Not Able to Breastfeed Due to Medical Condition

Updated on March 03, 2010
N.K. asks from Oakland, CA
22 answers

I am due to have my second son in the next few weeks and have been told by my doctors that they do not want me to breastfeed due to a medical condition. I am fine with not breastfeeding as I had a great deal of problems when I tried with my older son. I breastfed him for six weeks and then stopped. It was extremely painful and emotionally hard. What I would love to know is if anyone has any good tips for how to deal with engorgement and discomfort postpartum. If anyone has been through this experience and has helpful suggestions about what helped them get through the period until their milk dried up I would greatly appretiate your ideas. Also. was it emotionally hard to stop breastfeeding last time and I have prepared myself mentally for the barrage of comments I will get for not breastfeeding but I would love suggestions of how to tactfully tell people to mind their own business. I really appreciate the amazing advice that is posted here and look forward to all your wonderful and great tips and mom support.

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So What Happened?

Thank you for all the thoughtful and helpful responses. I appreciate eveyone taking the time to respond and the encouragement many of you gave to me about not feeling like I should have to explain anything to anyone about why i am not breastfeeding. All of your suggestions were very helpful too. I did not know about the sudafed or the peppermint altoids, or the tea which all sound very good. I got myslef some of the large ace bandages and gel cold packs today so hopefully it will be a quick recovery. I know breastfeeding can be a hot topic and I greatly appreciate everyone's kind tone in their responses. Many many thanks!

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answers from Sacramento on

I had to pump with my son for 3 monthes and then stop due to medical reasons as well.....I just told people that I gave it my best shot, but it didn't work out and so formula was what was best for us.


answers from Sacramento on

If nosey people ask you can say that you're "doing what is best for us". It is what it is... if things were different than they would be different. Good luck; even if people are rude, you know why you've made the decision. You don't owe anyone an explaination!

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answers from Sacramento on

We chose purposefully not to breastfeed and use formula (We wanted to share feeding responsibility. All formula fed family members have ended up significantly healthier than those who were breastfed, so no amount of "your child will grow 6 arms" talk would sway us.). So, you can imagine the grief some tried to give us in our situation. I learned to just respond that "It's very personal and I don't want to discuss it." Seriously, it's so, so personal and it's amazing how many people will get in your face and make comments publicly about how evil formula is/breastfeeding is the only possible right choice.

Don't worry too much about the pain. I have a large bust to begin with, so when the milk came in, I looked like Pamela Anderson decided to get a second boob job, it was so ridiculous (only confirming breastfeeding wasn't for me). I just put in the cotton breastfeeding pads to catch leaks, but within a week, it was all gone. I'd describe it more as discomfort than pain.

Good luck! Hope you're not hassled too much.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I did not breastfeed my daughter because that is what I chose. I didn't feel I owed anyone an explanation than and I don't owe them one now. My daughter is a healthy happy almost 4 year old and that is all that matters. I think if someone is bold enough to criticize you for a personal decision, no need to remember your manners...tell them to mind their own business.
For drying up....I wore a tight sports bra home from the hospital and I had my hubby wrap ace bandages tightly around my chest. Honestly my milk only came in for a few hours and then it was gone. The pain was nothing compared to what was going on in my nether regions, so It barely even registered for me. I know every woman is different and maybe because you breastfed the first time you will produce more milk, who knows? Keep the girls tight under a bra and consider binding like I did. Avoid hot showers like the plague and do not express any with your hands as this will just signal your body to make more. Stay away from oatmeal. Try cabbage leaves in the bra. Best of luck and congrats on the soon to be new arrival!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I did not breastfeed my son. It was my personal choice. (I can hear the *gasps* of the über-crunchy moms from here!). It is everyone's personal choice. It's really really a sad comment on the judgment of other people that at this time in your life you even need to give a thought to what to tell other people. And that you feel you need to prepare yourself "mentally for the barrage of comments I will get for not breastfeeding". Seriously, just say you are bottle feeding and leave it at that. You don't need to explain yourself to anyone. You don't have to answer to anyone.
Sorry, this is my personal soapbox and it sickens me that other people, especially women love to trounce non-breastfeeding moms--whatever their reason. Rant over.
As for the engorgement, I found it helpful to wear a bra at night and a very supportive O. during the day. I have heard that cabbage leaves worn in the bra works well, but did not try that. I don't remember it being that painful of an experience. (I mean, after childbirth, what is? LOL) Congratulations and best of luck to you!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I tried to breastfeed my son but it was a whole lot of pain ....that is: raw, bleeding nipples and mastitis, and a boatload of stress [especially when my lactation consultant said I would have to start supplementing with a dropper and after that he never latched on well which added to the pain!] on top of the fact that he cried all day and all night from being colicky.... when I switched him over to formula, it was such a huge relief!!! If I have children in the future I am not even going to try breastfeeding again!
I heard it all: "your baby is going to get sick all of the time" "you need to do whats best for the baby before yourself" or "My nipples were bleeding, too, but I had the strength to get through it" and you know what, the comments from people suck, but when you think about their motives they are either A: genuinely concerned about the baby, B: moms who breastfed and are very proud of it and want to encourage others to breastfeed too, or C: truly just trying to minimize you so that they feel good about themselves. The majority of comments are A and B...and if you just focus on the motive and don't take the comment to heart, you'll be fine.
As for the engorgement, if you don't breastfeed at all, it wont be as bad because your milk production is lower in the beginning anyway. Just wear a good bra and avoid any stimulation or heat and the worst will be over in about a week I'm sure. As others have mentioned, there is also a shot you can get. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

