It can seem like there’s nothing worse than food poisoning — except maybe getting food poisoning while parenting. Not only do you feel terrible, but it can feel like you can’t catch a break. The parenting must go on, multiple trips to the bathroom and all.
And if you’re a nursing parent, you may face an added stress: the uncertainty of whether you can continue.
That’s a valid worry — after all, you don’t want your child somehow catching a food-borne illness through your milk. But thankfully, having food poisoning while breastfeeding is generally not a problem, according to
So you can (and should) keep nursing your baby.
In fact, the CDC actually recommends that you should continue breastfeeding.
But wait, there’s more: The CDC also encourages you to nurse even more frequently, while also increasing your own fluids.
Why? Because breastfeeding more frequently while you have food poisoning helps protect your baby from contracting the illness, too. It’s also excellent rehydration therapy if your baby has diarrhea.
No one wants their baby to be exposed to a pathogen that causes uncomfortable and potentially worrisome symptoms. So it makes sense to want to know about the potential risks of breastfeeding while you have a bout of food poisoning, despite expert assurance that you should continue.
Here’s what to know about the potential (but unlikely) risks of breastfeeding with food poisoning:
Danger to breastfeeding parent
Although food poisoning certainly isn’t a comfortable experience, most adults fare well and are back to health after a couple of days. However, adults who are older, immunocompromised, or pregnant may have a tougher time and may require medical attention if the situation becomes severe.
But it’s important to remember that even moderate cases of food poisoning can cause dehydration. Some breastfeeding parents notice drops in their milk supply after illnesses like food poisoning. That’s why it’s important that you stay well hydrated.
If you do notice a drop in your milk supply, it should be temporary. Nursing more frequently and replenishing your fluids should resolve things.
Danger to breastfed baby
However, it’s possible that your baby could pick up the germ that made you sick from another source outside of your breast milk — for example, if baby had a taste of whatever food contained the pathogen.
Regardless, your breast milk can help protect your little one from infection. And if they do get sick, your milk will keep them properly hydrated and nourished.
It can be easy to try to just push yourself through when you’re parenting with food poisoning. But it’s important to take care of yourself, too.
Additionally, you’ll want to be sure to take some steps to minimize passing an infection onto your baby or other children.
Here are some tips for getting through food poisoning while breastfeeding:
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration is the biggest concern when it comes to food poisoning. Even if you can’t keep food down, it’s important to continue drinking plenty of water. Consider adding some fluids meant to replenish and balance your electrolytes, too.
- Avoid Pepto Bismol. Products with oral rehydration salts are compatible with breastfeeding. However, products containing bismuth subsalicylate compounds, like Pepto Bismol, may not be safe.
- Seek medical attention. If your symptoms are lasting more than 1 or 2 days, you have a persistent fever, or you’re severely dehydrated, seek medical attention. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe medication to help your symptoms or to treat the infection.
- Ask a doctor about medication. If you’re unsure whether a product, medication, or antibiotic used to treat food poisoning is compatible with breastfeeding, talk with your doctor. You can also check the
LactMed database, where you can find information about different substances and medications as well as their impact on breastfeeding.
- Wash your hands frequently. Over the course of your illness, wash your hands frequently with soap and water after using the toilet and after vomiting. Give your hands an extra wash before holding or nursing your baby.
- Minimize risk to others. Consider sanitizing any high touch surfaces like door handles, light switches, and toilet handles. Clean food prep areas well. Additionally, make sure that anything your baby touches or puts into their mouth — such as pacifiers, nipples, and teethers — have been thoroughly cleaned.
Remember, it’s important to take care of you so you can take care of your baby.
Most food poisoning symptoms — which can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomachache — resolve within 1 or 2 days and don’t require medical attention.
However, visit a healthcare professional if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- bloody diarrhea
- high fever of over 102°F (38.8°C)
- inability to keep fluids down
- diarrhea that lasts for 3 or more days
Food poisoning is linked to a food or drink you ingested that was contaminated. The main symptoms of food poisoning are gastrointestinal — such as vomiting, diarrhea, and upset stomach.
Respiratory symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or congestion are usually not caused by food poisoning.
However, food poisoning can sometimes cause fever. If you’re unsure if you’re experiencing food poisoning or something else, consult with your doctor.
It’s never fun getting sick, and you might worry about what food poisoning in particular means for you as a breastfeeding or chestfeeding parent.
The good news is, you can — and should — continue breastfeeding your baby even if you get food poisoning.
Your breast milk should not give your baby food poisoning, and in fact, it can help protect them from contracting the germ that caused the food poisoning.
If you have any questions about a food-borne illness while breastfeeding, talk with your child’s pediatrician. And if you or your baby have severe symptoms or become severely dehydrated, seek emergency medical care.