Breastfeeding with a fever: yes or no?

Is it OK to breastfeed with a fever? Scientists say it's not a case of "can", but "must". During an infection, the milk is even more rich in antibodies and white corpuscles, both of which are essential in developing the baby's immune system. The only time when the mother shouldn't breastfeed is if the fever is making her feel weak.

It's a dilemma facing all mothers of newborn babies: can I breastfeed if I have a fever? Scientists have now given a clear response: there's no reason not to, and it's even OK to take certain antibiotics. Breast milk contains antibodies that help the baby to protect itself against infection.

Breastfeeding with a fever: when feeling weak

The only real contraindication for breastfeeding in this situation is if the fever causes weakness. Breastfeeding still needs energy, and may not be sustainable.

Milk protects against infection

Breastmilk contains some 700 species of bacteria, and also antibodies that help to protect against viruses and seasonal infections. The antibodies are associated with the nutrients consumed by the baby, and strengthen its defenses against outside attack.

Breastfeeding with a fever strengthens a baby's self-defence system

According to recent medical theories, the immune system responds to a fever by improving the milk's protective capacity. If the mother and baby are both exposed to a virus, the concentration of anti-inflammatories in the milk increases, so breastfeeding with a fever is a natural way of strengthening the baby's defenses.

Breastfeeding with a fever improves the quality of the milk

According to a study by Flinders University in Adelaide, a fever changes the characteristics of a mother’s milk, significantly increasing the number of white corpuscles, the immune system's main form of defence, in breastmilk.

Even antibiotics are OK

Even if the mother takes antibiotics for the fever, they won't harm the baby. Most common antibiotics, including penicillin, macrolides and cephalosporin, can be taken while breastfeeding. But it is important to check with a paediatrician to be on the safe side.

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