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I was supporting a friend a while back who suffers from oral herpes
and was about to embark on tandem nursing. We scoured my bf books
for information, she asked her gp and her bfc and I contacted the
Herpes Association, and together we came up with the following:
"The Herpes Simplex (I) virus can cause 'cold sores' (usually on the
lips but sometimes in the mouth or on the breasts) or a genital
infection (II) in mothers. It can be extremely serious and even
fatal for very young babies under one month old. No one with a cold
sore or a sore mouth from a herpes infection should kiss a baby.
Women with herpes sores on the breast should not breastfeed and
should discard their milk until the sores have healed and therefore
aren't shedding viruses. Any sores on the breasts must be kept
covered so that the baby does not touch them.
If there are no sores on the breast, experts simply recommend strict
hygiene precautions, treating the infection and continuing to
breastfeed. It is extremely unusual for breast milk to contain
Until the sores are dried, the mother needs to follow strict
wash her hands before holding the baby and after she touches the
put clean coverings over the sores, and
avoid kissing the baby when she has a cold sore on or near her mouth
A few experts, however, advise a woman with a first herpes attack,
especially of the genital area, not to breastfeed. This is because
of the danger of a newborn baby becoming infected with viruses that
are potentially very dangerous to him, as his immune system is
vulnerable and breast milk hasn't yet had a chance to develop much
anti-herpes protective activity. These experts also say there's more
chance of developing a sore on the breast during a first attack.
In any case, if there is a sore on the nipple or areola or anywhere
the baby might come into contact with it while he nurses, the mother
will need to express her milk from that breast until the sore heals.
She can however, continue to nurse on the unaffected breast.
A woman advised not to breastfeed can keep her milk supply going by
frequent expression or pumping, but should discard the milk if there
is any risk of transferring the virus into the milk by contamination
from the sores. Once the infection has cleared and she's no longer
shedding viruses, she'll then have plenty of milk and can start to
breastfeed. The anti-viral drug acyclovir has considerably
brightened the outlook for treatment.
Diagnosis of the virus in babies and children can be difficult by
visual examination and is sometimes mistaken for hand, foot and mouth
disease. However, a culture of the sore can confirm herpes within a
Herpes can easily be passed among family members, father to mother,
sibling to sibling, mother to baby. In one recorded case, a nursing
toddler with a cold sore in his mouth passed herpes to his mother via
nursing (Sealander and Kerr 1989).
If a mother wished to tandem feed her new baby and her toddler, and
the older child has the virus, there may be some concern about the
infection being passed to the baby through the virus being left on
the nipple in traces of saliva. However, the virus is quite fragile
and a quick wipe with a mild soap would burst it's skin and destroy
it. Further to this, the baby of a woman with herpes simplex has
herpes simplex antibodies (transplacental protection) and the
exclusively breastfed baby would be very unlikely to catch the virus
before about 6 months.
A baby who was not breastfeeding would have a much lesser degree of
protection from the virus and would be more at risk of contracting
herpes simplex after 3 months.
If the baby were to contract herpes simplex, the initial outbreak
would be the most uncomfortable but even so, it would be localised to
one area and sores would not break out in places other than the
initial site. Vaseline and teething gel or powders may ease the
discomfort whilst nursing and cool drinks, ice pops or plain ice
cubes to suck may be helpful at other times.
A herpes infection is serious or life-threatening only if it is
acquired in utero, at birth, or during the first few weeks of life
(Sullivan-Bolyai 1983; Quinn and Lofberg 1978). Following the
previously listed precautions can help avoid this possibility."
Breast is Best by Dr. Penny Stanway, 2005 ed.
The Breastfeeding Answer Book by La Leche League International, Third
revised ed. 2003
Herpes Viruses Association
41 North Road, London N7 9DP
Tel 020 7607 9661
Don't hesitate to contact Marian Nicholson direct at the Herpes Virus
Association for more information - she is very helpful.
Advice seems pretty contradictory. It says discard pumped milk but then says it's extremely unusual for the virus to be in the milk and the virus is fragile.
I'm wondering if I've got herpes on my nipples...I thought candida, but now I'm not sure. What does it look like?
When it becomes lesions, it looks like round craters with pale brown "gunk" in them and eventually they scab over. Before that it was just deep sores, similar to what some moms get when they start nursing and nipples get cracked.
What makes you think you might have herpes - have you been exposed to it? It's nasty so I hope you haven't.......
Ok, it's probably just candida gone totally haywire then. I thought they would look as described above, but just wanted to check. I've got long, narrow "gashes" that sound more like what candida can do when it gets really bad. DS had a cold sore, but I would have been surprised if I had contracted it on my breast b/c I've got antibodies to it, but was just thinking...
Anyway, I've got a call into a physician who specializes in breastfeeding medicine, so I'm really hoping she can help. None of these remedies/meds are doing diddly so far.
…should discard the milk if there is any risk of transferring the virus into the milk by contamination from the sores…
…If there are no sores on the breast, experts simply recommend strict hygiene precautions, treating the infection and continuing to
breastfeed. It is extremely unusual for breast milk to contain
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