Under normal circumstances, nursing is my one super tool that helps my baby feel better instantly. Unfortunately, this is not true when baby gets sick. Especially illnesses that make sucking painful, such as an ear infection, or that cause your baby to lose interest in eating, such as an upset stomach, are very difficult to deal with.
For baby, it is extremely important to keep him/her well hydrated. The younger the baby, the greater the risk of rapid dehydration. Especially babies who have diarrhea and vomiting in combination are in danger of losing too much of their body’s water supply. You can try feeding baby breast milk in a bottle, cup, or via syringe- anything that will make it easier for baby to drink the fluid. Even if you can only get him or her to take a few milliliters at a time, it may be enough to keep the hydration at an acceptable level. For older babies, you can also offer water, coconut water, diluted juices, or other liquids containing electrolytes.
Watch your baby for warning signs of severe dehydration, which include symptoms such as lethargy (baby does not respond to your voice or touch, is limp, does not make eye contact), a dry mouth and chapped lips, dry eyes that do not produce tears and are sunken in, no urination in 12-18 hours, excessive fussiness, paleness of the skin, etc. An additional symptom in young infants can be an extremely sunken in fontanelle. If you suspect dehydration in your baby, please seek medical attention immediately! While moderate dehydration can mostly be taken care of at home, severe dehydration requires a rapid supply of fluids via IV.
When baby is not feeling well, it is easy to overlook taking care of yourself. It is crucial for every nursing mother to stay well hydrated, so don’t forget to drink enough while caring for your little one. If baby isn’t nursing as much as usual or not at all, it is very important for you to empty your breasts sufficiently. Not only do you want to keep your supply up, you also want to avoid feeling engorged and risking getting a plugged milk duct or even mastitis.
Pumping or hand expressing with a sick baby around can be really challenging. Especially when you have more than one child, you may not feel as though you are able to sit down for the time it takes to express milk. However, you really must take the time to ensure that you will not encounter any breastfeeding related problems. Taking care of a sick child is hard enough- it is even worse if you have to do so while dealing with breast pain.
Make sure that your children are safe and occupied and express your milk. If you have help available, have someone else watch the kids for a few minutes. If you have to do it all by yourself, try to entertain older kids (turn on the TV, if nothing else works) and have baby in a comfy spot where you can watch him/her. Depending on your multitasking skills, you can also have baby in a carrier while you are expressing. It may help with the letdown and will surely avoid the stress for both baby and yourself of the little one screaming for you.
If you do not have a pump or if pumping isn’t very effective for you, hand expression can be priceless. There are several different ways you can try, my personal favorite being the Marmet technique.
Make sure that both you and baby get plenty of rest. Don’t worry about chores or other obligations- a sick baby is always the number one priority. It is hard not to be able to comfort our little ones the way we are used to. Most bugs are over in a matter of days, though, so keep your chin up!