What to do for cold symptoms in a breastfeeding infant

We’re in the middle of cold and flu season right now and any baby is susceptible to coming down with a viral infection. If your baby is breastfed, it is less likely that they will get sick or they may get a milder illness than a formula fed baby. When moms are exposed to illnesses, her breastmilk builds up antibodies to fight off specific infections. But if a baby has siblings and/or goes to daycare, it’s almost impossible to shield them from all germs they are exposed to. So what should parents do if a baby gets congested and is having trouble breastfeeding?

First, be more proactive by making sure to have a good milk supply. Any extra pumping in addition to having baby nurse tells the breasts to make more milk. Whether you’re working outside of the home or not, it’s helpful to pump in the morning after your baby nurses and when your breasts are most full just to have a stash of milk in your freezer. If baby does get a cold and their appetite decreases, be sure you pump during feeding times to maintain your milk supply. Otherwise when baby’s appetite and normal nursing routine resumes, your milk supply will be low and baby will not get full at the breast.

If your baby comes down with a cold, has a stuffy nose and is struggling to breathe while nursing, follow these tips:

  • Before nursing, put one or two drops of saline in each nostril, wait a couple of seconds and then gently suction baby’s nose out with a bulb syringe. This should help clear baby’s airway passage making it easier to breathe while nursing. Don’t over suction – this can cause the mucous membranes to swell and baby will struggle even more to breathe. If baby is still congested, nurse in an upright position to help avoid pressure on the sinuses.
  • Use a cool mist vaporizer at baby’s bedside to help sinuses from drying out. The dry heat from furnaces can dry sinuses even more. If baby’s congestion gets crusty or is further back in the nose and can’t be reached with the bulb syringe, a moistened cotton ball works well. Take a cotton ball, run it under water and twist the ends into points as you wring out the water. Twirl each point in baby’s nostrils and this will help to moisten that crusty drainage. You should see some mucous on the tips of the cotton ball. Often babies will sneeze after doing this which gets rid of even more mucous.

Most doctors don’t recommend cold medications for infants. If your baby has a fever, check with your doctor about giving Tylenol. Keeping your baby hydrated is very important. If you can’t get your baby to nurse, your baby has a fever and has fewer than normal wets and stools, see your physician. Ear infections can often accompany a cold which need to be diagnosed and treated by a doctor.


Still have questions? Don’t hesitate to call or email me anytime with your concerns. I am here to assist you in any way I can.

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