Feeding your baby
Keeping breastfeeding safe
What medical conditions make breastfeeding unsafe for your baby?
Don’t breastfeed your baby if:
- Your baby has galactosemia. Babies with this problem can’t break down the sugar in any kind of milk, including breast milk and cow’s milk. They can have brain damage or even die if they eat or drink milk products. Babies with galactosemia must be fed a special formula that is not made with milk of any kind.
- You have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes AIDS. If you have HIV, you can pass it to your baby through breast milk.
- You have untreated, active tuberculosis. This is an infection that mainly affects the lungs.
- You have human T-cell lymphotropic virus. This is a virus that can cause blood cancer and nerve problems.
- You’re taking cancer drugs. Some medicines used to treat cancer can pass through breast milk and harm a baby.
- You’re getting radiation treatment.
Most prescription and over-the-counter medicines you take don’t harm your baby. A prescription is an order for medicine written by a health care provider. Over-the-counter medicines are medicines, like pain relievers or cough syrup, you can buy without a prescription. To be safe, ask your provider before you take any kind of medicine while you’re breastfeeding.
Some medicines, like those that treat cancer and migraine headaches, may hurt your baby if you’re breastfeeding. Some medicines may lessen your milk supply. Tell your provider about any medicines you take. If they aren’t safe for breastfeeding, you may need to switch to safer ones. Tell your provider about all the medicines you take before you start breastfeeding.
Don’t take any herbal products while you’re breastfeeding. These include ginkgo and St. John’s wort. Even though herbs are natural, they may not be safe for your baby.Can you pass street drugs to your baby through breast milk?
Yes. You can pass street drugs, like marijuana, cocaine and heroin, to your baby through breast milk. Don’t use street drugs if you’re breastfeeding.
Can you pass alcohol to your baby through breast milk?
Yes. Don’t drink alcohol when you’re breastfeeding. Alcohol includes beer, wine, wine coolers and liquor. If you choose to drink alcohol, don’t have more than two drinks a week. Wait at least 2 hours after each drink before you breastfeed.
Can smoking while breastfeeding hurt your baby?
Yes. Nicotine is a drug found in cigarettes. It passes to your baby in breast milk and can cause problems, like:
- Making your baby fussy
- Making it hard for your baby to sleep
- Reducing your milk supply so your baby may not get all the milk he needs
Secondhand smoke also is bad for your baby. Secondhand smoke is smoke from someone else’s cigarette, cigar or pipe. It can cause lung and breathing problems. Babies of mothers who smoke are more likely than babies of non-smokers to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the unexplained death of a baby while sleeping.
Don’t smoke if your breastfeeding. If you do smoke, it’s OK to breastfeed. But smoke as little as possible and don’t smoke around your baby.Can you have caffeine when you’re breastfeeding?
Limit caffeine while you’re breastfeeding. Caffeine is a drug that is found in things like coffee, tea, soda, chocolate and some medicines. Too much caffeine in breast milk can make your baby fussy or have trouble sleeping. If you drink coffee, have no more than two cups a day while you’re breastfeeding.
Can you breastfeed if you’re sick?
Yes, but tell your health care provider right away that you’re not feeling well. It’s safe to breastfeed if you have a common illness, like a cold or the flu. Breastfeeding passes along antibodies (cells in the body that fight off infection) to your baby that can help protect him from the illness. Don’t take any medicine without talking to your provider first.
Can you breastfeed if you’ve had breast surgery or piercing on the breast?
Yes. Breast surgery includes getting implants, having a breast reduction or having a lump removed. Piercing means inserting jewelry into the breast, including nipple piercing. If you’ve had breast surgery or piercing, you may need extra help with breastfeeding from your provider or a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant is a person with special training in helping women breastfeed.
Is it safe to breastfeed your baby in bed?
Yes. You can breastfeed anywhere you can get comfortable with your baby. But don’t fall asleep if you breastfeed in bed. This could cause your baby to suffocate (stop breathing). And put your baby to bed in his own crib or bassinet.
Last reviewed February 2012