There are quite a few advantages to being a breastfeeding mama. One of them being, it’s quite a bit easier to help your baby when they get sick. I try really hard not to give medications to my babies.
I worked in the medical field for a long time, and I’m all too familiar with problems that can pop up from over the counter medication. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for medication, but if baby has a run of the mill cold, they probably don’t need drugs. Of course, if in doubt, always consult with your provider.
If you are breastfeeding, then there are lots of things you can do, that will naturally help your baby. By simply being a breastfeeding mama, you are already passing a lot of good for baby properties to your baby through your breastmilk. You and your baby are in this little biological dance of balance. Passing immune signals back and forth. It’s a really fascinating process. (Seriously, you should read more about it.)
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- Boost the Immune system
- Get lots of vitamin C & Zinc
- Get a boost with Elderberry
- Keep the mucus moving
- Keep Hydrated
- Take advantage of steam
- Take advantage of Breastmilk
- Detox bath
- Baby Massage
- Skin to Skin
- Don’t forget about Dad
Boost the Immune system
Boosting your immune system will help boost your babies too! So at the first signs of sickness, make sure you start eating and drinking immune boosting superfoods!
Here are some ways that I personally love.
Get lots of vitamin C & Zinc
Start taking extra vitamin C and Zinc. According to this study
that adequate intakes of vitamin C and zinc ameliorate symptoms and shorten the duration of respiratory tract infections including the common cold. Furthermore, vitamin C and zinc reduce the incidence and improve the outcome of pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea infections, especially in children in developing countries.”
If you start taking good amounts of vitamin C and zinc, you can help ensure that you are passing along the right nutrients to your baby too. If your baby is sick with a cold, there’s a good chance your immune system will be hit too. This means there’s a good your body is using up its stores quickly. Usually, it’s best to get your nutrients from food sources.
In cases where someone is sick in our household, I usually up our immune boosting foods, and take a few supplements. These are my preferred brand, as they are made from organic, real foods, and better absorbed by the body. They have zinc supplements too!
Vitamin C Foods
There are lots of foods high in vitamin C. The best are guava, red bell peppers, kiwi’s, strawberries, kale and of course oranges. For a complete list, you can check out this article. Vitamin C foods are great to add in, but I make sure to keep some dried herbs handy too. That way, if it’s been a while since I went grocery shopping, I still have something on hand I can use right away.
My favorites are Rosehips and Hibiscus. They are both very high in vitamin C and taste delicious together as a tea, mixed with honey and lemon. (Honey is a natural virus killer, and lemon adds a bit of extra vitamin C.) It’s almost like a tasty tropical fruit punch. You can even make them into Vitamin C popsicles like I do for my kiddos. (Recipe here)
To make the vitamin C Tea, simply mix equal parts of your Hibiscus and Rosehips, and let brew for 15 minutes. I make a large pot of it, put it in a pitcher and drink on it all day long.
Foods High in Zinc
The best foods high in zinc are seafoods, beef, and leafy greens. (Also pumpkin seeds and cashews) Adding in these foods will help too. (You can find a complete list here.)
Get a boost with Elderberry
One of my favorite ways to boost our immune system is with elderberry.
Elderberry has a lot of benefits and can help reduce the time a person is sick. One study showed that elderberry extract taken by travelers, reduced cold symptoms quicker (on average 2 days) than those who did not take the extract.
Elderberry is an old folk medicine used to help prevent illness. I use this elderberry syrup recipe in our house. Everyone gets a bit in their nightly tea. (Adults get 1 tablespoon, kiddos get a teaspoon when healthy. If sick, take the same amount every 2-3 hours.)
Unfortunately, it’s not recommended that babies have honey before the age of 1. If baby is sick though, mama can take an adult dose every few hours, and some of the properties should pass along to baby.
Many moms are wary of herbal remedies while breastfeeding and with good reason. As far as elderberry safety goes, I cannot find any evidence that it’s not safe for breastfeeding. You can read my take on elderberry safety while breastfeeding here.
I will say that you are NEVER supposed to consume raw elderberries, as they could potentially make you sick. This is not an issue once cooked. Starwest botanical is a great place to get bulk herbs and you can find their elderberry selection here. But you can also get them on Amazon here.
This is an obvious one, but I’m throwing it in there for reinforcement! Breastfeeding boosts the immune system like crazy for your baby. Yay! for natural immunities.
Keep the mucus moving
Decongesting baby is a must. You have to keep the mucous moving because
- If it stays stagnant, it can become an infection
- Baby can’t sleep well
- Baby can’t nurse!
The 3rd one was the most distressing for me, all though honestly, they are all pretty bad. Luckily there are several things you can do to keep that snot moving.
