A Family History Of Breast Cancer Won't Affect Breastfeeding

by Mishal Ali Zafar

Making the decision to breastfeed your baby is one that comes from love and commitment, but it also requires taking some things into consideration. If you work or are a single parent, you might have to figure out the timing of breastfeeding and pumping, and if you have health issues, you might have to work around those. If you or a family member has had the misfortune of dealing with cancer, you may even be concerned. Does breast cancer affect breastfeeding? Can you breastfeed if your family has a history of breast cancer?

Turns out, if there is a history of cancer in your family, there is no reason for concern, according to International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and registered nurse, Lori Atkins, from Oh, Baby Lactation Care.

"Cancer history is not a concern in breastfeeding a baby," Atkins tells Romper. "Actually, breastfeeding decreases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, so there's that plus." She notes that having an open discussion with your healthcare provider is really important, along with ongoing screenings for any cancer risk factors.

IBCLC Lindsay Greenfield also tells Romper that some of the components found in breast milk are thought to be protective against cancer.

"Breastfeeding is a preventative for all cancers of the reproductive tract, and women who have a history of cancer in their families should be encouraged to breastfeed," she says.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, breastfeeding is one of the top ten recommendations for cancer prevention. Their study showed that breastfeeding can lower the level of hormones that are related to cancer in the mother's body, and that her body gets rid of breast cells that can have DNA damage at the end of breastfeeding, which can lower the risk of developing breast cancer later on in life.

Having a history of cancer in your family shouldn't prevent you from breastfeeding your baby, and breastfeeding could actually be a preventative measure in reducing the risk of developing breast cancer. If you've had a history of cancers in your family, and are concerned about your own health, talk to your health care provider about continued tests and screenings. It's great to know that when you choose to breastfeed, you're making a choice that's beneficial for you and your baby.