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You are here: Home > Baby > Bottle Feeding

When Formula Is Necessary

by Rebecca D. Williams |
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There are very few medical reasons why a mother shouldn't breastfeed, according to Lawrence.

Most common illnesses, such as colds, flu, skin infections, or diarrhea, cannot be passed through breast milk. In fact, if a mother has an illness, her breast milk will contain antibodies to it, that will help protect her baby from those same illnesses.

A few viruses can pass through breast milk, however. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is one of them. Women who are HIV positive should not breastfeed.

A few other illnesses--such as herpes, hepatitis, and beta streptococcus infections--can also be transmitted through breast milk. But that doesn't always mean a mother with those diseases shouldn't breastfeed, Lawrence says.

"Each case must be evaluated on an individual basis with the woman's doctor," she says.

Breast cancer is not passed through breast milk. Women who have had breast cancer can usually breastfeed from the unaffected breast. Studies have shown, however, that breastfeeding a child reduces a woman's chance of developing breast cancer later.

Silicone breast implants usually do not interfere with a woman's ability to nurse, but if the implants leak, there is some concern that the silicone may harm the baby. Some small studies have suggested a link between breastfeeding with implants and later development of problems with the child's esophagus. Further studies are needed in this area. But, if a woman with implants wants to breastfeed, she should first discuss the potential benefits and risks with her child's doctor.

Rebecca D. Williams is a writer in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Isadora Stehlin is a member of FDA's public affairs staff.

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