No - don't get in a hot shower and massage your breasts!! NO stimulation!! Start with wearing a supportive bra immediatly after delivery!! In the shower - back to the water - so no nipple stimulation. If you start to become engorged - use ice to help alleviate the discomfort - if you use heat and massage - you will end up expressing milk - and then you will produce more... bad cycle!!

Cold cabbage leaves are great - replace them as they wilt.

Don't worry about what other people think - you are doing what is best for your health which will make it what is best for you and YOUR baby.

LOTS of babies are bottle fed for a variety of reasons - and they are all fine!! You can have perfectly great, normal bonding whether you breast or bottle feed!!

Good luck with your new baby!!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

I went through a similar experience when I was diagnosed with cancer and had to start treatment (our daughter was 10.5 weeks old).

Luckily, she was able to get 12 weeks of breast milk by the time I started chemo. I kept pumping for about 2 weeks after starting chemo to help prevent being engorged. Initially, I was pumping 5 times/day, then a few days later, I went to 3 times/day. Finally, it was once/day. I was never engorged and had no problems with discomfort because I reduced my supply slowly.

It was easy for me to explain why I'd not nursed (though I do feel pressure on this site to explain why my son was nursed for his 1st year, and my daughter only nursed for 3 months.

In the end, the most important thing is for your child to have its mother. That was quickly evident to me. It was far more important to have me than my milk.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

N., #1 shame on ANYONE who would put you down for not breastfeeding your child! Only you know your situation and can make the decision that is best for you and your family.

While I did not 'breastfeed' my first child, I exclusively pumped for the first 3-4 months and it was pure agony for both me and my child. Once we ran out of stored breastmilk, we switched to formula and surprisingly enough my child did NOT grow an extra head, tail, or third arm! I decided that the emotional stress and toll this took on my body was not worth it and when we had baby #2 we were going to formula feed from the get go.

I, too, was worried about the engorgement and the leaking. And yes, it was painful for about a week, and while those few days were a little trying I found it to be rather manageable and not terribly bad. At the recommendation of the lactation consultant at the hospital, I pretty much lived in a sports bra until the engorgement subsided. Also, tuck a few cabbage leaves in the bra. Buy a bag of frozen peas and put them in little ziplock baggies, then shove them inside the sports bra for relief. Finally, when I was trying to up my production of milk with my first child I was eating a ton of oatmeal, so AVOID that if possible.

The lactation consultant at the hospital also advised to not massage your breasts in the shower under the hot water! You will be expressing milk and as you know, milk making is supply and demand. If you're massaging the breasts and expressing the milk, you're telling the brain "Hey, we need more milk! Get working!" If you are not going to breastfeed, that's the last message you want to send the girls!

You owe no one an explanation for why you are feeding your child the way that you are. Just tell them that out of care and love for your child, you have made the best, healthiest decision for your family and leave it at that.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Hi N.,

I just wanted to respond to you--- I know that people can be rude and voice their opinions openly-- the way that I would handle it would be..if they say why aren't you breastfeeding? You could say thank you for your concern but I have decided to bottlefeed and I am happy with my decision. If they keep pushing or say breast is best etc-- say I appreciate your concern but we have decided to bottlefeed and am happy with our decision. The main thing is to come up with an answer that you feel comfortable and keep repeating it until they shut up. Or if you are comfortable with stating you have a medical issue-- you could say that I have been advised to bottlefeed because of a medical condition. if they ask what medical condition-- you say-- I would like to keep that private. Or I am not comfortable answering that. Most people will get the hint and realize they are being way to nosy and not ask anymore.

