Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Ages & Stages
Text Size
Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest

When Mom Gets Sick: Minor Illnesses and Infections While Breastfeeding

Chances are that sometime during the course of breastfeeding you will develop a cold, the flu, a bacterial infection, or other routine illness. In such a situation, you may wonder if the baby will acquire the illness via breastfeeding.

Whether breastfeeding or formula-feeding, your infant has been exposed to you and your illness by the time your symptoms develop. Breastfeeding provides added protection and treatment via the milk. It is best to keep breastfeeding, so that the antibodies your body has produced will pass through your milk to protect your baby. If you stop breastfeeding when cold or flu symptoms appear, you actually reduce your baby’s protection and increase the chance of his getting sick or having a more severe illness if he does get sick. Even with more serious illnesses—such as gallbladder surgery or a severe infection—you can usually continue breastfeeding or, at most, interrupt feeding for only a brief time. If you are unsure whether a particular illness or infection affects breastfeeding, ask your pediatrician for advice.


One type of infection that may appear among nursing mothers or babies is a yeast or fungal infection. Yeast infections are especially common among women with diabetes and sometimes occur after a mother or baby has completed a course of antibiotics.

Signs of thrush in your baby include milky white spots or a coating on the inside of the mouth. In addition to the spots in the mouth, the baby may have a diaper rash, also caused by the yeast. If the infection is on the mother’s nipples, they may appear pink, shiny, oozy, crusty, or flaky, and she may experience a burning sensation in the nipples or breasts during or after nursing, even without other symptoms or signs of the infection.

To prevent thrush, keep your nipples clean and dry. Change your nursing pads when they become damp, and wash your hands often. Be sure to boil or at least thoroughly wash with warm, soapy water anything that goes into your baby’s mouth, including teething rings, pacifiers, artificial nipples, and toys.

If you find signs of thrush in your baby’s mouth or suspect that you may have a yeast infection of your breasts, contact your doctor and your baby’s pediatrician. Always follow the course of treatment prescribed and continue treatment until several days after the symptoms have improved, or the infection may return. Do not rely solely on over-the-counter or home remedies, since these are not likely to completely clear up the infection.

It is important for both you and your infant to be treated at the same time, even if only one of you has symptoms. This helps to prevent the infection from spreading back and forth between the two of you. Your doctor might advise you to throw away any breast milk that you expressed and stored while you had thrush, because the yeast can contaminate your breast milk and is not destroyed by freezing.

While you are being treated, you can and should continue direct breastfeeding. Though thrush is easily passed back and forth between you and your child (as well as between sexual partners—a possible cause of your infection), stopping nursing will not cure the condition once it has developed.

Last Updated
New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding, 2nd Edition (Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest