At 3.00 am, C started coughing. The cough turned into a whine, and as my heart sank, a full-blown wail. As I got out of bed to comfort her, I felt a bit odd, but put it down to the early hour and my chronic tiredness.
I sat down to feed C, who was still grumbling, hoping that I’d feel better shortly. I didn’t. After what seemed like an age, C finally had enough milk to send her back into a doze and I put her back into her cot. I then bolted to the bathroom. I only just got there in time.
After I had vomited every last bit of the lovely meal my husband had cooked the night before, I collapsed on to the floor filled with worry. It was one thing for me to be sick, but what if C was too? What if we all were? My thoughts then turned to breastfeeding. To avoid C catching a virus (if that’s what it was) surely the best thing to do would be to steer clear of her? But this would also mean not passing on valuable antibodies, not to mention ruining my milk supply and risking engorgement or mastitis. It was also highly likely that C had already been exposed to any infectious illness before I started exhibiting symptoms, so continuing to nurse as I usually did was really the only sensible option.
I carried on breastfeeding C as normal, washing my hands first and trying to minimize the germs she encountered. Or at least I tried to feed her as normal. After half a day of this, I realised that germs were only a small part of the problem. My energy levels were at rock bottom, I couldn’t keep anything down and I was massively dehydrated. Engorgement was the least of my worries! My let-down reflex took an age to kick in and C ended up bawling in frustration. I’m still trying to work out why exactly my ability to breastfeed was so depleted, but I can only assume it was related to my poor ability to keep food or drink down, and the resulting plunge in fluid levels and blood sugar. Assuming I had norovirus – the winter vomiting bug – this acute phase of sickness shouldn’t last more than 24 hours. I sincerely hoped this would be the case.
Thankfully, 6 hours later, I was sick for the last time. Although it took me several days to recover completely, my milk supply soon picked up and C remained impressively illness-free. Whether she had developed sufficient immunity through exposure to antibodies in my milk, or simply didn’t come into contact with the virus I don’t know, but she didn’t show a hint of being sick. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for my husband, who started racing to the bathroom the minute I stopped…