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What Are the Risks of Breastfeeding with Food Poisoning?

By A. Gamm
Updated Jan 25, 2024
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Food poisoning occurs when contaminated food or liquid is consumed. The main causes of food poisoning are bacteria, toxins, virus or parasites that typically result from poor food preparation and handling. There are only a few risks associated with breastfeeding with food poisoning. These are primarily the potential need to take certain antibiotics, dehydration in the mother, and in the event of a severe case of septicemia. In most cases, breastfeeding with food poisoning is considered safe and is also encouraged.

The effects of food poisoning typically only involve the gastrointestinal system, meaning the bacteria never travel to the bloodstream or breast milk. A normal way of treating food poisoning is through time, though certain drugs may be taken to relieve some of the symptoms. It is important for a mother breastfeeding with food poisoning to consult a doctor before taking any over-the-counter drugs. This is because some of the ingredients may pass through into the breast milk and have an unwanted side effect on the baby.

A few symptoms of food poisoning, such as excessive vomiting and diarrhea may make the mother dehydrated. Some doctors fear that the fluids needed to create breast milk as well as the energy it requires may only worsen symptoms for the mother. As a result, certain doctors may recommend consistent fluid intake and reduce the number of times a mother tries breastfeeding with food poisoning.

In rare cases the bacteria does go into the bloodstream and cause septicemia, and as such it may travel to the breast milk. It is usually only in this instance when breastfeeding should be completely avoided. Most of the time, if septicemia occurs the mother is hospitalized and undergoes a treatment of antibiotics. During the first 24 hours, doctors recommend avoiding nursing and instead pump the milk and dispose of it only to keep up the milk supply. After this period, it is considered safe to continue breastfeeding while food poisoning antibiotics are taken.

Many doctors and lactations consultants agree that breastfeeding with food poisoning has very few risks involved. In fact, many advocate the importance of continuing to breastfeed while the mother is not feeling well. This is because the mother produces important antibodies specifically made to help fight any bacteria she may have already passed on to her child before realizing she was ill. It is important for a woman to consult her doctor if breastfeeding with food poisoning or any other sickness.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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