Breastfeeding and cancer treatments

Your specialist doctor, nurse and midwife will give you advice about breastfeeding. It usually depends on where you are with your treatment plan.

Chemotherapy and breastfeeding

If chemotherapy finishes a few weeks before your baby is born, you may be able to breastfeed straight away. Your midwife will give you lots of support and advice.

If you continue chemotherapy after the birth, your doctor or nurse will recommend you do not breastfeed. This is because the drugs could be passed to your baby through breast milk.

If you are not having any other treatment after chemotherapy, you could think about expressing milk. You will not be able to keep this milk for your baby. But expressing milk means you will still be producing milk when chemotherapy finishes. After a few weeks you could then start to breastfeed.

We have more information about Chemotherapy and pregnancy.

Other drugs and breastfeeding

Targeted therapy, immunotherapy drugs or hormonal therapy drugs can be passed to your baby through breast milk. Your doctor will tell you not to breastfeed while you are having these drugs.

We have more information about targeted and immunotherapy drugs and pregnancy.

Radiotherapy and breastfeeding

If you have had radiotherapy to the breast or chest, you may not produce any milk in that breast. You can still breastfeed from the other (non-treated) breast.

If you are having radiotherapy to other areas of the body away from your chest it is usually safe to continue breastfeeding. Talk to your cancer doctor or nurse first.

Donor breast milk

If you do not have enough of your own breast milk, some hospitals offer donated breast milk for babies born prematurely. The United Kingdom Association for Milk Banking (UKAMB) is a registered charity that supports milk banking in the UK. There are strict processes to make sure donor breast milk is safe.

This information was produced in partnership with Mummy's Star.

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Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 November 2019
Next review: 01 November 2022

This content is currently being reviewed. New information will be coming soon.

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