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What about Herpes and Breastfeeding?

There are two different Herpes Simplex strains: Herpes I generally produces cold sores, and Herpes II results in genital lesions. Mothers who have sores on their breasts should be evaluated for treatment by a doctor because not all sores are caused by herpes.

Once either strain of herpes is acquired, it is always present, waiting for a time when stress or illness overwhelms the body.....and it flares up. Since pregnancy is considered to be a immunocompromised condition, a mother is more likely to have an episode at this time. To help avoid this, a mother can concentrate on a good diet, lots of rest and removing as much stress and conflict from her life as possible.

Herpes sores are spread through contact. If a herpes sore appears on the mother’s breast she should cover it. If it is on the areola or nipple, she should stop breastfeeding on that side until the sore is healed. Expressing or pumping milk from the affected breast will minimize the risk of engorgement (which could lead to plugged ducts and/or mastitis) as well as keep up her supply. If the mother’s hand or her pump touch the sore, the milk should be discarded. She can continue to nurse from the unaffected breast.

In young babies--a month or less--herpes can have fatal consequences. This is why mothers with active genital lesions don't deliver vaginally. Serious complications rarely happen in babies older than 4 weeks.

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