For many women, establishing and maintaining breast feeding a new baby can be challenging enough–but if the mother becomes ill, or needs to be hospitalized, it can be incredibly difficult. If a mother is committed to breast feeding, and is well enough to work at keeping the breast feeding going, and has the support of her family and friends, there are ways she can cope and continue to breast feed even while she is under the weather.
If a mother has taken ill at home and doesn’t need to be hospitalized, there is a better chance for breast feeding to continue. It still won’t be easy and she’ll likely need help and support with the baby and helping her with her own health, but she’ll at least be home where she can feed freely. If the mother is not contagious or has become bedridden due to an injury or other condition, the baby may be able to “room in” with her and she can continue to breast feed unrestricted. It will also depend on the age of the baby–a very young baby will be more content to snuggle in close to mother and live for a few days in the one room than will an older, more mobile baby.
If the mother has other children, she should definitely have help taking care of everyone while she is ill. If the other children are old enough, they may be able to help–but adult help will likely be much more dependable. If it is financially feasible, a mother’s helper or in-home care may be considered. Even having someone come in for a couple hours a day can be a big help and contribute to the mother feeling less stressed and able to focus on her own health and feeding the baby.
If the mother is contagious, she will want to make sure she washes up, and possibly wears a mask over her face while breast feeding to shield the baby from the germs. Keeping her bedside area clean and taking precautions to keep from contaminating the baby can be important.
If a mother is ill enough, or has been injured and needs to be hospitalized, breast feeding can be more of a challenge. Some hospitals will let the baby come into the room with the mother and may even let the baby “room in” if there is another adult there to take responsibility for the baby. If not, the mother will need someone to bring her the baby or, she may need to express or pump her milk and have it stored and transported to the baby and the baby will need to be fed using a bottle or cup. While this may be time consuming and tiring, it will help keep the mother’s breasts from becoming overly full and engorged. It is important to check with the doctor and hospital staff to find out the rules and regulations, as well as garner support for maintaining breast feeding even though the mother is ill.
While it won’t be easy, and it depends on the circumstances of a mother’s illness, it is quite possible and preferable to continue breast feeding even though the mother has become ill or injured.