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How to avoid changes in your breastmilk supply when you or your infant are sick

Published on May 18, 2023

Seasonal illnesses can be especially tough on kids, but they can also be tough on breastfeeding mothers who nurse or pump. Being sick and taking care of little ones who may also be under the weather can take a toll, especially on mom’s milk supply.

When your child is sick, you may notice they may not eat as well as usual or are uninterested in eating altogether. This may be because congestion is making it harder for them to eat, they might have a sore throat or stomach, or they just may not have any appetite. Whatever the reason, when a child who depends on human milk experiences a decrease in diet or appetite, it can lead to a shift or decline in milk supply.

To avoid a significant change in your milk production, the most important thing to do is empty the breast as frequently as possible. Try to offer the breast at regular intervals and allow baby to feed for as long as they feel comfortable. If you notice that they are eating less and your breast feels full, consider pumping after each nursing session. You can either store this milk or offer it to your baby with bottles. This way, you can maintain your milk supply for when baby is feeling better.

Photo of an African American mother sitting by a window breastfeeding her infant
Breastfeeding or pumping to empty the breast as frequently as possible can help avoid a significant change in milk production.

Another question you might be asking yourself is, “If I’m sick, can I still breastfeed my baby?” The answer is yes. Unless you have an active infection such as HIV, tuberculosis, or are using illicit drugs, feed your baby without restrictions. One thing to keep in mind is that some over-the-counter cold and flu medications could affect milk supply. Some common medications that can cause this are pseudoephedrine, dextromethorphan, phenylephrine and diphenhydramine. Consult with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about the use of medication and if prescribed medication, always inform your provider that you are nursing.  

Overall, having a sick child can be extremely difficult and tiring, which can add significant stress to breastfeeding parents. But hopefully, with these tips, both you and your baby can recover safely and quickly, without any changes to your milk supply!


About the Authors

Dr. Paola Rodriguez-Sanchez is a second-year pediatric resident with Valley Children's Pediatric Residency Program. She is passionate about a holistic approach to caring for her young patients, saying: "I believe that every patient should be treated as a whole, taking into consideration all of the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that influence their health."


Hailey Nelson, MD, FAAP, IBCLC is a complex care pediatrician at Valley Children’s Charlie Mitchell Children’s Center. Dr. Nelson enjoys working with children of all ages and abilities and is especially passionate about providing the best possible care to medically fragile children and their families. As the ambassador for Safe Kids Central California, she is a vocal advocate for children’s wellness and regularly appears in news media discussing pediatric healthcare. She is also a licensed breastfeeding consultant, certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultants to support nursing mothers and their babies.