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Breastfeeding and Herpes – Are They Compatible?

Breastfeeding and Herpes - Are They Compatible? #nursing Congrats on your pregnancy! If you have herpes, you are probably worried about the possibility of your baby getting it during labor. You may also be wondering, “Can I breastfeed without making my child sick, or do I have to give my baby formula?” If you do not have herpes, this topic is still important because an estimated 20-25% of pregnant women have genital herpes. So, breastfeeding and herpes…are the two compatible?

What is herpes?

Herpes is an infection caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). Oral herpes causes cold sores around the mouth, and genital herpes affects the genital and anal area. Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection spread by skin to skin contact, usually by oral, vaginal, and anal sex.

What are the two types of HSV?

  1. HSV-1: most commonly causes cold sores in and around the mouth, but can also cause genital herpes.
  2. HSV-2: primary cause of genital herpes, but can also cause infection in the mouth. Almost 1 in 5 American adults is infected with HSV-2.

Can you breastfeed if you have herpes?

Yes, you can, unless you have a lesion on your breast. Infants can contract HSV through direct skin to skin contact with someone who has an active lesion.

If you currently have a herpes outbreak on your nipple or areola, you should:

  • Breastfeed on the unaffected breast
  • Express your milk on the affected side to keep up your supply and prevent engorgement
  • Dump the expressed breast milk and wash your hands after touching the affected breast
  • See your physician so you can be given antivirals to treat the outbreak

Once the outbreak is over, resume breastfeeding.

Are there any other important things to know about herpes and babies?

If you develop a cold sore, do not kiss your baby, educate other adults who have cold sores not to kiss your baby as well, and as always practice good hand hygiene.

Have you wondered if breastfeeding and herpes are compatible?

Sarah is a Christian, wife, and mother of two. She is a nurse by training but has stayed at home with her daughter for almost 4 years. During Sarah’s free time, you can find her knitting, sewing, and blogging over at her personal blog over: Wife, Mummy, Nurse.


  1. I have to admit, it never occurred to me that one couldn’t breastfeed with herpes. I had no idea that lesions could appear on breasts! (I had always thought that it was either oral or genital, no place else.) Today I learned…

  2. Never would have considered that a breastfeeding relationship would be affected by that. Good to know in case it ever comes up in conversation.

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