Breastfeeding during the cold winter months presents some unique challenges for new moms.  Removing jackets or sweatshirts to allow babies access to mom’s breasts exposes moms to the cold temperatures.  This can be minimized by mom layering her clothing or choosing a long-sleeved nursing top, zip-up sweatshirt, or button-up sweater to wear.  Babies can be kept warm in swaddling blankets, one piece, long-sleeved sleepers or sleep sacks, and a removable lightweight jacket in case the day warms up unexpectedly.  A set of hat and mittens will keep baby warm in especially chilly weather. Skin-to-skin contact that was initiated in the hospital as a means of calming the baby, promoting bonding between baby and parents, facilitating breastfeeding and regulating baby’s temperature should be continued throughout winter to keep baby warm and cozy in their moms’ loving embrace.

There is also a higher incidence of plugged ducts during the winter months.  This could be due to the restricting nature of tighter cold weather clothes or from the colder weather.  Treatment for plugged ducts includes frequent feedings, breast massage, warm compresses, and wearing looser clothing.  Some moms may experience nipple coldness, pain, or discolouration when exposed to cold temperatures for a long time.  This can be prevented by taking steps to prevent cold exposure, including warming the rooms where baby will be breastfeeding, wearing warm clothing, and using warming packs before nursing.

Cold winter months are often times when moms get sick with illnesses such as a cold or the flu.  This is not a reason to stop breastfeeding; the baby has been exposed to mom’s germs before mom showed symptoms of getting sick.  Mom’s breastmilk gives the antibodies she makes against the illness to the baby, strengthening his or her immune system, and it’s likely baby will not get sick, or at least less sick than mom was.  If mom must take medications, be sure to the doctor chooses a medication that is safe for breastfeeding, and if buying an over the counter medication, ask the pharmacist if the medicine is safe for baby.  As always, practice good hygiene including washing hands frequently, coughing or sneezing away from baby, and getting plenty of rest.

Disclaimer: The information given in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We urge readers to seek the advice of a physician before trying any home remedies.