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Breastfeeding: Medical Reasons Not to Breastfeed

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KEY POINTS

  • Breastfeeding offers many benefits to both babies and mothers. However, a mother should not breastfeed her baby when the mother or the baby has certain conditions.
  • Some babies cannot digest breast milk, so they need a special formula.
  • Your healthcare provider may advise you not to breastfeed your baby if you have certain infections or if you are taking medicines that can pass into your breast milk and harm your baby.

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Breastfeeding offers many benefits to both babies and mothers. It can help protect babies from some allergies and sickness. It’s a comfort for both mother and baby. However, there are certain things that could mean you should not breastfeed your baby.

What kinds of problems mean a baby should not be breastfed?

Some babies are born with diseases that keep them from digesting breast milk. A special infant formula is needed for these babies.

What kinds of problems mean a mother should not breastfeed?

Your healthcare provider may advise you not to breastfeed if:

  • You have HIV infection.
  • You have a severe illness such as an infection in your bloodstream. If you have a minor illness like a cold, you can still breastfeed your baby. Just be sure to protect your baby by washing your hands before each feeding.
  • You are infected with a herpes virus that causes sores on your breasts. Do not breastfeed until the sores are healed.
  • You are taking medicines that can pass into your breast milk and harm your baby. This includes certain sedatives, anti-seizure medicines, cancer medicines, and medicines that affect the immune system. Call your healthcare provider or lactation consultant to ask about your medicines.
  • You have hepatitis B. However, it may be safe to breastfeed your baby if your baby was given a hepatitis B shot within 12 hours after birth.
  • You have hepatitis C and your nipple is cracked or bleeding.
  • You have tuberculosis. However, you can breastfeed if you are being treated for TB.
  • You are using marijuana, cocaine or other drugs, drinking alcohol, or smoking cigarettes while breastfeeding your baby. Using these substances while breastfeeding can harm your baby. If you cannot stop using them on your own, get help from your healthcare provider.
Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2015-11-23
Last reviewed: 2017-12-11
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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