Breast feeding and breast cancer

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Overview of breastfeeding benefits

Breast milk offers unique protection against a whole host of diseases for both mother and infant.

It not only provides the ultimate solution to an infant’s nutritional needs but also possesses unparalleled immunological and anti-inflammatory properties.

Breastfeeding can lower the risk of ear infection and eczema; reduce the incidence of respiratory tract infections, childhood obesity, gastrointestinal infections, childhood Type 2 diabetes mellitus, acute lymphocytic leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome.

Significant scientific evidence suggested that breastfeeding also protects mothers from breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

All of a baby’s required vitamins and nutrients are supplied through breast milk.

Breastfeeding exclusively during the first six months of a baby’s life is essential for protecting an infant from various illnesses, as breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances.

The primary component of breast milk that offers immune protection from disease is secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA).

IgA is responsible for guarding against invading germs by forming a protective layer on the mucous membranes in your baby’s intestines, nose, and throat.

This is one reason why breast milk is preferable to infant milk formula.

Moreover, a mother’s milk is specifically tailored for her babies, since the mother’s body responds to viruses and bacteria, and makes secretory IgA specific to those particular pathogens, creating protection for her child.

When babies are fed formula rather than breast milk, they miss out on this layer of protection and become more vulnerable to inflammation, allergies, and other health issues later in life.

One of the most important factors influencing the decision to breastfeed, and for how long is the adequacy of breast milk production in the mammary glands of the mother’s breast.

Some 38% of mothers stop breastfeeding their infants purely as a result of insufficient breast milk production.

Breastfeeding possibilities with breast cancer

Breast cancer patients often have confusion about whether they breastfeed or bottle-feed their baby.

The answer to this confusion is not straightforward.

The safety of breastfeeding for a breast cancer patient depends upon the treatment plan.

However, breastfeeding cannot transfer cancer to the baby.

But some of the prescribed medicine can reach the child through breastfeeding and that can cause a harmful effect.

Breastfeeding is a challenge for breast cancer mothers, but in many cases it is possible.

Following are some options to breastfeed the child for breast cancer mothers.

Options to breastfeed for breast cancer patients

Consultation with a doctor is a foremost factor before breastfeeding for breast cancer patients.

A doctor can guide whether breastfeeding is safe for a particular patient depending upon the receiving treatment.

The doctor will recommend that cessation of breastfeeding or not to start breastfeeding in case-specific treatment requirements like chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapies.

Drugs recommended under these therapies often pass into breast milk and can affect a nursing baby.

The doctor may suggest you stop breastfeeding for a certain period during the treatment and then you can re-start after getting a green signal from your doctor.

If surgical intervention requires for treating the condition, then the doctor usually suggests stopping breastfeeding to shrink the size of the breast by reducing the blood circulation in the breast tissues.

This practice helps in surgery and reduces the risk of infection after surgery.

In some cases, breast cancer patient breastfeeds their baby in continuation of radiation therapy.

However, it completely depends upon the type of radiation prescribed in the treatment plan.

The doctor is the best person to figure out the safety.

In case, breastfeeding is not possible, then the nutritious formula is available to provide nutrition to the child.


Following are the options to breastfeed with breast cancer:

Pumping out breast milk to sustain milk supply is an effective way to restart breastfeeding after the termination of the treatment.

Therefore, you just extract milk from the breast through pumping and throw it away during the treatment phase.

Breast milk extraction will help to continue milk production in the breast.

Therefore, a breast cancer patient can go back to nursing after ending of treatment.

In many cases, surgery or radiation makes changes in breast physiology.

This alteration creates challenges to nursing a baby.

However, many women can overcome such typical issues by consulting lactation experts.

Extensive discussions with doctors help to solve many queries related to breastfeeding with breast cancer.

Therefore, communicate with your doctor if you decide to breastfeed while you have breast cancer.


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