Contraindications to Breastfeeding: When should a Mother not Breastfeed?

Posted by Vaishnavi C on

Health professionals agree that human milk provides the most complete form of nutrition for infants, including premature and sick newborns. However, there are rare exceptions when human milk is not recommended.

  • Under certain circumstances, a physician will need to make a case-by-case assessment to determine whether a woman's environmental exposure or her own medical condition warrants her to interrupt or stop breastfeeding.
  • Some substances impair maternal milk production or enter breast milk and interfere with infant development, making breastfeeding an unwise choice.
  • Some medical conditions also prohibit breastfeeding
  • Use of certain medications also prohibits breastfeeding, including certain herbal drugs

Breastfeeding is NOT advisable if one or more of the following conditions is true:  

  • An infant diagnosed with classic galactosemia, a rare genetic metabolic disorder (galactose 1-phosphate uridyl-transferase deficiency)
  • Infants with ‘Phenylketonuria’– Infants lack the liver enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase, which is necessary for the metabolism of the amino acid phenylalanine. May be partially breastfed
  • Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD): Congenital defect resulting in the inability to metabolize three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine

Alternatives to Breastfeeding:

  • Expressed breast milk as much as possible - Expressed breast milk can be stored for later use. It is recommended that the milk is stored in containers with airtight seals. Some plastic bags specifically manufactured for the storage of expressed breast milk are designed for storage periods of less than 72 hours - others can be used for up to 6 months if frozen.  
  • Heat treated breast milk
  • Wet Nursing: Wet-nursing is the exclusive breastfeeding of a child, often for pay, by a woman other than the child’s mother.
  • Cross Nursing: Cross-nursing is the occasional breastfeeding of a child, not her own, by a family member or friend.
  • Human Breast milk banks
  • Formula Feeding
  • Special formulas / diet formulations

Expressed breast milk can be stored for later use. It is recommended that the milk is stored in containers with airtight seals. Some plastic bags specifically manufactured for the storage of expressed breast milk are designed for storage periods of less than 72 hours - others can be used for up to 6 months if frozen.

Breastfeeding is undoubtedly the best nutrition an infant can receive and should never be deprived of it until and unless the situation is unavoidable.


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