By Beverly Ann Curtis, APRN, PNP-BC, IBCLC
Colds are never fun and trying to mother with a cold can be downright difficult. If you are not feeling well with runny nose and cough, lots of fluids and rest is always a good recipe for getting back to normal.
Cold symptoms last 6-10 days with symptoms peaking on day 4-5 and subsiding by day 7-10. If your symptoms are worsening by 7 days into a cold, you should see your doctor. If you run a fever beyond 3-4 days, medical care should be sought. Flu-like symptoms are not a normal part of a common cold and may be indicative of a breast infection or other illness. Consult your physician if you experience these. Otherwise rest and sleep when baby sleeps.
If you are ill and not feeling well, you may inadvertently skip feedings or feel the need for someone else to feed your baby. This may cause a decrease in your milk supply. To maintain your supply, make sure you get plenty of rest, drink fluids, and continue to eat three meals a day and three snacks. It is safe to continue to breastfeed even when you are ill unless your doctor advises otherwise. Your body will produce antibodies that pass into your milk and protect your infant from your infection. Breastfed babies do experience illness and can pick up illness from others in their household but generally, the breastfed babies illness is less severe than formula fed infants and the infant recovers from illness sooner.
Tylenol, or acetaminophen and Advil,or ibuprofen are approved for use while breastfeeding. Benadryl and other allergy medications may reduce your milk supply and also may make the baby drowsy. Antihistamines and decongestants, including Dimetapp and Sudafed, are not recommended while breastfeeding, as they may substantially decrease your milk supply. See Dr. Thomas Hale’s website for a thorough discussion on medications and breastfeeding. While Benadryl and older versions of antihistamines are not recommended because they may decrease milk supply, Zyrtec and Claritin are OK.
Vaporizer with plain water may be beneficial in moistening the nasal passages and helping to clear the airway. Menthol products in a vaporizer should be avoided and have been identified as an irritant in nasal passages in infants.
Zinc Gluconate,as found in Cold-eeze and Zicam is considered safe with breastfeeding although the nasal gel is recommended over the oral drops. According to Thomas Hale, PhD,” Zinc is an essential mineral that is required for your cell’s enzymatic functions and the recommended daily allowance for adults is 12-15 mg per day. While zinc does enter the breastmilk, growing newborns require zinc and as long as supplementation does not exceed 25-50 mgs per day,….avoid zinc sulfates because those have been shown to be detrimental to proper immune system function.”
A Neti Pot is recommended for people with allergies or sinus problems, and works to clear the nasal passages during the common cold. Since it only uses water and the mother is not actually ingesting anything, it is very safe for a nursing mom.
Seasonal flu treatment includes either Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza). These antivirals work early on in the illness and are not indicated if fever and illness has been present for more than 48 hours. The CDC considers oseltamivir safe to use in breastfeeding mothers. At present, there is no breastfeeding data on zanamivir (Relenza). Physicians are advised to use oseltamivir (Tamiflu) instead of zanamivir (Relenza) in breastfeeding mothers.
Many herbal remedies and their safety have not been evaluated for the breastfeeding infant. Just because a product is marked natural does not mean it is safe while breastfeeding. Caution should be used for any consumption of herbals as well as prescribed medications. If insufficient data is available on a specific herbal remedy then it is advised to avoid it while breastfeeding. Insufficient data is available for Airborne, a cold remedy, and therefore should be avoided for breastfeeding mothers.
Bev Curtis is the former Executive Director of the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh.