Illness despite breastfeeding

Janice - posted on 09/28/2010 ( 36 moms have responded )

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I am curious if anyone has had their breastfed baby still catch colds. When my daughter was 4 months my husband had a cold and then she got it. Then a few weeks ago she caught a cold from her cousin. My husband was frustrated because "breastfed babies aren't supposed to get sick!" Both times my daughter had a terrible stuffed nose for about 10 days. The first time she was only breastfeeding but now at almost 11 mo. she only nurses 3x a day and eats table food. Has anyone else had sickness despite breastfeeding?

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Jennifer - posted on 10/03/2010

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I found that when they start teething they are more susceptible to colds. My boy was pretty much sick from 4 months to 12 months non stop. He was exclusively breastfed.

Tricia - posted on 09/29/2010

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To develop immunity kids have to be exposed to germs and get sick. Our immune systems become robust as they fight off illness. So yes, BF babies get sick. BUT, your immune system helps them fight off the germs while their immune systems are still developing. So BF babies are much less likly to become SERIOUSLY ill, particularly from every-day sorts of things like colds and the flu. Whereas formula fed babies are much more likely to fail at fighting off common germs and become seriously ill with infections, dehydration, etc.

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My son is in full time daycare and I'm still breastfeeding some. He is 2 yrs 2 months. He has had 28 illnesses since starting daycare. I've been counting. Lots of little colds and a couple stomach flus but also the usual kiddie illnesses (hand/foot/mouth, roseola, RSV, and I think fifth's disease). What I can say is that the kids that are not breastfed at his daycare also get ALL the same illnesses but my kid does not get as sick when he gets some of them. Other illnesses, especially those that I also get because I'm not immune, my kid will come down with them as badly as other kids. I would say breastfeeding helps reduce severity like 50% for 50% of illnesses and does nothing for the rest of the illnesses.

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I don't think it's the breastmilk as much as the mom's antibodies in the milk. If you get sick easily then so will your daughter. I had the flu and my daughter didn't get it.

Lisa - posted on 03/02/2013

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My first son never got sick. I smugly attributed this to breast feeding. Along with many humbling aspects of parenting, my second one is on the verge of having to get tubes and has been stuffy constantly for about 4 months. Both breastfed. Both daycare babies. Completely different situations. I will say that he caught RSV and ended up with a milder case than the other kids, some ended up on breathing treatments and in the hospital. When is winter over?

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Mandi Lynne - posted on 10/05/2010

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My 7 month old just got a cold for the first time. My husband and I had it too, but it wasn't too bad. She suffered only a runny nose and slight post nasal drip. She is bf and got over it pretty quickly. I took her to the doctor just to make sure it wouldn't turn into an ear infection and the doctor reminded me that while she can still get sick, its important that she is bf because hopefully I'll be building up immunities to the bug which will then pass to her through the milk. Im also a firm believer in good old fresh air! While she had the cold I bf her a bit extra (you know they always say drink fluids!) and made sure everyday we took a few minutes to go outside. Even if it wasn't stroller weather, we went out on the porch at least to get out of the house and any stale air. Humidifiers work great too! Good luck, there's nothing worse than a sick baby!

Amanda - posted on 10/04/2010

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BF protects against some of the things you already have antibodies for. I promise you don't have antibodies for a cold... No one does. My little man go his first cold at 5 months. Running nose, sneezing and coughing, his only lasted a few days and he was back to his normal little self

Marabeth - posted on 10/04/2010

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my 18 month old is at the tail end of her third cold and she still nurses many times a day. the immunities found in your breastmilk are made in response to pathogens introduced to your body so if your child is exposed to stuff you have not been exposed to they are at an increased risk for illness. i've also read that sugar and alcohol supress the immune system. not that your daughter is chugging cold ones or anything, lol.

Sarah-Jayne - posted on 10/04/2010

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Yeah my son is always ill- me and him both seem to catch whats going around xxx i am still b/fding at 12 + months

Casey - posted on 10/03/2010

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My kids are both still nursing & both get colds all the time. They are 34 months & 17 months. We go to the gym 5 days a week & they pick up bugs there all the time. Doc says it's normal for some kids.
HTH!

[deleted account]

One other comment.... my friends in a similarly large daycare said that her kid got one illness per month until age 2, one every other month until age 3, and about 3 illnesses per yr at age 4 and beyond. If you do not send your kid to daycare then they will still get 3 to 5 illnesses per year and make up for it in kindergarten by getting more like 5 to 6 a yr than 3 times a yr.

Karla - posted on 10/03/2010

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I don't think breastfeeding is supposed to prevent colds. The benefit of breastfeeding is that the baby gets healthy quicker and you dont end up running to the doctor because the cold escalated into an ear infection or bronchitis or some other complications of a common cold. Bf babies have the power of moms immune system working with their own to help it build and get stronger. I wouldnt be worried about your daughter one bit! What you have described sounds perfectly normal.

