COVID-19 Home Treatment For Breastfeeding Mothers
COVID-19 doesn’t spare breastfeeding women, but almost all of the current COVID-19 treatment research leaves them out! I’ve looked through emerging treatment options for mild COVID-19 and cross-referenced them with herbs, drugs, and nutritional supplements that are safe in breastfeeding.
As you have probably found out when seeking information about what is safe and what isn’t in lactating women, there are conflicting ideas and opinions. Safety data is based on historical use in lactation, common use in lactation, animal studies in lactation, human studies in lactation, and theoretical knowledge based on biochemistry.
What follows is an article that contains my opinions about good COVID-19 treatment options for breastfeeding women. Making decisions about treatments carries a heavier weight during breastfeeding because the choices you make now could have major impacts on your baby. I recommend that you seek out more opinions than just mine and make decisions in partnership with your doctor.
It bears repeating that the information in this article is information and not advice. Please always discuss treatment with a doctor, especially while breastfeeding.
Safety Concerns for Breastfeeding
It’s important to know what herbs, vitamins, supplements and medications are safe to take during breastfeeding. The negative effects to avoid can be placed into four broad categories.
- Herbs and drugs that can reduce milk supply.
- Herbs and drugs that can interfere with normal development.
- Herbs and drugs that can cause adverse effects in babies (for example diarrhea, excess stimulation, etc).
- Herbs and drugs that can be toxic or poisonous to babies.
Even though there is a lot to consider, it is worthwhile to do the extra research to find options that are safe for mother and baby.
COVID-19 Treatment Rationale
You may have read the original post, where I shared what I am doing to treat COVID-19 for my (non-nursing) self. This post is modeled after that one with modifications for breastfeeding mothers.
The information is divided up into three sections: 1) immunomodulators and antivirals 2) nutrition foundation 3) symptom management.
Where possible, I tried to give a range of what is considered safe and effective based on clinical experience and research. When you look at each of these individual herbs, drugs, and nutrients, it can seem overwhelming, however there are combination products available that help you get all the nutrients that you need. If you’re using Dr. Green Mom products, the following supplements will cover most of these bases:
Immune Boosters & Antivirals
Black Cumin Seed Oil (40mg/kg/day)
In addition it’s antiviral and immunomodulatory effects, Black Cumin Seed is also a traditional galactagogue. That means that it has been historically given during lactation and is generally considered safe. However, there haven’t been any studies evaluating it’s safety, so some people may be uncomfortable with it. An alternative choice would be Mother’s Immunity Support which contains 14 medicinal mushrooms, three of which are being evaluated as potential treatments against COVID-19. Medicinal mushrooms are considered safe during breastfeeding because of a long history of safe use in many cultures around the world.
Melatonin (2.5-10mg before bed)
Melatonin has shown promise in treating COVID-19 and is part of the Frontline Doctor’s home treatment protocol (I-MASK+). A recent review stated melatonin is most likely safe in breastfeeding, however, I don’t recommend it if you are co-sleeping because it can result in deeper sleep and less awareness, which makes co-sleeping less safe.
Vitamin D (2,000 – 5,000 IU)
Low Vitamin D is associated with increased risk of COVID-19 infection. Vitamin D deficiency is common in breastfeeding mothers and their children. Supplementation with 2,000 – 5,000 IU is generally considered safe for lactating women, however your physician may recommend a higher dose based on your Vitamin D levels.
Vitamin A (7,500 IU daily)
Vitamin A is an important nutrient for the immune system. It is present in breastmilk, but studies show that supplementation doesn’t increase Vitamin A beyond a point that is healthy for infants. More research is needed to know if mega doses, like the one I describe in the original protocol, are safe.
Quercetin (125mg daily)
Quercetin shows promise in treating COVID-19. Studies show that quercetin is present in humans breastmilk. Animal studies show that quercetin supplementation results in positive epigenetic changes in offspring, and that quercetin may improve milk production. However, there is no definitive amount that has been established as safe in breastfeeding as of yet. Two separate lactation databases classify quercetin supplementation as low risk.
Based on this evidence, it is my opinion that 125mg of quercetin is most likely safe to take while breastfeeding.
Turmeric (50mg per day in one capsule of Essential Immune Support; 500mg twice per day recommended by Frontline Doctors
Turmeric is an antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. Turmeric is also a traditional galactagogue and is often used by lactating women. It is generally considered safe during breastfeeding. A dose of 50mg per day (the amount in one capsule of Essential Immune Support) is not likely to be significantly helpful against COVID-19, but this could be augmented with a separate turmeric supplement if desired. Studies have followed lactating women taking 300mg of turmeric per day with no adverse effects for the mother or the baby.
Vitamin C (500-1000mg twice per day or to bowel tolerance)
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that is important for optimal immune function. High doses can cause diarrhea. If that occurs, the dose is reduced to what the body can absorb while maintaining normal bowel movements. There is a regulatory component to the amount of Vitamin C in breastmilk, therefore higher doses appear to be safe.
Zinc (40mg per day)
Frontline Doctors recommend 100mg per day of zinc for treatment of early COVID-19. This is likely alright in pregnant women, but I haven’t been able to find any clinical trials where lactating women took 100mg of zinc per day, so I can’t confidently recommend it. The highest dose I was able to find is 40mg of zinc per day (which is what you would get if you were taking 3 capsules of Postnatal Nutrients and one capsule of Essential Immune Support daily).
Reduced Glutathione (25mg once per day)
Glutathione is one of the body’s most important antioxidants and plays a role in the immune system as well. Glutathione deficiency is associated with worse outcomes in COVID-19. 25mg is a low dose of glutathione and is most likely safe and beneficial during lactation, though we don’t have any studies to confirm this yet.
