold & flu, alternative medicine, breastfeeding 101


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thedg... thedgoddess

Excellent advice , timely and well-written! Since I was due in teh winter with both of my boys I naturally got quite ill both times, with the flu, colds and one time PNEUMONIA. It stunk.  And I chose not to take anything (except an antibiotic for pneumonia, for obvious reasons) because I wanted to lower the risk to the baby.


Smile... SmileyMoo

Herbal soup with crushed Cayenne pepper. :) Works wonders for a cough and makes you feel so much better!

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 TBSP olive oil

2 cups water or vegetable  broth Substitution: (I use chicken broth!)

1 tsp finely chopped fresh cayenne pepper or 1/2 tsp cayenne powder

1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 tsp dried

1/2 tsp fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried

pinch to 1/4 tsp salt, if the e broth is unsalted

Substitutions and changes: I add in 2 cups of veggie noodles in with this and finish covering it with a little water or broth.


Add the garlic to the olive oil and saute over high heat briefly, until the garlic starts to change color. Add the water (or broth), turn down the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add all the herbs and salt to taste. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Sip slowly.

RanaA... RanaAurora

Thanks Marj! Because I AM nursing, it really does make me think a lot more about what I put in my body since it ends up in hers, even in minor amounts, whether I'm sick or not. Right now, I'm just grateful I have an abundance of tea, honey, lemon juice and tissues in the house, and an awesome excuse to eat my Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches: "The cold helps my throat!"

RanaA... RanaAurora

Oooh, thanks SmileyMoo! I may try that tonight!

sstepph sstepph

Fluids! Chicken Noodle Soup, OJ and rest!

Smile... SmileyMoo

When I was soooo sick a couple weeks ago it's all I could find to help my cough LOL. The pepper makes it hot but it beat hacking my lungs up when I was trying to sleep and more importantly when the baby was!

tayanna2 tayanna2

Just a couple hints from a long time singer: hot tea is great for a sore throat, but avoid caffienated teas - they actually constrict your throat muscles and can make it more difficult to talk (and sing). Also, avoid dairy as much as possible, especially milk and ice cream, it can increase drainage and irritate your throat. Popsicles are better.

The hot showers are a great way to help a sore throat as well, but only if you work your vocal chords while in there. So belt it out (if you can) and if you've really lost your voice, just try talking in a normal voice - don't strain and don't whisper! Whispering is horrible for a sore throat and will make it harder for your vocal chords to soothe.

Hope you feel better soon!

Andrea Smith

I think Breathe Right nose strips are the best for sleeping when you have no way of breathing through the nose. I've also used a baby's nasal aspirator in reverse for squirting the nettipot type saline solution into the nasal cavity. Also, a tiny bit of Brandy (we keep some Blackberry Brandy for that purpose) can be wonderfully numbing, can kill all those germs on the throat, and (if you're not used to alcohol) can help you fall asleep quickly! I take a tablespoon or two in a small glass right after I nurse. Apparently, the amount of alcohol in breastmilk is about equal to the amount in your blood. So a small amount disipated over a few hours is not going to be a problem. I DON'T do this while pregnant, though. :(

sodapple sodapple

definitely tea, you can also run your hot water and put a towel over you on the sink if you are not in the mood of hot shower.

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