Breastfeeding and UTIs: Safeguard Your Health and Milk Supply

Jun 03, 2024
woman breastfeeding baby in neutral colours

As a mother of three, I know what those first postpartum months feel like. Whether vaginal or cesarean, giving birth is one of the most impactful experiences you’ll ever have – yet there’s hardly time to absorb it all, because suddenly you’re a parent and the next set of challenges arrives. 

For many, one of the biggest challenges is breastfeeding,* which can be all-consuming. Between mastering the latch, getting comfortable in public, and a myriad of other things to think about when you go this route, the last thing you want is to deal with a postpartum Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). 

Understand the link: Postpartum UTIs

It’s not entirely rare to experience a UTI in the postpartum period. In fact, there are factors during birth that may contribute. During delivery, especially if a catheter was used, bacteria can enter the urinary tract, increasing the risk of infection.

Additionally, postpartum folks often experience urinary retention—a condition where the bladder doesn't empty completely—which can also lead to UTIs. The stress on the body from labour, coupled with weakened pelvic floor muscles, can exacerbate this risk.

The impact of a UTI on breastfeeding

The physical discomfort caused by UTI symptoms can make the act of breastfeeding painful and stressful. Stress can adversely affect the let-down reflex, which is crucial for milk ejection, potentially leading to a decreased milk supply.

Additionally, constant discomfort can make it hard to focus solely on the feeding process which can impact your ability to maintain a set or on-demand feeding schedule which helps produce adequate milk supply. 

Beyond the physical, this experience can impact your emotional well-being. Health issues like UTIs can increase anxiety during a time when many are already vulnerable to mood fluctuations and emotional stress. Without belabouring the point, it’s the last thing you need.

UTIs and Your postpartum microbiome health

When you suspect a UTI, it is crucial that you reach out to your health care practitioner. When using antibiotics to treat UTIs in a breastfeeding parent, doctors will opt for a prescription that is safe for both you and the baby, but antibiotics still pose a potential impact on the microbiome.

The microbiome is made up of good bacteria that live in our bodies and are important for both the parent and baby's health. It supports digestion, boosts the immune system, and protects against harmful bacteria. But these drugs can disrupt the bacterial balance and even potentially affect a baby’s microbiome through breast milk.

Ultimately, fewer types of good bacteria in the microbiome makes both you and baby more likely to get sick and have digestion issues, so keeping a healthy balance of these bacteria is really important for building a strong immune system and staying healthy overall.

Ways to support your microbiome in postpartum

If you're breastfeeding and end up having to take antibiotics thanks to a UTI or any other reason, there are many steps you can take to support and replenish your microbiome:

  • Eat Probiotic-Rich Foods. Include foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi in your diet. These contain live beneficial bacteria that can help restore the balance of your gut flora.
  • Add Prebiotic Foods. Eat prebiotic-rich foods such as garlic, onions, bananas, and oats. Prebiotics feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, helping them to flourish.
  • Stay Hydrated. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids. Water helps maintain overall health and supports the function of your digestive system.
  • Consider Probiotic Supplements. Consider taking a probiotic supplement, but speak with your health care practitioner to ensure it’s breastfeeding safe. A probiotic can directly help increase the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
  • Keep going! Breastfeeding itself can promote a healthy microbiome in your baby, and maintaining it can also benefit your own health. As long as it is still aligned with your goals, keep going!

When the UTI cycle won’t stop

Sometimes when it comes to UTIs, antibiotics are not enough. If you find that you’re getting a UTI more than three times a year (or more than twice in six months), you could be suffering from chronic UTIs.

Recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be a troubling issue for many in the postpartum period. If this is you, please know that you are far from alone and there are many reasons (none of them your fault) why this could be happening. 

If you’re suffering from chronic UTIs and the painful bladder symptoms that come with them, I recommend grabbing my free guide, Break The UTI Cycle, below, as a first step. 

If you need more support, I can provide 1:1 guidance, or my recently launched program, The Akehurst Protocol, is a great option for anyone, anywhere, who wants to say goodbye to UTIs for good.

*Please use the terms “breastfeeding” and “chestfeeding” (which is often used to be inclusive of diverse gender identities, acknowledging that not all people who nurse their babies identify as women) interchangeably.

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