Breastfeeding and the Common Cold

Ever since the cold weather started here in Chicago (and then stopped, and then started, and then stopped…), members of our Facebook group have been asking about safe remedies for the common cold for breastfeeding mothers. Here are some of the great ideas brought up by our members*:

Should I breastfeed my baby when I have a cold?

Yes, yes, and yes!!!!!! When you get sick, your body produces antibodies that get passed to your baby through your breastmilk. Those antibodies may help your baby avoid getting sick altogether, and will almost certainly mean a shorter, less severe illness for your breastfed baby. Nurse away, mama!

First and foremost:

Your health is correlated with how well you take care of yourself! Really. You need to take care of yourself. Turn off the TV, shut down Facebook, ignore the laundry, and GO TO BED!!! I recently complained to a friend that I had been struggling with a cold for a month and I felt like I was doing everything right – I was taking my supplements, drinking my herbal tea, avoiding sugar, and being absolutely lazy around the house. What was I missing? Sleep. In bed by 10:30pm, no exceptions.

Cold comfort:

  • Aromatherapy – Personally I can’t stand smelly candles, but a good essential oil diffused throughout my house makes me happy. Great essential oils for colds: lavender, peppermint, rosemary, lemon, frankincense
  • Humidifier – especially during our dry Chicago winters
  • A good long soak in the tub – hot herbal bath with lavender, chamomile, rosemary and calendula (if you don’t live near a health food store, you can buy bulk herbs at, hot towel or warmed rice sock on sinuses, hot shower, steamy water (with some essential oils) in a bowl and a towel draped over your head – inhale deeply for 5 min

General immune system care:

  • Avoid refined sugars (um, that means cookies, candy, milk chocolate, soda… just in case you needed a reminder)
  • Avoid dairy (you know you don’t have to drink milk to make milk, right?)
  • Eat your veggies (dark, leafy greens, etc.)
  • Stay hydrated and ditch the caffeine
  • Sleep

“Natural” remedies**:

  • Neti-pot – yup, it’s kinda gross and you have to use distilled or filtered water, but it’s a great way to clear out those nasal passages! Opera singers swear by it.
  • Herbs – check out this warning from Kellymom before drinking herbal teas or taking herbal supplements. After you’ve done that, echinacea stimulates the immune system and fenugreek is good for congestion.
  • Vitamins – vitamins C and D
  • Probiotics
  • Garlic (raw, not in a capsule) – chop it up and swallow it right down… yes, you’re going to smell, but garlic is antibacterial and it detoxifies the body.
  • Homeopathic remedies – generally considered safe for breastfeeding mothers. Find good practitioner or talk to your local health food store peeps.
  • Body work – chiropractic, massage therapy, cranial-sacral therapy, lymphatic drainage, acupuncture, acupressure, etc.


  • This is a great list of common medicines used to combat cold symptoms that are safe for breastfeeding moms.

More Resources:

Smart Medicine for Healthier Living (Zand, Spreen, and LaValle)

*Although this is common sense, make sure you talk with your health care provider if you have any questions about your health. We are not health care providers and we probably don’t know you personally, so use your best judgment in caring for your health. 

**More common sense: Just like your mama told you, all things in moderation. Do not overdo any treatment or remedy – even if it’s “natural.”  

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