Are There Medical Considerations With Breastfeeding?
In a few situations, breastfeeding could actually cause a baby harm. You should not breastfeed if:
- You are HIV positive. You can pass the HIV virus to your infant through breast milk.
- You have active, untreated tuberculosis.
- You're receiving chemotherapy for cancer.
- You're using an illegal drug, such as cocaine or marijuana.
- Your baby has a rare condition called galactosemia and cannot tolerate the natural sugar, called galactose, in breast milk.
- You're taking certain prescription medications, such as some drugs for migraine headaches, Parkinson's disease, or arthritis.
Talk with your doctor before starting to breastfeed if you're taking prescription drugs of any kind. The safety of taking drugs for common chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma while breastfeeding has been fairly widely studied. But less is known about the safety of less commonly used medicines. Your doctor can help you make an informed decision based on your particular medication.
Having a cold or flu should not prevent you from breastfeeding. Breast milk won't give your baby the illness and, in fact, may give antibodies to your baby to help fight off the illness.
Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that -- starting at 4 months of age -- exclusively breastfed infants and infants who are partially breastfed and receive more than one-half of their daily feedings as human milk should be supplemented with 1 mg/kg per day of oral iron. This should continue until iron-containing complementary foods, such as iron-fortified cereals, are introduced in the diet. The AAP recommends checking iron levels in all children at age 1.
Why Do Some Women Choose Not to Breastfeed?
Medical experts advise breastfeeding for its many benefits to both mothers and babies. But some women choose not to breastfeed. Here are some common reasons:
- Some women don't want to breastfeed in public.
- Some prefer the flexibility of knowing that a father or any caregiver can bottle-feed the baby any time.
- Babies tend to digest formula more slowly than breast milk, so bottle feedings may not be as frequent as breastfeeding sessions.
The time commitment, and being "on-call" for feedings every few hours of a newborn's life, isn't feasible for every woman. Some women fear that breastfeeding will ruin the appearance of their breasts. But most breast surgeons would argue that age, gravity, genetics, and lifestyle factors like smoking all change the shape of a woman's breasts more than breastfeeding does.