Contraindications to Breastfeeding – Can All Women Breastfeed?

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Contraindications to Breastfeeding - Can All Women Breastfeed

Breastfeeding is a boon for your newborn baby as it not only provides him nutrition to grow, but it is also a great bond that a mother and her baby share. However, sometimes certain complications may prevent you from breastfeeding your baby, or your baby may be refrained from feeding on your breast. There are many reasons that may make both these scenarios possible. In the following article, we shall be talking about contraindications to breastfeeding.

When Can Women Not Breastfeed

Breastfeeding is a natural process, and nearly every woman can breastfeed her baby. However, due to certain medical conditions, some mothers may be refrained from breastfeeding either partially or completely. Here are some contraindications of breastfeeding, or conditions when mothers cannot breastfeed their babies:

1. Active and Untreated Tuberculosis

If a mother has active or untreated tuberculosis, she may be advised not to breastfeed her baby. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection; though this infection does not affect the milk of the breastfeeding mother the baby may get infected through coughing, sneezing or by coming in close contact with the mother. However, pumped breast milk can be given to the baby. In the case where both the mother and her baby suffer from tuberculosis, the mother may be advised to breastfeed her baby.

2. HIV-Positive

HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a type of virus that causes AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS is incurable, and the mother can pass this virus to her baby through breast milk. Therefore, if a mother has been diagnosed as HIV positive, she should abstain from breastfeeding her baby. However, there is an exception to the case, and that is, mothers who belong to countries where other healthy feeding alternatives may be unavailable, may be advised against breastfeeding. On the contrary, mothers who are from countries where other safer feeding options are unavailable may be encouraged to breastfeed their babies.

3. HTLV Type 1 or 2 Infection

TheHuman T-cell Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV) Type 1 may cause lymphoma or leukaemia, whereas HTLV Type 2 may cause lung and brain ailments. These viruses may lead to lifelong conditions, which may be incurable and they may not even exhibit prominent symptoms. Both these viruses can easily pass from a mother’s breast milk to her baby; therefore the mother should not breastfeed her baby. Some studies indicate that if pumped breast milk is frozen for more than 12 hours at -20 degrees or below temperature, then the viruses may get destroyed.

4. Use of Illegal Drugs

The use of illegal drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, heroin, LSD may not only get into your breast milk and harm your baby tremendously, but it may also hamper your ability to take care of your baby in a proper manner. In some cases where the mother is taking methadone treatment, she may breastfeed her baby; however, her baby should be monitored closely for any adverse effects.

5. Chemotherapy

If a nursing mother develops cancer, she may be prescribed chemotherapy. Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs such as methotrexate and cyclophosphamide, which can easily get absorbed in the breast milk and harm your baby. Therefore, breastfeeding should be strictly avoided during chemotherapy sessions. However, the mother may keep pumping her breast milk and throw it away so that milk keeps getting produced and she may breastfeed after her treatment gets over. But for how long a chemotherapy drug remains in your system, depends from drug to drug. Talk to your doctor about breastfeeding once you are through with your treatment

6. Receiving Radio Logic Tests

The contrast material used to conduct various radiologist tests may enter the mother’s milk but in very small amounts that is less than 1 percent and even lesser amount may be absorbed by your baby. Therefore there is no reason why a mother cannot feed her baby. Where the contrast material used for the radiologic testing may be considered safe for your baby but the ones used for treatments such as RAI may be extremely dangerous. Therefore, the safety depends on the contrasting agents used for tests and treatments.

Mother feeding baby using bottle

When Can Babies Not Breastfeed?

Most babies start breastfeeding soon after birth. Sometimes babies who are born with certain conditions such as Down syndrome, cleft palate or lip, or are simply born preterm may not be able to breastfeed soon after birth. But these babies may be fed pumped breast milk, and gradually they may shift to breastfeeding on their own. However, sometimes certain rare genetic metabolic conditions may occur in babies that may contraindicate breastfeeding. In some cases, babies can be breastfed partially. Some of the conditions when babies cannot be breastfed are:

1. Galactosemia

Galactosemia is a rare genetic metabolic disorder that hampers the body’s ability to break down glucose. Galactose is a part of lactose that is found in all dairy products and also in many baby formula milk brands too. This condition can be further categorized into three types:

  • Classic galactosemia, or type 1, which is more severe and most common
  • Galactokinase deficiency or type 2, which may cause fewer medical complications than type 1
  • Type 3 galactosemia, which may show mild to severe complications.

Babies with these disorders cannot take breast milk and may be given lactose-free formula milk

2. PKU or Phenylketonuria

Phenylketonuria is a condition that may hamper the breaking down of phenylalanine, an amino acid, by your baby’s body. More amounts of phenylalanine in your baby’s system may lead to conditions such as brain damage. Babies who have this condition will be required to be on a low-phenylalanine diet but sometimes it may be difficult to assess the correct amount of phenylalanine intake. Therefore, a baby with PKU may be allowed to breastfeed combined with special formula milk. However, the mother may be prescribed to practise controlled breastfeeding, and the baby may be monitored closely.

3. Maple Syrup Urine Disease

If a baby has maple syrup urine disease then his body may find it difficult to break down the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. And when the body is not able to break down these amino acids, they keep getting accumulated in your baby system resulting in maple syrup scent from your baby’s urine, ear wax and even sweat. This accumulation of amino acids may cause vomiting, sleepiness, poor feeding, seizure, coma and even death. Your doctor may advise you to give a special formula that lacks all these amino acids, and along with that, you may partially breastfeed your baby. Also, your doctor will monitor your baby closely.

Just the way every mother and baby are unique so is their breastfeeding situation. We have discussed certain scenarios that may affect your breastfeeding; however, your doctor is the best judge of your condition and situation. Therefore, before you make any decision regarding breastfeeding or not breastfeeding your baby, you should consult your doctor.

Also Read: Do Antibiotics Consumed by Breastfeeding Moms Affect Their Babies?

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