What to do if you’re sick and have a baby

As my husband observed, being a mom means taking care of everyone else while you’re sick.

So true.

After all, when moms get sick, they still have to be moms.

Last week, I caught the flu or norovirus or plague. On the first night, I finished puking my guts out, fed Edie and then went back to hugging the toilet. That cycle repeated itself for her five wakings. Later in the day when I couldn’t get her down for a nap (just try to bounce a 14 ½-pound baby to sleep when your insides are like a Tilt-a-Whirl) I lugged her and her car seat, along with our dog whose ear infection was so bad it ruptured his ear drum, down to the car in the hopes that driving around would end her nap strike. (No dice.)

Yeah, it was a fun week.

When moms get sick, they still have to take care of the baby. Here's how to survive cold and flu season, mamas! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Luckily, when moms get sick other people take care of them, too. Eric took a day off work to bring Finn to the vet and play with Edie while I willed the room to stop spinning. Two friends came over to watch Edith while I caught a nap one night. Another friend dropped off homemade vegetable broth at our front door. And my mom drove up and back from Eugene—twice.

Despite the misery of being sick while having to take care of a baby, I found a few silver linings.

Firstly, I was the only one in my household to catch the hell-bug. (Well, Finn was sick—again—but thankfully not with what I had.) High fives to all those breast milk antibodies, because Edith escaped. Also high fives to being utterly exhausted all the time, which limits germ-sharing lovey dovey time with your husband. Every hour that passed and they didn’t show signs of puking was such a relief.

Next, I didn’t get sick until Edith was six months old. I tried to imagine functioning in a way she would have needed at three months, when I couldn’t ever put her down. I don’t know what I would have done. At least now I can let her bash on the plastic toys of her Exersaucer and she’s happy for entire stretches of time.

Finally, I’m not a single mom. I don’t know how these saints/rock stars do it, but they deserve a medal martini. Or ten.

I hope no one reading this catches the crud that’s going around. But if you find yourself perched over the toilet or sweating your brains out in bed and needing to take care of a little one, here are a few tips I learned the hard way.

How to survive being sick while being a mom 

  • Have someone bring Baby into bed with you. Side-lying nursing takes so much less energy than any other position—and the peanut won’t put any pressure on your upset stomach.
  • Breastfeed as much as you can. Your little one will get lots of antibodies to whatever you’re sick with.
  • Drink as much water as you can. This is easier said than done when you can’t keep anything down, but try. Drink Gatorade or Pedialite, too. Not only will staying hydrated help you get better faster, it’ll also protect your milk supply a bit. Ditto eating: Nibble on crackers or sip broth.
  • Know that your milk supply will probably drop—and come back. I was horrified when my breasts seemed empty (the feeling brought back memories of when I wasn’t producing enough milk for Edith), but it was no wonder since I was drinking hardly any water and eating zero calories. Once I started to feel better, though, my milk became more plentiful. It may be circumstantial, but I noticed a big jump in my supply after I took two lactation support supplements. (I hadn’t taken any vitamins or supplements when I was sick—my stomach was too upset.) I’ve also been doing most everything I did back then to boost my supply.
  • Call in your village. Ask people to bring you soup, watch your baby for an hour, walk your dog or do anything to help. When people come over, rest, don’t socialize. Promise to wear a mask so you don’t spread your bug. Repay the favor when someone else gets sick.
  • Finally, you’ll have to suck it up sometimes and do what needs to get done. It may seem impossible, but you have it covered. After all, you’re a mom.

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