Breastfeeding your baby or child strengthens their immune system.
Gastroenteritis is an infection of the gastro-intestinal tract caused by a virus. The symptoms include diarrhoea and vomiting.
It’s one of the most common illnesses in babies and children. In Australia around 50% of GP visits for children under 6 years of age are for gastroenteritis.
You may also find the following information helpful if you have food poisoning, as the symptoms can be similar. Food poisoning is caused by eating foods or drinking water that are contaminated.
Breastfeeding protects against gastroenteritis
If you breastfeed your baby, you will strengthen their immune system. Your baby is 4 times less likely to get diarrhoea associated with gastroenteritis than a formula-fed baby. If your baby does get gastroenteritis, it will typically be less severe and be over sooner.
If your baby is sick, keep breastfeeding them. It will keep your baby's fluids up and help them to recover. The length of the breastfeeds is not important. Follow your baby’s lead and allow them to breastfeed as often as and for as long as they want. Breastmilk will continue to provide essential nutrients that are easy for your baby’s body to absorb.
If you are concerned about your baby, see your doctor as soon as you can.
Normal breastfed baby poos
Some parents aren’t familiar with the normal poos of a breastfed baby and mistake them for diarrhoea. It is normal for exclusively breastfed babies to have frequent mustard-yellow (occasionally green) poos that are often liquid with a few curds. A breastfed baby's poo has a mild smell. Frequent soft poos show that a young baby is getting enough breastmilk.
From about 6 weeks, poos vary in frequency. Some babies might continue to have frequent daily poos. Older babies might only do a poo once every 7–14 days. Whatever the frequency for a baby over the age of 6 weeks, as long as the poo is soft and easy to pass, this is usually all normal.
What if I have gastroenteritis?
If you are unwell, it is important to see you doctor. You need to get as much rest as possible, drink enough water, maintain personal hygiene and leave the chores to others.
Can I still breastfeed if I am unwell?
Yes. There are very few illnesses that require you to stop breastfeeding. If you have an infection of some sort, you should continue. Your breastmilk has many immune protective factors (including antibodies, white blood cells etc) which help to protect your baby from infection.
When you are exposed to an infection, your immune system produces antibodies to fight off the infection. You then pass on these antibodies to your baby through your breastmilk. This makes it less likely for your baby to get sick.
The information on this website does not replace advice from your health care provider.