At least four out of every five mothers breastfeed their babies. As a matter of fact, practically every woman is capable of breastfeeding a child as long as she really wants to do it, has all the information she needs, and receives the necessary support from her social environment. However, there are a few women for whom breastfeeding is not possible and for whom it is not recommended by specialists. Some of the underlying reasons can be:
- Inadequate milk production: In some women the glandular tissue in the breast is underdeveloped, meaning that they are unable to produce milk. As well as this biological predisposition, metabolic problems (e.g. an underactive thyroid) or excessive postnatal bleeding can also leave some women unable to produce enough milk.
- HIV: Experts advise HIV-positive mothers not to breastfeed. There is a minute risk of transmitting the virus to the baby through the mother's milk.
- Medication: If you are taking a course of medication, it may be necessary to express the milk and throw it away because the baby could otherwise absorb harmful substances from the medication. However, once the course of treatment is over, you can resume breastfeeding without difficulty.
- Lactose intolerance: If a baby is lactose intolerant, it cannot be breastfed. In this case, alternative forms of nutrition (e.g. industrially produced baby foods) will have to be used instead.
Care is called for in the following situations
- Tuberculosis/hepatitis C: If a mother suffers from tuberculosis, it may be necessary to separate the mother and her baby for a short time. However, most mothers with hepatitis B or C can continue to breastfeed safely as long as some precautions (e.g. vaccination of the newborn) are taken.
- Breast operations: Breastfeeding may be difficult or even impossible after a breast operation. Breast enlargement procedures are generally less problematic than breast reductions. Mammary gland tissue is removed during breast reductions and the breast is subsequently reconstructed. In the case of enlargements, the implant is inserted behind the glandular tissue, which means that milk production should be unaffected.
- Infectious diseases: Mothers who are suffering from a cold or other bacterial infection do not necessarily have to stop breastfeeding. The right hygienic precautions or simultaneous vaccination of mother and child can provide the baby with adequate protection.