When the Well Runs Dry

2.5.10: Nursing when you're dehydrated

Jack Smiley Bouncy Seat-Main.jpg

The vomit bug hit us all—hard. Charlie and Will got it so bad that they both puked for a good solid day and night. After watching Julia, then Charlie, and then Will go through it, I knew what was coming when I felt the first pangs in my own stomach. My first thought was: what if I get so dehydrated that I can’t nurse Jack? (OK, that was my second thought, after: “Dear God, WHY?!”)

When Julia was just a couple days old, we had a similar situation where Will and I got a horrible stomach bug. Completely clueless about babies and breastfeeding, I called our pediatrician’s office to ask what I should do. I thought that I might actually transfer my germs to Julia through my breastmilk. Here’s what I learned then, which has come in handy this time around:
When you get really sick, the best thing you can do is keep nursing the baby, since the baby's already been exposed to the illness, and you're passing on antibodies. As long as the baby is nursing well, is fever-free, and has plenty of wet diapers, there’s no need to worry. Just be sure to keep washing your hands often, and try not to kiss the baby too much (yeah, right).
If mom is having trouble keeping anything down, the best thing to do is just suck on ice chips to try to stay hydrated. And if you get really dehydrated, or just need to get some solid rest, you can always supplement with a bottle of formula, though you may actually get more rest just by nursing the baby in bed, then handing him off to someone else.
There are safe drugs that you can take while breastfeeding to ease nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, but since this seemed to be a quick 24-48 hour virus, I decided to just let it run its course.
Jack seemed to weather the storm better than the rest of us, knock on wood. He had stomach cramps that kept him—and me—up for two nights straight, but aside from some minimal diarrhea, he escaped the worst of it. I’m chalking it up to the breastfeeding. And I’m hoping that while it’s been difficult having our little baby continuously exposed to the petri dish that is preschool and kindergarten, carried home on the sticky hands of his big sibs, that he will be stronger for it.
Now that the storm has passed, I have cleaned our house, thrown open the windows, and let the cool breeze blow through, reminding myself all the while: Spring will come.

Next week: The lovely long stretches...