When a Nursing Mother Gets Sick

• IF you eat a food that is contaminated with botulism, salmonella, E.coli, or other bacterias or toxins, you may develop acute intestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or cramps. Usually, these toxins stay localized in your intestinal tract and don't pass into your milk. Make sure you drink enough fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated, but continue nursing your baby.

• Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver, which causes jaundice in the mother. It is transmitted through contact with infected blood or fecal matter. There is no reason to discontinue nursing if you have Hepatitis A.

• Hepatitis B is a virus that causes symptoms similar to Hepatitis A, but they last longer. It is transmitted by contact with body fluids such as blood, saliva, and mucus, and can also be transmitted sexually. If you contract it during pregnancy, your baby will be give several doses of the Hepatitis B vaccine within the first 12 hours of life, and breastfeeding can continue. If you get it after the baby's birth, he will be vaccinated and you can continue nursing.

• Hepatitis C is a virus that begins with a mild infection, but then progresses to jaundice. Half of those who contract it will develop chronic liver disease. It is transmitted through blood, needles, and sexual contact. The risk of transmission is minimal. If you are in the acute phases of the illness, you may need to stop nursing temporarily until your symptoms subside. Discuss this with your doctor.

• If you have infectious diseases such as Leprosy, Lyme Disease, Malaria, or Rubella (German Measles) you can continue nursing. If you contract measles, it can be fatal in an unborn or newborn baby (congenital measles). The chances of you contracting measles before birth is rare, because almost everyone has been vaccinated during childhood. If you have been exposed, and aren't sure if you are immunized, your doctor can order a blood test to determine if you have immunity to the disease. If you do contract measles and are contagious at the tine of birth, you may need to be separated from your baby for a few days to reduce the chance of infection. If this is necessary, express your milk and feed it to your baby until you are no longer contagious and can resume nursing.

• If you have an STD (sexually transmitted disease) during pregnancy, you may infect your newborn during delivery, and will require treatment immediately postpartum. STDs such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphllis, and Trichomonas do not require the discontinuation of breastfeeding. With Syphllis, follow the same precautions as you would with Herpes. With Trichomonas (a common vaginal infection) you will probably be prescribed Flagyl. According to Dr. Jack Newman, MD. FRCPC, there is no need to stop breastfeeding during either short or long term treatment while taking this drug.

• Women with chronic illnesses can almost always breastfeed. If you have Cystic Fibrosis, you can produce normal breastmilk, but must monitor your nutrition carefully. If the disease is stabilized, and your weight gain is adequate, you should be able to continue nursing.