Tiffany - posted on 10/02/2010

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They still get colds but I think it's easier to soothe them if they are still nursing. My son used to get ear infections but they weren't very tramatic while he was nursing. He got a cold once we weaned (about 22 months old) and he was inconsolable. So miserable and all I could do was rock him. Nursing seems to make the colds shorter and keeps them so much more comfortable. Also, my son never got a cold if I had it first. He caught everything from his cousins or the kids at daycare. You pass the antibodies for that particular cold through your breast milk once you've already had it.

Lea-Andra - posted on 10/02/2010

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I believe they can still get sick, they come in contact with other kids and get sick. However they don't get AS sick. Or maybe not get ear infections etc etc. BF babies are better off because they already have antibodies to fight illnesses and infection. My daughter has had two colds and viral infection once and she's 10 months. But I got a cold recently and she didn't get sick. Getting colds and flu are a good thing for them to get early to build up immune system.

Amy - posted on 10/02/2010

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Of course breastfed babies can get sick too. It just tends to happen less often, be less severe and of shorter duration.

My daughter had a number of small colds, but they were of the 'slightly stuffy nose' type - no rivers of green snot, no hacking coughs, no secondary infections requiring antibiotics. Her first stomach bug was when she was two, and I was very grateful for breastfeeding then. My milk was all she could keep down and so she reverted to frequent nursing. Human milk is more easily digested than water. Illnesses will be passed between family members, but a breastfed baby will receive antibodies through the mother's breastmilk to help it fight off the infection. There has been research to suggest that the mother can even pass on antibodies to an illness she has not had - provided the sick baby is nursing directly from the breast.

LOL, my partner (whose father is a lab technician) was just reading over my shoulder and suggested your husband take the receipt and ask for a refund ;-)

Marie - posted on 10/02/2010

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all of my babies have gotten colds/flu while breast feeding.. with my twin boys i found they got it the worst! when they had a cold they really had a bad cold, to the point where they have inhalers for when i notice something stirring up in them..and it lasts such a long time.. :(

Sylvia - posted on 10/02/2010

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Of course breastfed babies still get colds! People who say breastfed babies "shouldn't" get sick are misunderstanding the nature of risk. Think about it: if artificial feeding puts a baby at 14 times his/her normal risk of getting a respiratory illness (which it does), that still means there is some normal risk; 14 times 0 would still be 0 ...

Also, remember that all these statistics about relative risk are based on large populations. Because you can't control all the variables (no two babies are alike in every way *except* for how they're fed), nobody can say what *your individual baby's* "normal" (i.e., breastfed) risk of catching a cold is, only that that risk -- whatever it is -- would be 14x as high if she weren't breastfed.

Sadie - posted on 10/01/2010

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my son is 9 months and he is/was EBF for 7 months, now he eats table food and i have a cold and hes caught it too, this is the 2nd time hes been sick. BF babies can get sick! the milk just helps to lessen the effects of infections, etc.

Natasha - posted on 09/30/2010

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Every baby gets sick. Breastfed babies just tend not to as often and not as serious. My DD is breastfed and she's had a few mild colds. She does get stuffy a lot in the winter but it's because of the dry air and the forced air heating. I don't think you need to worry.

Arrynne - posted on 09/30/2010

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My daughter has been breastfed for 17 months, and the worse she has ever caught was a small cold. Even when me and DH were sick with flu, strep throat, swine flu, she never caught it.

Vanessa - posted on 09/30/2010

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Yes, breastfeeding is a protection against most colds and viruses that mom is exposed to. The way it works is that mom gets exposed and builds up antibodies that get passed on to her baby through her milk, and also the milk itself has increased immune support through some sugars that help help bind up bacteria and expel them through bowel movements rather than letting them attach to the intestines and stomach and wreak havoc on baby. But if baby is with Dad before mom is able to build up the antibodies to Dad's cold then baby will get sick. Usually it's mild - a stuffy nose is mostly a terrible annoyance because of how little their noses and respiratory system is in general and because they can't take anything for it :o( However most illnesses are mild (ie. a cold vs RSV) One thing for your hubby to keep in mind is that while protection from illness is one benefit from breastfeeding there are a myriad of others. Such as instant comfort, less crying for baby (and mom) lessened chances of breast cancer for mom and baby girl, decreased incidence of childhood obesity (which we know often leads to adult obesity) and let's not forget all the money you have saved not having to buy formula! So yes, breastfed babies are not exempt from common colds and other annoyances, but they are so much better off because of their mom's smart and loving decision to breastfeed! Congratulations to you and your baby and keep up the good work!

Jessie - posted on 09/29/2010

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Yes breastfed babies DO get sick. Just not as often typically as their formula fed peers. My son has had a handful of colds (14 months) and has one currently. He nurses 3x a day also. If you found a formula fed baby and compared doctors notes you would probably feel better about your two colds. Keep your chin up :) and your husbands chin too.