As for how to dry your milk up quickly-- immediately after birth put on a very supportive bra and do not touch your nipples. Take showers if you get engorged and let your milk just run down the drain. It will take a few days to a week to stop but the main thing is wear a tight supportive bra 24 hr/day. until you dry out.

Sorry for the long message-- but just wanted to help you out- hope it helps! Hope you have a wonderful labor and delivery!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

I'm so sorry about whatever medical condition you have that would prevent your breastfeeding your baby - and also for the difficulties you experienced the first time. As a lactation consultant, it saddens me to hear of new moms who don't get the help and support they need - and some situations call for a LOT more help and support than others! I've worked with moms facing a wide variety of challenges. Some we were able to surmount, and some we weren't. The research is clear: it's worth every effort a mom makes to breastfeed, as breastfeeding is the physiological norm for both babies and moms. So if there's any bit of openness to consulting with a breastfeeding professional, whether it be a lactation consultant in your area (you can find one at, or a doctor specializing in breastfeeding medicine, I would encourage you to do that, just to make sure your medical condition really does contraindicate breastfeeding (it may, or not).
But if it just isn't going to work, here are my recommendations for helping you get through your first postpartum week-10 days:
1. Take Sudafed (you may have to get a prescription for it, now that there have been problems with illicit drug dealers abusing it) or possibly another decongestant.
2. Eat peppermint Altoids and add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to your water. Make sure is is therapeutic-grade essential oil.
3. Drink sage tea. (Warning - it's not yummy!)
4. The cabbage leaves in the bra have been very helpful to many moms suffering with engorgement, though there's no research to support it (duh - there's no money in researching cabbage leaves!).
5. Avoid stimulating your breasts. But if you really need relief, it's o.k. to hand express just enough to relieve your discomfort. Then have another cup of tea and some Altoids.
Make sure you hold your baby, preferably skin-to-skin, when you feed him his bottles. Keep him as vertical as possible, and the bottle as horizontal as possible, tipped just enough to keep milk in the nipple. That way he's not being "gravity-fed" - which to a baby is kind of like taking a drink out of a fire hose. They need to be able to *suck* it out. Also, be sure to use a slow-flow nipple. I've had the best results with BreastFlow bottles, made by First Years. They have a double nipple (one inside the other), that requires the baby to use compression and suction - closer to the physiological norm than any others I've found.
Most importantly, enjoy your baby and your mothering years. I know it doesn't seem like it when you're sleep deprived and consumed with child raising, but this time of your life is pretty short. And it happens while you're not looking!
Blessings to you -

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

I breastfed my children, but had to stop for a week with the last one because of some medicine I was taking. When the baby was hungry, I would excuse myself with the baby in the other room and bottle feed her. They thought it was pumped milk, they didn't ask and I didn't tell them any different.

To me, it's not completely about the breastfeeding, it's about the bonding, the trust building. Holding your baby, looking into each other's eyes and bonding in those early weeks. It may help to take off your shirt and lay the baby against your bare skin while bottle feeding, this helps with the bonding.

As far as the engorgement, take a hot shower and massage your breast while you're in there. Do that several times a day if you need to. Good luck and I wish you a fat healthy baby :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

How great that you are preparing now!
two things I would suggest
1) consult a lactation consultant now so that you are prepared for what is to come... I know people have said this but based on the pain my friend went through along with the often remiss doctors opinions on nursing I would get a second opinion,
2) if nursing really isn't an option then my friend who was a surrogate used squishy ice packs and iceberg lettuce leaves literally in her bra to help alleviate the pain
good luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Congrats on baby # 2! I hope the delivery goes well. : )

Cabbage is supposed to help with engorgement. Put the leaves inside your bra. Also, remember not to wear underwire bras. I know my friends who didn't breastfeed wrapped their breasts very tightly with ace bandages once the milk came in to help it go away quickly.

As for comments from others, you know that you are doing what is right for you, so don't take to heart anything you hear. You can tactfully respond with "I have a condition that prevents me from breastfeeding." Or even "It's a personal decision and I hope you'll respect that."

