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Diseases That Affect Breast-Feeding

Topic Overview

Most women with chronic illnesses or infectious diseases can breast-feed.

  • Women with diabetes usually can breast-feed but may need to follow a special diet. They may be able to lower their insulin doses while breast-feeding, because their blood glucose is being used for milk production.
  • Women with cystic fibrosis or phenylketonuria (PKU) must have their milk and their infant's health monitored when breast-feeding.
  • In most cases, breast-feeding is possible when the mother has hepatitis A, chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C, or cytomegalovirus (CMV).

Other diseases, though, may make breast milk unsafe for the baby. A woman should not breast-feed if she:

  • Is infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), because she can pass the virus to her baby in her milk.
  • Has active tuberculosis or some viral infections (such as active, acute hepatitis).
  • Has sores on her breast caused by infections (such as herpes, syphilis, or chickenpox). She will need to wait until the infection has been resolved or successfully treated.

A woman also should not breast-feed if her baby has galactosemia.

A rare hormonal disorder called Sheehan's syndrome makes a woman unable to produce milk or to produce enough milk to feed her baby. Sheehan's syndrome results from severe bleeding (hemorrhaging) immediately after giving birth.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised April 12, 2013

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