Treating cold and flu symptoms while breastfeeding

Written by Robin Kaplan, M.Ed., IBCLC, Owner of the San Diego Breastfeeding Center

Having a cold or the flu while breastfeeding/chestfeeding can be a complete drag, to say the least! Not only are you responsible for taking care of a little one (which means that there is only a very slim chance that you can just crawl into bed and rest all day), but your milk supply might temporarily decrease a tad with your lowered immune system or if dehydration sets in. Plus, many of the over-the-counter medications that relieve some of these uncomfortable cold/flu symptoms might reduce your milk supply even further.

What are some cold/flu symptom remedies that are safe to take while breastfeeding?

First, let’s consider ways to boost your immune system to prevent and fight colds/flu:

Omega 3 - Omega 3 supplements reduce inflammation and help your immune system to function to its fullest potential. Not all Omega 3 companies are the same, so choose a quality one where they routinely test for metal toxicity, like Nordic Naturals.

Vitamin D - This Harvard article suggests that if you have sufficient Vitamin D in your body, it may help to ward off viral infections. Choose one that is just straight Vitamin D in a carrier oil. 6400IUs per day will actually allow you to pass the recommended 400IU to your baby through your breastmilk.

Vitamin C, Zinc, Elderberry, and Echinacea - As soon as you feel that tickle in your throat, start popping some of these. These masterful immunity boosters will help your body to fight off those cold and flu invaders.

Yin Chiao - Used at the first sign of cold or flu, this powerful herb blend can help enhance your immune system to help fight off colds and the flu.

Eat a balanced diet, rich in nutrient-dense foods and stay away from sugar. As parents we often find it challenging to find time to make balanced meals, so become good friends with your slow cooker and stock pot. Make soups and stews on the weekend to store in the fridge or freezer for the rest of the week. Wholesome meals will now be plentiful!

"Natural flu shot" - We love this Natural Flu Shot recipe by Dave Sommers. It's not the best tasting drink we've ever had, but the garlic, lemon, ginger, and cayenne pack a powerful immunity punch!

How to relieve nasal congestion:

Neti-pot - This amazing ceramic or plastic pot helps to irrigate and flush out your nasal passages, relieving sinus pressure. Here is a great video from the Himalayan Institute on how to use the neti pot, as well as the instructions for creating the mixture of water and non-iodized salt (or neti pot salt).

Humidifier - Cool mist humidifiers can help with relieving nasal and chest congestion, especially when you are trying to get some much needed rest.

Nasal Spray - Nasal sprays made of sodium chloride can often relieve nasal pressure and help to irrigate the nose, relieving congestion.

How to relieve sore, scratchy throats and a pesky cough:

Honey with lemon - Mix one cup hot water with 2 tsp of honey and 2 tsp lemon juice and drink throughout the day.

Apple cider vinegar and water gargle - gargle 1 tsp apple cider vinegar mixed with half a glass of water. It helps to rinse away toxins and bacteria, as well as relieve a sore throat.

Slippery Elm Bark lozenges - soothe your throat tissue with these yummy lozenges by Thayer’s.

Over-the-counter cough medications - Check to make sure that they only contain dextromethorphan and/or gaifenesin, as these cough-suppressing drugs shouldn’t decrease your milk supply.

Cold remedies to stay away from or use with caution while breastfeeding:

Hopefully the natural remedies (listed above) that boost your immune system, as well as decrease cold and flu symptoms, will help you feel better so that you don’t have to reach for some over-the-counter medication. If you do decide to grab something from your local pharmacy, check the ingredients to make sure they don’t contain the following, as these might decrease your milk supply while temporarily relieving your symptoms.

Pseudoephedrine - This cough-suppressing drug can sometimes decrease a mother’s milk supply. Think about it.... it we are drying up a one mucus membrane (your nose), it may have the same drying up effect on another mucus membrane (your breasts)

Cough drops with menthol - Excess menthol may decrease your milk supply, so use these with caution, if at all.

For more information about safe remedies for treating cold and flu symptoms, here is a great article:
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