The other day I was at a friend’s place to meet her 3 months old daughter for the first time. Her adorable infant was asleep with an endearing expression on her face which made me nostalgic. We settled down for our candid tete-e-tete which was primarily centered on parenting. Like most new mothers, my friend had several queries and doubts about various aspects of parenting which she wanted to clarify with me and seek my opinion on. I could gauge that she was feeling under the weather and when I checked with her, she mentioned that she was down with the seasonal flu. She had been coughing and sneezing since a couple of days due to which she was advised by a friend to refrain from breastfeeding so that she doesn’t pass on the infection to the little one through breast milk. She paid heed to the advice and as a result of this, started giving her daughter formula milk which was causing much agony to the baby who only wanted mother’s milk. I was taken aback when I got to know about this and immediately requested my friend to feed the baby without any hesitation. I assured her that her breast milk would not infect her daughter and also shared a few links with her with practical and useful information related to breastfeeding.
Many a times, when a breastfeeding mother falls sick, the first thought of uncertainty that crops up in her mind is whether she can safely breastfeed or not, lest she transfers the illness to her child. But the fact is that it is safe to breastfeed a child in case of most illnesses and even if one is in two minds about it, it is best to consult a professional rather than just going by hearsay and unnecessarily depriving the child of breast milk. Professionals maintain that breastfeeding when one is down with flu, etc in fact passes on the antibodies generated in our body to fight the infection to children which aids in building their immunity.
My daughter was approximately 6 months old when I fell sick for the first time after childbirth. I was among the many targets of the seasonal viruses and was suffering from high fever. The doctor had diagnosed mixed infection and hence, I also had to be put on antibiotics. At that point, I continued to breastfeed my daughter without any qualms because I had already consulted my pediatrician and lactation consultant who always kept me well-informed when it came to breastfeeding. However, keeping the child protected when the mother is ailing due to an infection is quite a challenging task. That’s because the mother will obviously be in contact with the child most of the time, if not 24*7. However, there are a few things we can do at our end to try and keep our child sheltered from the effects of harmful germs.
Washing hands regularly and sanitizing: Our hands are the biggest carriers of any infection. Hence, it is imperative that we wash our hands with a good anti-bacterial soap/liquid regularly. This needs to be done more often than usual when we are suffering from a fever or any infection. Also, I keep my Dettol sanitizer handy to sanitize my hands when I am not at home. Following this diligently has helped a great deal on many occasions in keeping my kid safe from the germs that have attacked her mommy.
Minimal contact if possible: Though I understand that this is not always possible, but if it is, then keep the contact minimal with your child when you are in poor health. This can be done if you have the support from a trusted caregiver at home who the child is also comfortable with. In my case, whenever my mother is around, she spends maximum time with my daughter if I am ill.
Use of handkerchief while sneezing: If you are down with flu, please remember to use a handkerchief to cover your face when you are sneezing to minimize the spreading of the germs in the air. Also, take care to keep washing/changing the handkerchief you are using for this purpose.
Build immunity: The best way to safeguard your child’s health when you are down with an infirmity is to build the child’s immunity in the long run so that his/her body can fight the attack from the foreign elements. Therefore, it is essential to provide wholesome and nourishing varieties of food to your child from the beginning to build strength, resistance and immunity.
Use of Tulsi: As the well-known proverb goes, prevention is better than cure. As a pre-emptive measure, I offer my child Tulsi during the rough phases. The goodness of Tulsi helps the body to fight allergies, infections and pathogens. Washed Tulsi leaves can be chewed directly or the leaves can be boiled and ingested as a concoction.
Breastfeed as much as you want to: As mentioned in the beginning of the article, if you are a breastfeeding mother, then the best thing you can do to keep your baby shielded from infections is breastfeeding – as much as you can, as much as you want to. Breast milk is truly liquid gold, irrespective of whether the mother is sick or not. Unless specified by a professional in case of major health issues, there is no reason a mother should stop breastfeeding.
Following all the above hacks is what will help keep illnesses at bay for your child. If you have more ideas/tips to protect a child when the mother is ill, please do comment and share. I would be happy to add them to the list.