Selenium (100mcg per day)
Selenium is an important mineral for optimal immune function. Selenium deficiency is linked with worse COVID-19 symptoms and increased chance of death. 400mcg per day is the maximum safe dose in lactating mothers.
Povidone Iodine Nasal Spray (three times per day)
This is a nasal antiseptic antiviral that works to reduce viral load in initial studies.
Antiseptic Mouthwash (three times per day)
These are antiseptic antivirals that work to reduce the viral load in initial studies.
Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic preparation that we always have on hand for the treatment of the flu. I added it to my treatment protocol based on how effective it has been for past viral illnesses in my family. When I was researching this article, I found one case series looking at the efficacy of adjunctive homeopathic treatment of COVID-19, and I believe it is worth considering. Oscillococcinum (and all high potency homeopathics) are safe to take while breastfeeding.
Reduced appetite and thirst are common symptoms of COVID-19. However, it is important to stay hydrated and to keep your nutrient intake up in order to heal, especially while breastfeeding. Water, electrolyte drink, and bone broth form a hydrating foundation for a recovery diet, but it is important to eat small amounts of other healthy foods as well because maintaining normal blood glucose levels helps the body’s immune response against viral infections. As you’ve probably experienced, staying hydrated and keeping level blood sugar is even more important when you’re breastfeeding.
If I’m not drinking lemon balm tea with Ginger Ease [link] or my homemade electrolyte drink [link], then I’ve got a water bottle or thermos of hot water nearby at all times.
I prefer my homemade recipe. Unsweetened coconut water is the second best option. I drink approximately 1 cup per day.
Bone broth is a source of easily digested nutrients, especially protein, which is needed to keep the immune system functioning optimally.
Lemon Balm Tea With 1tsp Ginger Ease (2-3 cups per day)
Lemon balm tea with Ginger Ease has done wonders for my fevers and overall pain and tension. Lemon balm is traditionally used by new mothers to improve mood.
Aspirin (81-325 mg per day)
Aspirin is recommended by Frontline Doctors to thin the blood and prevent the clots which has sometimes been a problem with COVID-19. At low doses (up to 325mg daily), aspirin isn’t excreted into breastmilk. As a precaution, nursing mothers are recommended to watch out for bleeding and bruising in their infant and reduce the dose of aspirin if needed.
Ibuprofen (as needed for pain)
Ibuprofen is the preferred painkiller for nursing women. It is excreted into breastmilk in extremely low levels and is safe for use in infants at doses much higher than they would receive through breastmilk.
Hot Shower With Eucalyptus Essential Oil (daily)
Eucalyptus essential oil is immunostimulant, antioxidant, antispasmodic, pain relieving, and anti-inflammatory. The heat from the steam may help to inactivate viral particles. This little ritual also has a positive psychological effect on wellness. Though this is a safe treatment for mothers, please be aware that eucalyptus isn’t recommended for children under 2 years of age.
Movement (at least every four hours)
Movement is important to keep the circulatory system healthy and to help prevent blood clots.
Heating Pad Over Sacrum And Low Back (as needed for pain and chills, at least once daily for circulation)
The heating pad helps with muscle pain and chills. It also improves lower body circulation to prevent clots.
Breathe Right Nasal Strips (I wear them 24 hours a day to improve breathing)
I’ve found that wearing a nasal dilator like Breathe Right Nasal Strips helps make breathing easier.
Black Cumin Seed Oil (as above)
I already mentioned Black Cumin Seed Oil above, but I wanted to include it here again because it is traditionally used to treat respiratory conditions, and it can help with the respiratory symptoms of COVID-19.
COVID-19 can lead to extremely uncomfortable and even life-threatening symptoms. Managing these symptoms is an important part of a well-rounded treatment plan.
As we know, COVID-19 is a viral disease that is often mild, but can become serious. It can cause significant suffering in both the short and long term and even death. Breastfeeding mothers are not exempt from contracting COVID-19 and having safe ways to deal with it is important.
Breastfeeding mothers can safely supplement with most of the supplements recommended in the I-MASK+ protocol, but some modifications are important, as described above.
It’s important to note that though I believe that they are likely safe, safety data is incomplete for black cumin seed oil, quercetin, and reduced glutathione. Your doctor can help you with a more thorough risk benefit analysis and informed consent.
Immune Boosters & Antivirals
- Black Cumin Seed Oil (40mg/kg/day) OR Mother’s Immunity Support (2 capsules per day)
- Melatonin (2.5-10mg before bed)
- Vitamin D (2,000- 5,000 IU)
- Vitamin A (7,500 IU daily)
- Quercetin (125mg daily)
- Turmeric (50mg per day OR 500mg twice per day, see above for explanation)
- Vitamin C (500-1000mg twice per day or to bowel tolerance)
- Zinc (40mg per day)
- Reduced Glutathione (25mg per day)
- Selenium (100mcg per day)
- Povidone Iodine Nasal Spray (three times per day)
- Antiseptic Mouthwash (three times per day)
- Oscillococcinum (daily)
Focus on hydration, electrolytes, easily absorbed nutrients, and maintaining normal blood sugar (rather than fasting).
- Electrolyte Drink
- Bone Broth
Symptom Management Strategies
- Lemon Balm Tea With Ginger Ease (2-3 cups per day)
- Aspirin (325 mg per day)
- Ibuprofen (as needed for pain)
- Hot Shower With Eucalyptus Essential Oil (daily)
- Movement (at least every four hours)
- Heating Pad Over Sacrum And Low Back (as needed for pain and chills, at least once daily for circulation)
- Breathe Right Nasal Strips (I wear them 24 hours a day to improve breathing)
- Black Cumin Seed Oil (as above)
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