In special cases, women may be advised not to breastfeed. These instances include when a woman is taking certain medications or drugs, when she has been diagnosed with a specific illness, or when other specific conditions apply.
Certain medications are known to be dangerous to infants and can be passed to your infant in your breast milk. Women taking the following medicines should not breastfeed and should speak with their health care providers before considering breastfeeding:
In addition, women who are undergoing radiation therapy should not breastfeed, although some therapies may require only a brief interruption of breastfeeding.1
The above list of medications and other drugs is only a guideline. Before breastfeeding, you should speak with your health care provider about all medications that you are taking.2 These include prescribed medications, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal therapies.
Medications that are safe during pregnancy may also be safe for you to continue while you are breastfeeding, although you should check with your health care provider to make sure they are safe before you breastfeed.2
Contact your infant's health care provider if you see any signs of a reaction to your breast milk in your infant, such as diarrhea, excessive crying, or sleepiness.2
Women with certain illnesses and infections may be advised not to breastfeed because of the danger of passing the illness or infection to the breastfed infant.
If you have any of the following conditions, speak with your health care provider before breastfeeding your infant:1,5
If you are sick with the flu, including the H1N1 flu (also called the swine flu), you should not stop feeding your infant expressed milk. You should avoid being near your infant, however, so that you do not infect him or her. To avoid infecting your infant, someone who is not sick should give your infant your expressed milk.7
For more information on the flu, including the H1N1 flu, visit the following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpage: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.
The potential for HIV transmission to an infant during breastfeeding has been known for some time. Recommending against breastfeeding is not a simple solution, however, because breastfeeding is beneficial to both a mother and her infant. Reducing HIV transmission, while simultaneously ensuring improved HIV-free infant survival, is one of the most pressing issues of HIV/AIDS research.8
World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines currently recommend that an HIV-infected mother who is breastfeeding should also take antiretroviral drugs, which help prevent HIV transmission to her infant. In addition, it is recommended that HIV-infected mothers breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, and continue thereafter up to 12 months while solid foods are introduced.9
In some additional situations, or if women or infants have certain health conditions, women may be advised not to breastfeed or may have difficulty breastfeeding.4
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