Sunday, January 2, 2011

sneezing, sniffling, sore throat...and breastfeeding

It's a cold, beautiful Sunday morning. Not a breath of wind, no cars driving by, quiet and peaceful. The baby isn't awake yet, and the sun is just peeking up in the east. It's a morning that I should be snuggled in with my lover deep under our down comforter...but instead I'm up and about nursing a cold that appeared overnight.

Breastfeeding with a cold is tough. You have baby tucked under one arm, your other hand cupping your breast for her, and a runny nose and cough to boot. The last thing you want is to cough or sneeze on the little one, but every other minute it seems you disrupt nursing to blow your nose or hack your lungs out. Pumping is worse; I find myself in embarrassing situations where I'm in the middle of a good let-down (and for as little milk outside what Lydia needs that I produce, I need every drop!!) and I have to tuck a Kleenex into both nostrils just to keep the flow going, coughing to the side as needed. And finally, you really can't take any medications that'll make it better. I was so incredibly disappointed to find out I couldn't take Mucinex, Alka-Seltzer or any of my other go-to meds for when I'm stuffy. I guess what dries up your snot dries up your milk!

If you're breastfeeding with the sniffles and need some ideas on how to make it more bearable, here are a few ideas that I've had work for me. Feel free to leave a comment with your ideas as well, and I'll update my posts with the new ideas (and a shout-out to you for commenting!).

First off, resources that have really made my life easier:

Those links are forever bookmarked in my go-tos for questions on medications and alternative practices for dealing with a cold. Always ask your doctor about medications that are safe, but be prepared to have a "Um, I have no idea" come back at you. Surprisingly, although most, if not all, cold medications have the provision of "If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, please contact your physician," many doctors are unfamiliar with whether or not the medication is actually safe for you to take. Dr. Thomas Hale, a clinical pharmacologist and professor at Texas Tech University School of Medicine, is a resource your doctor should know about. Dr. Hale wrote a comprehensive book entitled Medications and Mother's Milk; it's available for purchase on Amazon, and I would highly recommend having it in your home. I bought mine for $35.00.

Heck, buy a copy for your doctor.

My cold and flu helpers are more common-sense and simplicity based. I take an aggressive path in dealing with colds; I get them a lot, and I hate them. Here are a few things that have made my (and Lydia's) breastfeeding experience a little easier.
  • Keep breastfeeding! By the time you display symptoms your baby has already been exposed, and she's been making antibodies from your milk. You're protecting her by nursing through your colds! If she's got the cold too, though, the extra fluids from nursing often will help her heal faster.
  • Wash your hands every time before you breastfeed, and every time before you pump!
  • Take a hot, hot shower; keep the bathroom door closed for all the extra steam and breathe deeply.
  • Brush your teeth and tongue 3 times a day, and gargle with Listerine or warm salt water
  • Stay hydrated with water, juice, teas and other clear fluids.
  • Avoid dairy like the plague; it'll just make you stuffier.
  • Make ginger tea: Cut a 2" piece of ginger into slices after peeling it, and boil with water for 5-10 minutes, letting it steep for another 15. Serve with heaps of honey, and drink it often.
  • Do a saline nose spray to keep your nasal passages moist. Never blow your nose hard, especially if nothing's coming out. Best to be stuffy than to keep irritating your nasal passages.
  • If they don't hurt, massage your cheeks and sinus areas.
  • Other teas are good for you too. In general, herbal teas can be used to help your sore throat and keep you hydrated. There are, however, a few herbs that you should avoid if possible. Peppermint, mate`, kava kava, and senna leaf can all decrease your milk supply. Plants that are believed to have no effect include chamomile, ginger and echinacea.
  • Don't go too overboard on the citrus (it can affect the taste of your milk), but stock up on Vitamin C.
  • Take your daily vitamin, and get some sunshine.
  • Exercise! Have dad watch the little one while you go for a walk or whatever you like to do.
My friend Ginger also had this to say [on my facebook page, where I listed the link to my blog]:
Homeopathic medicines are all safe. Drink lots of water and rest. Just snuggle and nurse and nap and don't be embarrassed to ask for help!

A recipe that I love from the cookbook Nourishing Traditions also makes me feel a lot better. I call it my Sickie Sipping Soup. It's best enjoyed out of a mug while you're wrapped in a blanket on the couch watching a good movie or reading.

Coconut Chicken Soup (or Sickie Sipping Soup, whichever you prefer)
1 qt. chicken stock
1 1/2 c. coconut milk (NOT the light version, get the real stuff)
1/4 tsp. dried chile flakes (I usually omit these, but thought I'd include the whole recipe)
1 tsp. grated ginger (I put in about two, though)
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt
2 tsp. green curry paste
a sprinkle of curry powder

Bring the stock to a boil, skim the foam and add the coconut milk, lemon juice, chili flakes, ginger, curry paste and spices. Simmer for about 15 minutes, ladle into a mug and enjoy! I added the curry powder and paste because they taste delicious in the soup and they help to open your capillaries and get your nose running. If you're not used to curry, don't feel like you have to add it.

Here's to your feeling better soon! :) I hope this post helped to shed some light on the things you can do to mitigate the effects of a nasty cold while breastfeeding.

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