Last week I went for a particularly long hike, and have since spent more time than usual outside. Sounds nice, right? Of course, I enjoyed it immensely, as did my daughter, but both of our noses are paying the price. Emma was so pitiful last night, as she desperately tried catching some Z's, but kept waking up with drainage. I was right there with her.
Here's the fun part: Breastfeeding mothers cannot take the usual antihistamines she normally would.
Why? The jury is still out on the exact cause, but breastfeeding mothers who take typical cold/allergy medications could easily experience a 25% decrease in their overall milk supply. That's a big chunk! Not all medications do this, but it makes sense that something meant to "dry up secretions" doesn't play favorites and leave other secretions alone, such as milk.
Many times breastfeeding mothers are told not to take something because it might go through into their milk. There are plenty that actually do not have this effect. The more common side-effect is the ones that decrease the milk production, not so much the infiltration of. Its always best, however, to lean on the side of caution, and have a great resource to look at. Not all doctors are comfortable with telling a lactating mother what she can/cannot take, and usually just say, "Don't take [fill in the blank]," for fear of repercussions or lawsuit.
So now what? In a country fueled by pharmaceuticals, we tend to go a little nutsy when we're told, "There's no pill for that." Fortunately, there is an alternative medication, as well as plenty of natural remedies to the drippy nose.
Disclaimer: Before taking any medication or medicinal herb while nursing/pregnant, always consult a pharmacist or certified herbalist, respectively.
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There are numerous remedies found in nature. Many medications are actually derived from ingredients found in plants, plant oils, etc. The body tends to absorb and metabolize natural chemicals more efficiently. For example, the digestive tract will breakdown and absorb iron found in meats and plants a little easier than in pill form, alone.
A word of caution: Just because something is "natural," doesn't make it completely safe and dosage-free. Essential oils, for example, need to be properly mixed with a carrier oil to slow down how quickly they're absorbed and dilute the potency. When dealing with herbs and oils, its best to talk to someone who specializes in that area, who can help with dosage, mixing, and if certain herbs/oils will interfere with any current medication(s).
Another example of a naturally occurring product that should be cautioned: Fenugreek is commonly referred from mom-to-mom as a natural "milk supply booster." There actually isn't any evidence of this actually working for this purpose, and is probably more of a placebo, but there is plenty of evidence of it causing issues. It may work for some, but it certainly can cause blood pressure issues, stomach pains in both mom and baby, and can interfere with certain medications. If someone recommends Fenugreek, and you have a true concern with milk supply, it is HIGHLY recommended to speak with a lactation counselor or consultant first. True milk supply issues are actually rare or develop over time, and is commonly not dealt with properly by other medical professionals. The right solution is rarely, if EVER, Fenugreek.
In regard to dealing with allergies, colds, and respiratory issues, there are safe and effective remedies to try, that pose little-to-no risk for mom or her nursling. Here are some great holistic remedies to try:
High Omega-3 foods: Omega-3 fatty acids help decrease inflammation. That stuffy nose is inflamed with histamines trying to fight off allergens or a virus. Where can you find Omega-3? Fatty fish, such as salmon, along with walnuts, flax seed, eggs and in capsule form. It is recommended to get 2-3 servings of a fatty fish a week.
High Quercetin foods: Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that decreases the release of histamine. You can find it in plant-based foods, such as tomatoes, onions, apples, citrus, tea, and broccoli. If nursing or have liver problems, its best to get it in natural form, and NOT through a supplement, as it can be too potent, and can cause issues.
Steam: Sounds simple enough, right? Boil water, and pour into a bowl. You can add a few drops of lavender, mint, or tea tree oil to enhance the effects. Throw a towel over your head and the bowl, so the face gets the steam. Be careful not to burn yourself. Relax and enjoy the sensation!
Saline Spray: Keep the sinuses clean after spending time outside during allergy season! You can buy premade solution or make it yourself with distilled water and pure salt. Simply spray twice in each nostril, and blow after a few seconds.
Wishing you health and relief,
Ashley, your fellow breastfeeding muddler through allergy season.