Jennifer - posted on 09/29/2010

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My son will be a year on Sat and we are still breastfeeding. He has been sick ALOT!! He had 6 ear infections in a matter of 4 months and ultimately needed tubes in his ears. But, as the doctor explained.. it is a plumbing issue, not an immunity issue. He's also had pink eye and hand, food and mouth, and several colds. They way I look at it, thank God I breastfed him... Otherwise he might have been REALLY sick!! Thankfully he recovered from all these things and is now a healthy baby.

Leslie - posted on 09/29/2010

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I have to add though... Breast feeding is known to be better, so even if you are thinking if they can still get colds whats the point... There are thousands of good reason, so keep up the good work:)

Leslie - posted on 09/29/2010

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My first son was BF for 8 weeks. He didn't get sick until we both got swine flu in when he was 10mth old. My second son who is now 8mths old and still breastfed, has had like three colds in the past three months. I don't think that it makes a difference if they are breast fed or not... I think it just matters what they are exposed to and how bad colds are that year. This summer has been really bad for colds I find.

Sarah - posted on 09/29/2010

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If any baby is exposed to germs they can catch a cold. Breastfeeding provides some level of protection, but breastmilk is not a glass bubble. Handwashing and isolating any infant from someone who is sick is going to help them not get a cold more than breastfeeding. Likely the breastmilk will help them to heal faster when they do get sick.

Karen - posted on 09/29/2010

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I was suprised about my bf baby getting colds as well, but I've been really happy that it was been only colds! I heard most kids have had several rounds of antibiotics by the time their 2. So, I guess bfing does help - it's just not the miracle prevention I was expecting. I always tell myself - building immunity is good, building immunity is good ...

Minnie - posted on 09/29/2010

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The other ladies have brought up a good point- breastfeeding is the norm, the standard from which we must compare- so consider how many illnesses she migh have had if she was not breastfed.

Ali - posted on 09/29/2010

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My breastfed baby got colds too - it stinks! She also got chicken pox at 6 months when she was still breastfed which REALLY stinks! Viruses these days are nasty especially for little ones... keep with the breastfeeding though, imagine what she might have been like had she not had any help from the breastmilk... :o)

Jennifer - posted on 09/28/2010

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my son is 10 months and has caught a couple colds. germs are pretty much shoved down his throat by his 2 year old cousin (she's in daycare and puts everything of his in her mouth, coughs on all of his toys, etc). his colds are pretty short lived though...its annoying but he's never had anything worse than a cold, so it could be worse

Amy - posted on 09/28/2010

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Like Sara said it's not going to prevent everything, but will shorten the duration. I have to say about 2 weeks ago everyone in my house came down with a really bad cold, the only one who didn't get sick was my daughter who is bf.

Vicky - posted on 09/28/2010

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My Baby got her first cold when she was 2 months old right after she started daycare. She had ear infections from 6mths-9mths (Dec-Mar 09) then got ear tubes. I felt really hard on myself because I thought breastfed babies had a really low chance of getting ear infections and mine just happened to be one of the stats. I was feeding her 90% of her diet came from breastmilk from 6-12 mth. 100%from 0-6mth. But likely she would have experienced even more illness etc if I wasn't doing everything I could to provide her with the best nutrition I could. And when she got sick I was always sicker than her by the next day. If I wasn't giving her my anti-bodies she would've been sicker than me - I truly believe my milk made her a stronger baby and still does as I nurse her and provide expressed milk for her at 15mth and heading into another winter.

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Breastfeeding is not going to prevent baby from catching every illness they come across. There are other factors that contribute to immunity. My daughter has had one cold and it wasn't very severe. Breastfeeding can help shorten the duration of an illness and make it less severe, but that doesn't mean baby will never be sick. Kids that are around other kids all the time are more prone to getting sick. Just think of how many times she may get sick if she wasn't getting the extra immunity boost from breastfeeding. I try to keep my daughter away from people who are ill including family members. My husband got a very bad cold last year and he stayed in our bedroom until he felt better. Make sure that if you or your husband get sick again that you don't cough/ sneeze near baby and you wash your hands a lot.

Brooke - posted on 09/28/2010

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MY DD is in daycare and unfortunately she catches everything that goes around. She's been sick enough to stay home from daycare twice, but I only had to keep her out for one day each time. The other babies were out for several days. I had horrible ear infections when I was a baby and my DD is going to be the same way. I took her to the doctor yesterday and she has another one. If she gets one more within a month they will go ahead with tubes. I breastfeed on demand when I'm not at work and she gets pumped milk at daycare.

Merry - posted on 09/28/2010

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Eric gets colds sometimes, I guess at 6mo 9mo and then 3 between 1 and 1 1/2 now. But his are short, he only feels sick one day, has congestion/ runny nose like 5,6 days. So I've read they get less colds, and last shorter then non bf babies. Also just viruses are a plus, most kids are getting more intense illnesses too. Ear infections, sinus infections, pneumonia, bronchitis etc. So just a virus is a benefit.

My dr told me the average baby gets 10 colds in the first year. So obviously both our kids are healthier then that!

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