Why some mums don't breastfeed

Unfortunately, some mums cannot – or choose not to – breastfeed for a variety of reasons

Circumstances when a mum may not breastfeed include if she:

  • Is being treated with drugs which are secreted in breast milk (e.g. anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, narcotics, barbiturates or steroids)
  • Has the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Is taking antiretroviral medication
  • Has untreated, active tuberculosis
  • Is infected with human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I or type II
  • Is using or is dependent upon an illicit drug
  • Is taking prescribed cancer chemotherapy agents (e.g. antimetabolites) that interfere with DNA replication and cell division
  • Is undergoing radiation therapy.

Some mothers cannot breastfeed because of physiological problems that cannot be overcome, while others don’t wish to breastfeed for religious or cultural reasons. Plus, there will be some mums who will just not want to breastfeed or who find it too difficult.

Some mothers cannot breastfeed because of physiological problems that cannot be overcome, while others don’t wish to breastfeed for religious or cultural reasons

Reasons for stopping

Many mums start breastfeeding after their baby’s birth and then stop either days or weeks later. Some of the reasons for stopping breastfeeding include:

  • Not producing enough milk or the milk taking too long to ‘come in’: babies may not be satisfied after breastfeeding, especially if the mature milk is delayed
  • Illness: if the mum has an underlying illness or had a difficult birth, it can make it hard to establish breastfeeding
  • Returning to work: this can prevent breastfeeding during the day (unless the mother expresses milk).


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