Mothers should be aware of breastfeeding contraindications for their infants after delivery. Humans naturally provide infants with the necessary nutrients and immunity to grow and develop into healthy children through breastfeeding. Breast milk has the perfect combination of proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals that a growing baby needs. We know that breastfeeding reduces the risk of infections, promotes brain development, and lowers the chances of obesity and chronic diseases in the future. Nevertheless, there are specific situations where breastfeeding may not be possible or advisable.


The article explores certain situations where a mother should not breastfeed their newborn in order to prevent a child’s health.

Breastfeeding Contraindications

In the following sections, we will know why and when breastfeeding should be avoided.

When the Mother has Certain Medical Conditions

Certain maternal medical conditions can render breastfeeding unsafe for both the mother and the baby. For instance, if a mother has the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or active tuberculosis, she should refrain from breastfeeding. Additionally, if a mother has herpes simplex virus (HSV) on the breast. She should avoid breastfeeding to prevent transmitting the virus to the baby through breast milk. Certain medications, including chemotherapy, radioactive isotopes, and street drugs, can also harm the baby if ingested through breast milk.

When the Infant has Certain Medical Conditions

Some infant medical conditions contraindicate breastfeeding. For example, infants with galactosemia. Which is a rare genetic disorder that makes it difficult for the body to break down a type of sugar called galactose. Similarly, infants with phenylketonuria (PKU), a condition that prevents the body from breaking down the amino acid phenylalanine, should not consume breast milk because it can cause brain damage. Breastfeeding may pose challenges for infants with severe immunodeficiency. Such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), or for those with severe congenital abnormalities, such as cleft palate.

When the Mother is Exposed to Certain Substances or Infections

Sometimes breastfeeding may not be safe for the baby due to certain medications, alcohol consumption, exposure to infections, or radiation exposure on the part of the mother. In these cases, it is important to avoid breastfeeding temporarily to protect the baby’s health.

In this section, we will discuss maternal conditions that contraindicate breastfeeding:

Maternal Conditions that Contraindicate Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a recommended practice for healthy mothers and infants, as it provides numerous benefits for both. However, certain maternal conditions may make breastfeeding contraindicated or pose potential risks to the infant. Here are some of the most common maternal conditions that can make breastfeeding contraindicated:

  1. HIV/AIDS: It is a virus that can spread through breast milk. Which makes it unsuitable for breastfeeding. Although antiretroviral therapy (ART) can decrease the risk of transmitting HIV from mother to child. The drawbacks of breastfeeding still surpass the advantages.
  2. Active tuberculosis: Tuberculosis (TB) infects people through breast milk. So breastfeeding should be avoided until the mother recovers or finishes a full treatment.
  3. Herpes simplex virus (HSV) on the breast: If a mother has a herpes simplex virus (HSV) lesion on her breast. She should avoid breastfeeding from that breast until the lesion has healed. This precaution is necessary to prevent transmitting the virus to the infant.
  4. Certain medications: Some medications may be contraindicated for breastfeeding mothers. Such as –> chemotherapy, radioactive isotopes, and street drugs. These substances can be harmful to the infant and should be avoided or discontinued during breastfeeding.

Now let’s discuss infant conditions that contraindicate breastfeeding:

Infant Conditions that Contraindicate Breastfeeding

Infants usually benefit the most from breastfeeding since it gives them the necessary nutrients and immune protection they need for healthy growth and development. However, in certain cases, medical conditions in the infant may make breastfeeding impossible or not recommended. Some conditions that fall into this category are:


Galactosemia, a rare genetic disorder, affects infants who are unable to metabolize galactose, a sugar present in milk. This disorder can result in serious complications, including liver damage, brain damage, and potential fatality if the infant consumes breast milk or any galactose-containing milk. To address this situation, it is crucial to promptly transition the infant to a lactose-free or soy-based formula.

Phenylketonuria (PKU)

PKU, an inherited metabolic disorder, affects infants who are unable to metabolize phenylalanine, an essential amino acid. If left untreated, PKU can lead to severe intellectual disabilities, seizures, and various health issues. Infants with PKU need a special formula with low phenylalanine content, making breast milk unsuitable.

Severe Immunodeficiency

Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) is a rare genetic disorder that affects the immune system, making infants vulnerable to life-threatening infections. Infants with SCID may not be able to receive breast milk as it can contain harmful bacteria and viruses that could lead to serious infections.

Severe Congenital Abnormalities

Babies born with serious birth defects like cleft palate may struggle with breastfeeding and may not get enough nutrients from it. In these cases, special feeding tools and techniques may be needed to make sure the baby is getting enough to eat and grow properly.

The cleft palate is a birth defect that affects the mouth, where the roof of the mouth does not form properly and can cause difficulty with feeding and speaking.

In this section, we will discuss situations that may temporarily contraindicate breastfeeding 

Situations That May Temporarily Contraindicate Breastfeeding

During certain situations, breastfeeding may not be completely contraindicated, but it may need to be temporarily avoided or limited. The following are some examples of such situations:

Maternal Use of Certain Medications

Mothers who breastfeed and take certain medications like opioids or benzodiazepines may need to stop or limit breastfeeding for a short time. These medications can get into the breast milk and may make the baby sleepy or cause other problems with feeding. But sometimes, there are other medications that are safe to use while breastfeeding. It is important for the mother to talk to her healthcare provider before changing any medication she is taking.

Maternal Consumption of Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can also affect breast milk and harm the baby. It can cause drowsiness, poor feeding, and slow weight gain, among other problems. Although occasional moderate drinking is generally considered safe, it is recommended that breastfeeding mothers avoid alcohol altogether or limit their intake to no more than one drink per day.

Maternal Exposure to Certain Infections

Breastfeeding mothers, who can catch infections like Zika or Ebola (both viral infections transmitted from mother to baby through breastfeeding), might have to pause or reduce breastfeeding temporarily. Breast milk can carry these infections, endangering the baby. To prevent infection transmission, it’s crucial for the mother to heed her healthcare provider’s advice and take necessary precautions.

Maternal Radiation Exposure

Breastfeeding mothers who have undergone radiation therapy may need to temporarily stop or limit breastfeeding. Radiation can pass into breast milk and harm the baby, especially if the radiation treatment is in the chest area. The mother should consult with her healthcare provider to determine if it is safe to continue breastfeeding or if she needs to temporarily stop or limit breastfeeding.


In conclusion, understanding breastfeeding contraindications is essential for both the mother’s and the infant’s Health. Breastfeeding is an essential part of early childhood development, as it provides numerous benefits to both the mother and the infant. However, there are certain conditions where breastfeeding may not be possible or recommended. As we have seen, maternal conditions such as HIV/AIDS, active tuberculosis, and certain medications can contraindicate breastfeeding, as well as infant conditions such as galactosemia and phenylketonuria.

It is essential for mothers to consult their healthcare provider before making decisions about breastfeeding, especially if they have a pre-existing medical condition or are taking medications. Seeking medical advice can help ensure that the mother and infant receive appropriate care and support. Healthcare providers can provide guidance on alternative feeding options, such as donor milk or formula, and help mothers manage their condition while still providing optimal care for their infants.

In situations where breastfeeding may temporarily be contraindicated, such as maternal exposure to infections or radiation, healthcare providers can also provide guidance on how to manage these situations and reduce the risk of harm to the infant.

Further Reading

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1 Comment

Kaviya · June 3, 2023 at 10:18 pm

Thank you for publishing the article on when not to breastfeed. It greatly helped me understand various situations where breastfeeding is contraindicated due to certain medical conditions and exposure to substances or infections for the mother or infant.

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