When Not To Breastfeed Your Baby

You've heard all the reasons breastmilk is important and the optimal food for your baby (well, maybe not every single one of the reasons, but most of them at least). So, when would I suggest that some moms not breastfeed?

The main reason is when the baby's or mother's health might be compromised. And the main reason for that is that the mother needs a medicine that would cross her breastmilk and harm the baby. But fortunately, as you can see from the table, there are relatively few medicines that mean breastfeeding should stop. Stop breastfeeding if you are taking one of the these medicines:

Anticancer drugsMysoline
CyclosporineMethotrexate
LindaneRadioactive drugs
ParlodelNarcotics and barbiturates

Source: Bailey Koch, RD, CSP

A mother might be tempted to stop the medicine in order to breastfeed, but stopping a needed medicine might cause her own problem to flare out of control. So it's usually a much better to stop or interrupt breastfeeding for a while and use formula. Also note that there's another group of medicines where you will need to talk to your doctor about the potential harm to the baby. Sometimes, another medicine can be used. Consult with your doctor prior to taking one of these:

AntidepressantsIsoniazidPhenobarbital
AspirinLithiumProzac
CodeineMetoclopramideValium
DemerolMetronidazoleZoloft
ErgotsMorphine 
General anesthesiaOral contraceptives 
IndomethacinPaxil 

Source: Bailey Koch, RD, CSP

Also note that this list of medicines changes with new medicines added and research clearing the way for some medicines so they can be used. So check with your doctor and online at www.womenshealth.gov.

But medicines alone aren't the only reasons not to breastfeed. Women with active tuberculosis, HIV, human lymphotrophic virus HTLV-1 or HTLV-2 (which are associated with certain cancers) or active herpes on their breast shouldn't breastfeed.

Rare genetic conditions can be a reason not to breastfeed. In one called galactosemia, babies can't process the sugar in breast milk, and brain damage can result. Moms who have had complications after delivery, are malnourished or who are emotionally or physically fatigued should wait to breastfeed until after those problems improve to breastfeed. To establish and keep their flow going, they may want to express their milk, but it may be not be enough for their baby until they are better.

There are some moms too who just don't want to breastfeed or feel they can't. If they are given some of the information about the benefits, they may change their minds. But they shouldn't be pressured to or pressured not to. Nor should they worry that their breasts or nipples aren't going to allow them to--that's rarely the case.

Dr. Stan Cohen13 May 2015

Dr. Stan Cohen is one of our founders and our CEO as well as the Chairman of our Medical Advisory Board. Dr. Stan is an internationally recognized expert in Read more

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