Keeping hydrated yourself will help keep your milk supply up. (If your baby is sick, there’s a good chance you’re gonna be or get sick. So you need extra hydration yourself too!)
Drink the vitamin C tea above, or switch it up with your favorite breastfeeding safe teas (Chamomile with lavender is great for calming the nerves too and a regular in our house! You can even use the leftover tea bags for a soothing herbal baby bath) or even just plain old water. Just make sure to keep on drinking!
Feed your baby on demand. Don’t stick to a feeding schedule. This will help keep them hydrated which will keep the mucus moving freely, and the constant nursing will help keep their nose clear.
Take advantage of steam
Steam is amazing for a stuffy baby. You just got to do it right. I like to shower with my sick baby. A hot shower can create enough steam to help even the most congested of babies. Just make sure it’s not so hot it burns them!
I often sit at the bottom of the bathtub holding my baby, while a steamy shower was running, The water mostly just hit my legs. This gave me and my baby great skin to skin time. This is a perfect time to encourage your baby to nurse. It forces them to breathe through their nose, and lets the steam do its magic.
Essential oils can be very helpful in decongesting and calming your baby. Lavender and chamomile make great, baby safe additions in your natural medicine cabinet. I err on the side of caution with essential oils and baby. I don’t use them directly on my baby, but I have a select few I feel comfortable diffusing. A couple drops of lavender and chamomile in a diffuser can work wonders.
My friend Stephanie from Aroma Mama has advice I love! She suggests putting the oils on your neck and being your baby’s own walking diffuser. How perfect for a nursing mama! Simply mix a couple of drops in some coconut or almond oil and apply to your neck. When your baby nurses, they will be getting the effects of the oils straight from mama.
Take advantage of Breastmilk
Did you know that you can use breast milk to squirt in your baby’s nose to help decongest them? Yep. The antiviral effects of the milk help to soothe irritated tissues inside the nose and help soften any hardened mucus. You can use it very similarly as you would use saline drops.
Read More ways Here: Help your stuffy baby breathe better
There has been an ongoing debate on whether detox baths work or not. Who knows! But you know what, I give them to my kids when they are sick. Usually, I jump in with my baby because it’s just so much easier to bath a baby yourself, in a bath. Plus the extra support for mama isn’t so bad either.
Keeping yourself healthy and immune system supported will do wonders for your baby’s health. I usually put 1 part bentonite clay, 1 part baking soda and 1 part Epsom salt (Make sure it’s unscented if using for baby)
- The baking soda (helps the body eliminate toxins. You can read more here.)
- Bentonite clay is super absorbent and helps draw toxins out of the body
- Epsom salts contain magnesium which is absorbed very well in the body through the skin. (It’s actually the preferred method)
The magnesium from the Epsom salts will also support the immune system and relax the body too. (Chronic magnesium deficiency is common in most people.) I personally only use a small amount of each of these when I’m bathing with my baby. maybe 1/4-1/2 a cup of each ingredient to a tub of very warm water.
If I were to use a small baby bathtub, I would use maybe a bit less than a tablespoon of each ingredient. Use your best mommy judgment. The younger the baby, the less i would use.
If your baby is sick, they probably have multiple symptoms that they can’t tell you about, like sore or achy muscles. I know mine always hurt when I’m sick.
A Baby massage can be wonderfully soothing, help release the body’s feel-good hormones and help your baby sleep better.
Heres a great video on baby massages.
The perfect time for this is right before bed. Give them their steamy shower. Start diffusing your essential oils, and make sure the room is warm. (This won’t work if baby is uncomfortable.)
You can even play some relaxing music. Make sure to warm the oil in your hands first, before massaging your baby. This will get them primed for sleepy time.
Skin to Skin
Skin to skin has so many benefits for baby (& feels amazing for mama too!) The skin to skin contact will help your babies immunity, balance their body, and generally make them feel comforted and loved. (Huge for proper development both physically and mentally.)
Don’t forget about Dad
Remember that dad can do a lot of these things too! He may not have boobs, but he can definitely have some skin to skin time, bring baby in a warm shower (you can hand him baby, and take baby from him to dry off), or even give the baby massage.
It’s a great way for daddy to build trust with baby and bond.
*If you feel that something is “wrong” with your baby, trust your gut and see a doctor. At the very least, call and ask them their opinion if you should bring your baby in or not. Baby’s are delicate, and even becoming a little dehydrated (amongst other things) can cause a lot of problems. Always go with your gut instincts, and don’t feel bad if you feel like you are overreacting. It’s better to be overly cautious with your little one, than not cautious enough.
(P.S. If your a soon to be breastfeeding mama, or currently struggling with breastfeeding I cannot recommend the Milkology course enough! This is the course I wish existed when I was struggling my first few weeks with a bad latch, lots of pain and a decrease in milk supply.)