Diseases That Affect Breastfeeding

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Topic Overview

Most women with chronic illnesses or infectious diseases can breastfeed.

  • Women with diabetes usually can breastfeed but may need to follow a special diet. They may be able to lower their insulin doses while breastfeeding, 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 breastfeeding.
  • In most cases, breastfeeding 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 breastfeed if she:

  • Is infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), because she can pass the virus to her baby in her milk.
  • 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 breastfeed 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.

Other Places To Get Help


La Leche League International
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Women's Health


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

Current as ofMay 30, 2016