Strep throat, also known as Streptococcal pharyngitis, is an infection caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria (1). It can cause pain, inflammation, and swelling of the tonsils and the lymph nodes.
Strep throat can occur in lactating women as well. But can a lactating mother with strep throat nurse her baby? In this MomJunction post, we answer this question and provide other essential information on strep throat while breastfeeding.
Is It Safe To Breastfeed While Having Strep Throat?
Yes. You may continue to breastfeed your baby as usual, even if you have a strep throat infection. Breast milk contains antibodies. As a mother’s body produces antibodies against strep throat infection, they may be passed on to the baby through breast milk.
The Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation says (2), “Breastfeeding protects the baby against infection, and the mother should continue breastfeeding, in order to protect the baby. If the baby does get sick, which is possible, they are likely to get less sick than if breastfeeding had stopped. ”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that breast milk protects babies against several respiratory diseases (3). Therefore, a mother should continue to breastfeed unless instructed by a doctor against nursing. However, you need to take precautions that the infection is not spreading to the baby through other modes.
Precautions While Breastfeeding With A Strep Throat
Strep throat is a contagious bacterial infection. Nursing mothers with strep throat need to observe a few precautionary measures to negate the chances of spreading the infection to their little ones (4).
- Wash your hands thoroughly before breastfeeding your baby.
- Avoid kissing or cuddling them.
- Use a face mask while breastfeeding.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or handkerchief when sneezing or coughing. Tissue papers can be disposed of, and thus may be preferred over a handkerchief.
Treatment For Strep Throat When Breastfeeding
Strep throat is treated with antibiotics.
- Amoxicillin or penicillin is commonly prescribed for treating strep throat. However, the effects of maternal doses of penicillin on a breastfeeding baby are unknown (5).
- The antibiotic amoxicillin is considered safe to administer to a nursing mother. The American Academy of Pediatrics considers amoxicillin compatible with breastfeeding since the maternal dosage is not known to cause any effect on the infant (6).
- The mother may consider having ibuprofen for relief from pain and fever. Ibuprofen is considered safe to administer while breastfeeding (7).
Remember, never self medicate for strep throat while breastfeeding. You should have medicines only when prescribed by the doctor and as per the doctor’s instructions. Medicines may have side effects, and you may discuss them with your doctor.
Your doctor may prescribe you a safe antibiotic other than amoxicillin. If you have a strep throat infection, but without symptoms or the symptoms do not cause you significant discomfort, then the doctor may not prescribe any medication. You can follow some measures at home to help you recover.
Home Remedies For Strep Throat
Home remedies may be followed with or without medication. Below are some home remedies that may help alleviate the discomfort caused by strep throat.
- Rest and care: Sound sleep and proper rest may help reduce the discomfort caused by a strep throat.
- Saltwater gargling: Gargling with lukewarm salt water (about half-a-teaspoon salt in a cup of lukewarm water mixed well) may reduce throat pain and inflammation.
- Steam inhalation: This may help alleviate throat dryness and congestion.
- Humidifier: The use of a cool-mist humidifier may help reduce irritation in the throat.
- Keep yourself hydrated: Strep throat may make it difficult to eat or swallow food. Not drinking sufficient fluids may increase the risk of dehydration. Keep your body well-hydrated by drinking lukewarm water, vegetable soup, warm milk, and similar healthy fluids throughout the day. Liquids are also more likely to be easy to swallow than solids.
- Choose your diet: Acidic food, citrus fruits, and spicy foods may aggravate the strep throat and are best avoided. Instead, pick nutritious and soothing foods such as oatmeal, mashed potatoes, vegetable or meat broth, applesauce, smoothies (fruits as well as vegetables), and eggs (boiled or scrambled).
- Throat lozenges: You may consider having over-the-counter non-medicated throat lozenges. You may ask your doctor to suggest appropriate throat lozenges.
Strep throat can be contagious, but seldom a cause for worry. The infection should not be a reason to stop breastfeeding. Nursing your little one can provide them protection against the infection. Proper home care and treatment can help you feel better while precautions can prevent the spread of the infection to the baby.
Do you breastfeed your baby when you have strep throat? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.
2. Breastfeeding and Illness; Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation
3. Influenza (Flu); US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)4. Strep Throat; University of Michigan
5. J L Mathew, Effect of maternal antibiotics on breast feeding infants; BMJ Journals
6. The Transfer of Drugs and Other Chemicals Into Human Milk; American Academy of Pediatrics
7. Ibuprofen; LactMed, National Center for Biotechnology Information