Hepatitis C and breastfeeding
Hepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver, causing swelling and pain. It is a blood-borne virus which means it is passed on when infected blood enters another person’s bloodstream.
Is it safe to breastfeed if I have hepatitis C?
Breastfeeding is safe unless your nipples are cracked or bleeding.
Breast milk has not been shown to transmit hepatitis C.
There is a small risk (about 5 per cent) of mothers transmitting hepatitis C to their babies at birth. We do not know why the spread occurs and there is nothing that can be done to reduce this small risk.
Reasons to interrupt or stop breastfeeding
As hepatitis C can be spread through contact with infected blood, you should temporarily stop breastfeeding if:
- your nipples are grazed, cracked or bleeding
- there is an infection in your breast, such as mastitis
- your breast is bruised, such as through injury
- there are cuts in your baby’s mouth.
To make sure your milk supply does not decrease during this time express your breast milk and throw it away.
You can start breastfeeding again once the symptoms above have cleared.
How do I know if my child has hepatitis C?
A blood test is needed to diagnose hepatitis C.
It may not be possible to know if your baby has hepatitis C until your baby is 18 months old as the blood tests may give incorrect results.
Blood testing can be arranged through your GP or the Infectious Diseases Clinic at Princess Margaret Hospital.
What does it mean if my child gets hepatitis C?
There is not a lot known about how hepatitis C affects children. If any liver disease or damage is caused by hepatitis C it occurs slowly. Usually no medical treatment is required in the early years of life. If your child has hepatitis C they should see a paediatric liver disease specialist (gastroenterologist) regularly.
Where to get help
Breastfeeding Centre of WA
- Phone: 9368 9368 – 8.00am to 8.00pm 7 days a week
- Outside metro area – Free call 1800 111 546 (free from land line only)
- Visit the Ngala website (external site)
Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA)
You can also:
- See your doctor
- Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222
Breastfeeding Centre of WA
This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.