Conditions that Affect Breastfeeding

BreastConditions that Affect Breastfeedingfeeding is a treasured gift for most moms. But in some cases, a mother’s desire and effort to breastfeed are contradicted by conditions that affect breastfeeding. Past breast surgeries or procedures, diagnosis of a disease or nipple structure can all impede your ability to safely or effectively breastfeed. Today we’re examining conditions that affect breastfeeding and how to navigate them for you’re your best chance of success.

Breast Biopsy or Surgery

Breast biopsies or surgeries may impact milk ducts or nerves and render them incapable of stimulating or releasing breast milk. If a breast biopsy is necessary, a surgery-free needle biopsy is the best choice to reduce likelihood of damaging milk ducts and nerves but even a surgical biopsy can leave enough unaffected areas for successful breastfeeding.

The same is true of breast augmentation and breast reduction surgery. Make it clear to your surgeon that you would like the option to breastfeed in the future so he can do his best to leave nerves in tact. The nerves are essential for stimulating milk production. While you won’t know for sure if you can breastfeed until after your baby is born, if you have sensation in your nipple, you may be able to at least partially breastfeed.

A mastectomy or removal of one breast doesn’t mean you cannot breastfeed. Believe it or not, you may be able to sustain your baby’s needs with the other breast if it is fully functional. It might take some extra work to establish and maintain a strong milk supply, however.

Nipple Conditions

Flat or inverted nipples can make breastfeeding more tedious but the good news is they don’t impact milk supply. Flat nipples lay flush with the areola while inverted nipples retract into the areola, either slightly, moderately or severely. You may need to stimulate your nipples prior to breastfeeding to help your baby latch, which you can do manually or with a pump. Holding your breast skin tightly to encourage your nipples to protrude may also help.

You can also likely breastfeed with a pierced nipple as long as the jewelry has been removed. Piercing could damage milk ducts but you won’t know for sure until you start breastfeeding.


Breastfeeding can continue during most diagnostic testing for cancer. If you need to undergo chemotherapy or radioactive isotope treatment, you will need to discontinue breastfeeding until these substances are completely out of your system. Consider pumping and discarding the milk to maintain milk supply. In some cases you may be able to breastfeed from the uninfected breast during treatment. Past cancer treatment should not affect your ability to breastfeed as long as the drugs are out of your body.

Gestational Diabetes

Breastfeeding after gestational diabetes may be more difficult due to a delayed milk supply but it is beneficial for both you and your baby. When you have gestational diabetes your baby may be born with low blood sugar and breastfeeding early and often will help stabilize your baby’s blood sugar and reduce risk of developing diabetes herself later in life. Breastfeeding may help you recover from gestational diabetes and reduce risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while also helping with postpartum weight loss.


Typically moms with hepatitis A, B or C can continue breastfeeding. HAV can be treated with medication that is safe during breastfeeding. Babies born to moms with HBV will be fully immunized and tested. HCV can be transmitted through blood, not breast milk itself, so the only reason to discontinue breastfeeding is if your nipples are cracked and bleeding.


This virus and disease and the drugs used to treat them can be transferred through breast milk. Moms with HIV or AIDS who have safe alternatives for feeding their babies should not breastfeed.

Drug Addiction and Certain Medications

Intravenous drugs and certain prescription medications are not compatible with breastfeeding. If you must take a drug for medical reasons and no safe alternative is available, temporarily suspend breastfeeding until you are cleared to resume.

Sources: BabyCenter and SheKnows