When You Can and Cannot Breastfeed

If you are a pregnant woman or a new mommy, you are going to set off on a big—and tumultuous—journey very soon. Raising a baby is not as easy as many of us may expect. It includes sleepless nights, bawling babies, heaps of dirty diapers and clutter of baby lotions and nappy rash creams. Of course, it lands mothers in unimaginable problems which they have to handle along with maintaining themselves and the house. Scary, right?!

One of the challenges mothers face immediately after giving birth is breastfeeding. It can be an intimidating process especially for new mothers since they don’t know how to handle the baby and feed him/her at the same time. Breastfeeding is important for the baby as the nutrients found in breast milk ensure a healthy growth and development for the child. However, there are certain conditions governing this stage. Most of the mothers breastfeed their babies and it is quite a normal thing for them, but there are also some mothers for whom breastfeeding becomes a bane. Let’s see when a mother can and cannot breastfeed a child.

When you can breastfeed

Certain conditions often arise that cast a doubt over the prospect of breastfeeding a child lest they may cause trouble, and worry mothers. Mentioned below are the situations/conditions that permit breastfeeding without causing any harm to the mother or the child.

  • Common cold and fever

It is very rare that a mother needs to stop breastfeeding because of any illness. Mothers often get sick during seasonal changes with allergies, common colds, flu and fever. While these illnesses may cause the mother to feel weak, they do not have any direct effect upon their milk. Therefore, it is safe to continue breastfeeding the babies. Mothers can also take proper medication in such cases since almost all the medicines for these minor illnesses are safe for breastfeeding. Furthermore, for medicines that may not be recommended, safe alternatives are always available. The only thing mothers need to do is inform the doctor that they are nursing their kids so that the physician may prescribe a medicine which is compatible with breastfeeding.

  • Food poisoning

As long as food poisoning is confined to common gastrointestinal symptoms—vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea—it is safe to continue breastfeeding the baby as the bacteria responsible for the illness are not transmitted to the mother’s milk. Most cases of food poisoning fall under this category. However, in cases where bacteria enter the bloodstream of the mother, breastfeeding may be suspended for a few days, for as long as the mother is getting initial treatment, for chances of harm caused to the baby in one way or another. After getting proper medication that is perfectly compatible with breastfeeding, however, mothers can resume nursing their babies without any fear.

  • Mastitis

Some breastfeeding mothers may face a condition known as Mastitis during the first three months after giving birth. It is a condition characterized by inflammation and acute painfulness of women’s breast tissues. In common cases, a lump or hardness appears on the mother’s breast which may be hot and painful when touched. Mastitis is often caused by a build-up of milk within the breasts in cases where a baby is having problems in sucking or the mother feeds the baby infrequently. However, the condition is not irreparable. Staying well hydrated and getting over-the-counter painkillers can alleviate the pain. Breastfeeding your baby when you have Mastitis causes no harm, and can actually help improve your symptoms.

  • Alcohol Consumption

Breastfeeding period demands high care on the part of mothers. Anything a mother eats or drinks, including alcohol, can find its way into the mother’s milk, so special care is required in how much you drink. Breastfeeding mothers are recommended not to drink more than one or two units of alcohol regularly since any amount more than this can affect the growth and development of your child. However, an occasional drink does not affect your child in any harmful way.

When you cannot breastfeed

Breastfeeding is the natural method of feeding the newborns. However, there are certain conditions where mothers, as much as they want to, just cannot breastfeed their babies.

  • Hypoplasia

It is a condition in which a body tissue or organ does not undergo proper development on account of inadequate or below-normal number of cells. Hypoplastic condition arises in breastfeeding mothers when their glandular tissue—the tissue in the breast responsible for producing milk—experience underdevelopment, and their breasts do not have their normal fullness. Consequently, such mothers cannot produce enough milk to satisfy the needs of their babies.This condition may also arise as a result of breast reduction surgery. In such cases, it is essential for mothers to supplement their breastfeeding with baby formula so that the child’s health may not be compromised.

  • HIV Infection

Getting diagnosed with HIV-positive is a nightmare, especially for those who are soon going to be parents and have to take decisions regarding the health and betterment of their babies. Mothers who are diagnosed with HIV-positive can breastfeed their kids but are recommended not to since there are heavy chances the virus is going to be transmitted to baby through the breast milk. However, quite recently, WHO has allowed HIV-positive mothers to breastfeed if they take antiretroviral drugs throughout the breastfeeding period. Nevertheless, it is wise to avoid taking risks. After all, nothing matters more than your child’s health.

  • Radioactive Treatments

Mothers who are taking radioactive treatments of any kind or medication that passes directly into the milk and can hurt the baby are recommended not to breastfeed since a large quantity of radioactive isotopes may find their way into the breast milk causing harm to the nursing baby. When a mother is undergoing continuous radiation therapy in high doses, breastfeeding can become hazardous for the child. That is why it is advisable not to get yourself subject to radiations in any form. However, if radioactive testing—mammograms, bone density tests and CT scans—or treatment seems inevitable, inform your doctor about breastfeeding prior to it so that necessary steps, including suspension of breastfeeding for some time, may be taken beforehand.


Babies are precious and their health takes priority over everything. Even if you can’t breastfeed your baby, don’t hate yourself for it. Use baby formula and keep a strict check on their diet as they grow. Things will definitely turn out better than you expect.

Do you have anything to add? Feel free to let us know of your ideas in the comments section below.

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