If feeding breast milk is important to you, you can see if there is a milk bank in your area. I'm not sure how the price compares to formula or exactly how it works, but I know there are a lot of milk banks in my area (LA/Orange County). Otherwise, I'm sure you know from your first baby that he'll be just fine with formula too!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I wouldn't let anyone make you feel bad. I got asked that question a lot when our 2 kids were little. I tried but was unable to due to a breast reduction and stopped after 1 mo. They maybe got 1 feeding a day from me, the rest from bottle. When asked I told them I was unable to breastfeed and left it at that. Some were more curious and tried to push further. When they did I told them I had a reduction. They didn't ask again. If you get asked further you could just say it didn't work. Your baby will still be healthy and happy and won't know. At least with this one you won't feel like you have to put yourself through it again since it was hard the first time around. You can just enjoy being a mom and avoid the frustration.

You should ask your doctor about medicines to help you dry up your milk and stop production. I know there is something out there. Because I produced so little I never experienced engorgement but from my friends stories I know it can hurt. I agree with others about wearing a bra or jogging bra at night.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Gainesville on

I'm very pro-breastfeeding but there are situations where it's not the best for mom or baby. And it sounds like yours is one of them. I don't think it's necessary to discuss any medical conditions with others. If they do question you I think my response would be "wow, that's a really personal question!"

The shot is no longer available as it was found to have dangerous side effects. Also, do not bind your breasts. This can lead to plugged ducts and mastitis. Not something you want to deal with! If it becomes very uncomfortable for you (which it might not) you can hand express just a very small amount. By doing that it will make you more comfortable and it won't signal your body to keep producing as it is totally different than pumping or having baby latch on.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

They can give you a shot to prevent all that, I am surprised your doc didn't tell you this.




answers from San Francisco on

I m sorry about your not being able to breastfeed. I feel for you. I tried my best to breastfeed my first son and because he was so big at birth i couldn't keep up with his feedings and keeping my milk supply up. His dr put him on Alimentum ready made formula and he was happy as a clam. I tried with my second son and had issues with him not being able to latch on (preemie) and my older son 2.5yrs old had nothing with me pumping since I was doing it every 1.5hours. My second son had horrible acid reflux. So all in all, it worked out in the end. To be honest, breastfeeding is a lot of work and going from one to two children is pure insanity, at least for me it was. When my dr asked me if i was going to breastfeed my second son, i said yes and he said, if not ,there is a shot he can give me so my milk will dry up and I won't thave to deal with engourgement. You might want to ask your dr about it. My mom had it too when she had me since she never breastfed.

Good luck to you. Get as much sleep as you can now. No one tells you the ugly truth going from 1-2 children. (boys).

SAHM, 41 with 2 amazing, funny little boys. 4yrs & 20 mos. They move at the speed of light.



answers from Sacramento on

I don't have any good answers regarding the best way to deal with the engorgement. But, here is my suggestion for what you can say to those who are critical that you aren't breastfeeding.... Simply tell them, "you know, I sure would love to be able to breastfeed my child, but I am not able to due to a medical condition, and my Dr. said I should not." That is the truth, and should end the matter with anyone who is critical.



answers from Flagstaff on

Ask the doctor for the shot to dry up your milk.



answers from San Francisco on

Congratulations, first of all. I wanted to offer getting a second opinion first. There are few medical reasons why a woman should not breast feed - and yours may indeed be one of them, but perhaps your doctors are wrong. If a second opinion offers up the same recommendation I would ask a lactation consultant the best way to avoid engorgement postpartum. If anyone asks why you are not nursing (only family and friends should feel intimate enough to do so, but this isn't always the case), tell them you wanted to (if you did) but that your Dr. had to recommend against it in your case. Then ask that they support you in bottle feeding, since that is your only choice and you do not want to feel badly at this joyous time in your life. Just ask for their support. Good luck!



answers from San Francisco on

My girlfriend also had trouble nursing and by the time she had her 4th child her doctor gave her a medication that dried up her milk supply. Another altenative is to take a decongestant like Sudafed which dries up not just the mucous membranes but dries up everything. Because your doctor has suggested not to breastfeed for a medical condition, that doctor should be able to give you a medication to help with the pain and discomfort of engourged breasts.
As for what to tell nosey people why you are not, tell them that you take a medicine that passes in the breast milk and don't want it to be passed to your child or simply tell them that it is not the best option for me or my baby and our doctor supports that decision.

Good luck!

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