I Wanted to Stop Breastfeeding, But Then …

When my baby got a stomach bug, I decided to keep breastfeeding.I was supposed to be done, remember? I was supposed to be double-fisting wine and coffee, wearing tube tops everywhere and turning my nursing pads into yarmulkes for poodles.

That is, I was supposed to be done with breastfeeding … and then this happened: The entire family came down with a stomach virus, including my newly 12-month-old baby. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say I’d like to purge this past week from my memory. Check out my tips on supplies to keep on hand when your young kids catch viral gastroenteritis here.

But back to the baby: Scrunchy Face wasn’t exactly cooperative when — just before the bug struck — I tried to get him to start drinking cow’s milk. Of course, that didn’t matter after the stomach bug took hold, because cow’s milk would have hurt instead of helping at that point.

Because babies are at risk for dehydration when battling stomach bugs and because I still had some supply, I figured I’d go back to breastfeeding him so that he could get a liquid other than just water. (Yes, we tried Pedialyte too — Scrunchy Face was having none of it.)

Later, I checked in with lactation consultant Leigh Anne O’Connor, who confirmed I’d made the right choice.

“Your milk will keep him hydrated — human milk is approximately 78% water — and the antibodies will protect him from a more violent version of the illness,” O’Connor wrote to me in an email.

O’Connor has personal experience with stomach viruses and breastfeeding a child older than 12 months. When her daughter was 17 months old, she told me, everyone in her playgroup got a bug. So her daughter “went off all food and nursed for three or four days solid, never vomited and had a mild diarrhea,” she remembered. “As I struggled emotionally about nursing or weaning, I learned the value of nursing.”

Here’s the kicker: O’Connor said her supply actually increased as a result of the experience.

“I learned that even in the second year you can increase your milk production because when she went back to her normal eating and nursing my breasts were HUGE,” she said.

That second part sounds especially awesome … but I still plan on weaning once Scrunchy Face gets over his virus. Enjoy the mammary buffet while it lasts, kiddo.


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