Situations Where You Should Avoid Breastfeeding

July 20, 2020
Do you know when you should avoid breastfeeding? Find out here which diseases mean you shouldn't breastfeed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that infants drink breast milk exclusively until they’re about 6 months old. However, unfortunately, there are situations where you should avoid breastfeeding Here, we’ll explain some of them to you.

7 situations when you should avoid breastfeeding

A mother breastfeeding her baby.

In general, mothers can breastfeed their baby even when they’re sick, as long as it’s not one of the illnesses that we’ll describe next. Neither should they do it if it’s life-threatening, or if they’re taking medication that can pass through the milk.

In fact, the Marina Alta Hospital in Denia, Spain, has published a website with the compatibility of different common medicines for minor illnesses (influenza, angina, gastroenteritis, cystitis) with breastfeeding: check it out here.

However, what happens if a mother needs hospitalization or has a serious infection? Here, we’ll discover the situations where you should avoid breastfeeding.

1. Human T-cell leukemia

Human T-cell leukemia is caused by a retrovirus. Once it has successfully infected a cell, it uses an enzyme to convert its RNA into DNA. Here, it mixes with the host cell’s DNA and multiplies. This infection can pass from the mother to the baby through breastfeeding.

Discover: Can Pregnant Women Transmit Coronavirus to Their Babies?

2. HIV virus

It has been proven that the HIV virus passes through breast milkTherefore, it’s best to avoid breastfeeding if you have this virus.

However, researchers are studying different ways HIV-positive mothers can breastfeed. Research is still working on these options.

3. Galactosemia: situations where you should avoid breastfeeding

This disease is characterized by the inability of the child to digest galactose, one of the sugars that make up the lactose that’s in breast milk. It’s a rare inherited disease that can damage the child’s liver and the central nervous system.

There are three classes of galactosemia, but they’re very hard to diagnose. Although people with peripheral or intermediate galactosemia may consume certain amounts of galactose, many doctors will recommend avoiding breastfeeding. This is because it’s not possible to determine the exact type of the disease.

4. You have a high-risk pregnancy

A pregnant woman lying down.

Another of the situations where you should avoid breastfeeding is if you are carrying out a risky pregnancy. If your pregnancy isn’t risky, doctors generally agree that you can breastfeed. However, if there’s bleeding or potential premature labor, doctors usually say you shouldn’t breastfeed.

5. Cytomegalovirus

The data regarding whether you can breastfeed if you carry the cytomegalovirus are controversial. Some studies show that passing this virus through breast milk could cause severe damage in premature babies. However, there isn’t conclusive information about this.

Also, research shows that freezing breast milk could help deactivate the virus and allow babies to feed safely. Make sure to talk to your doctor about it.

6. Taking certain medications

Taking certain drugs regularly usually means you should avoid breastfeeding. For example, this is the case for people who take anxiolytics, antiretroviral drugs, migraine medications, or sleeping pills. Also, the same is true for chemotherapy.

Talk to your doctor to get an informed opinion of your personal situation.

7. Addictions

Alcohol and drug addictions are two situations where you can’t breastfeed. In fact, it’s advised to quit alcohol and drug use even before trying to become pregnant.

Don’t miss this: Is it true that breastfeeding helps you lose weight?

Diseases that don’t mean you should avoid breastfeeding

A baby breastfeeding.

Except for the diseases mentioned above, other diseases wouldn’t prevent breastfeeding, unless there were a medical contraindication. In addition, check with your doctor if you suffer from any of the following diseases:

  1. Hepatitis: Hepatitis B and C don’t pass through breast milk. In the first case, when the mother is a carrier, the newborn usually gets the vaccine against the disease and the specific immunoglobulin to avoid spreading it.
  2. Chagas disease: The data on this is inconclusive. However, the latest WHO studies show that mothers with this disease don’t need to stop breastfeeding.
  3. Mastitis: The inflammation of the mammary gland is common in nursing mothers. You don’t need to stop breastfeeding. In fact, the baby sucking helps resolve the discomfort.
  4. Tuberculosis: According to data from the Spanish Association of Pediatrics, breastfeeding isn’t a problem with this condition.
  5. Chickenpox: Doctors usually suggest continuing breastfeeding, as well as monitoring the newborn. In fact, it’s possible to give the baby the chickenpox vaccine.
  6. Breast operation: If you have had breast surgery, either to enlarge or reduce them, you can breastfeed without problems. Of course, milk production varies from woman to woman.

Asthma, allergies, hiccups and hyperthyroidism are also not diseases that mean you should avoid breastfeeding. As we always tell you, consult your doctor about your particular situation. No one can advise you better than your doctor.

  • NCBI. (2010). Classic galactosemia: dietary dilemmas. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3063550/
  • E-lactancia.org. Galactosemia. http://e-lactancia.org/breastfeeding/infant-galactosemia/product/
  • Organización Mundial de la Salud. HIV transmissionthrough breastfeeding. https://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/HIV_IF_Transmission.pdf
  • E-lactancia.org. Mal de Chagas. http://www.e-lactancia.org/breastfeeding/chagas-disease/product/
  • NCBI. (2007). Breastfeeding and cytomegalovirus infections. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18073182
  • NCBI. (2011). Breastfeeding and transmission of cytomegalovirus to preterm infants. Case report and kinetic of CMV-DNA in breast milk. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3032676/
  • Asociación Española de Pediatría. (2015). Guía de la Sociedad Española de Infectología Pediátrica sobre tuberculosis en la embarazada y el recién nacido (ii): profilaxis y tratamiento. https://www.analesdepediatria.org/es-guia-sociedad-espanola-infectologia-pediatrica-articulo-S1695403315000533