If you have shingles, precautions while nursing may involve covering your shingles rash, expressing and disposing of your milk, or keeping the baby away from direct contact with active blisters. Working with a healthcare professional is highly advised.

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If you’ve developed shingles after giving birth, you may wonder how the condition affects your ability to nurse, breastfeed, or chestfeed. You may be able to nurse your baby safely if you have shingles depending on the location of your rash and the precautions you take.

Yes, you can nurse your baby if you have shingles unless both of your breasts are affected by a shingles rash or you cannot do so without your baby coming into contact with your rash.

Shingles itself cannot be passed to another person, but the varicella-zoster virus is highly contagious. Being exposed to the virus may lead someone to develop chickenpox if they have not had it yet, or shingles, if they had chickenpox at some point. Accordingly, your baby could develop chickenpox or pediatric shingles.

The way you may expose your baby and others to the shingles virus is if there’s direct contact with your active shingles rash. This is before your blisters crust over and scabs heal.

If you have symptoms of shingles, nursing your baby is safe as long as there are no skin lesions, oozing blisters, or open sores on or under the breast.

If there are blisters or lesions on only one breast, you’ll need to nurse with the other breast and avoid contact between the baby and any affected areas. You may also need to cover your shingles rash completely with clean, dry bandages, and wash your hands before touching your baby.

You may also want to work with a medical team to ensure you’re taking all necessary precautions while nursing to keep your baby safe.

Data does not indicate that shingles is more common in the postpartum period of life. However, some experts speculate that people with weakened immune systems may be more likely to develop shingles.

The postpartum period may bring unique challenges and changes that may become stressful for some people. Stress is a common cause of weakened immunity and someone may get shingles during this time if they already had chickenpox.

If you cannot chestfeed due to blisters, research indicates it’s important to continue expressing your milk to maintain supply and prevent mastitis.

You cannot use the milk for your baby if you have an active rash on the breast, though. You may want to continue expressing and disposing of your milk until your skin heals and you can resume nursing the baby. Washing your hands with soap and water every time you do this is essential. You also want to try to cover the blisters with bandages whenever you’re not expressing the milk.

Working with a pediatrician and other healthcare professionals to determine how and what to feed your baby during this time is highly advised.

You may consider getting additional lactation support via a consultant, pediatrician, or another professional trained to assist the parents of infants.

It’s also important that you get treatment for shingles as soon as you notice the first signs. This may reduce its severity and help you recover faster. Early management with antiviral medications may also decrease the chance of complications like long-term pain (postherpetic neuralgia).

Can shingles be passed through breast milk?

No, shingles cannot be passed through breast milk itself. The varicella-zoster virus can only be spread through direct contact with open shingles blisters, and it can cause chickenpox in those who do not have immunity, like a baby. If your shingles rash is not on the breast and your baby doesn’t come in contact with it, you may nurse safely.

Can antivirals be passed through breast milk?

A healthcare professional may prescribe an antiviral medication to treat shingles. Antiviral medications may or may not pass through breast milk. Most people who are taking antiviral medications to treat shingles may continue to nurse, as long as there are no open wounds on the breast. However, it’s a good idea to ask your prescribing doctor about the precautions to take if you’re taking antivirals and nursing your baby.

Can a baby get chickenpox from someone with shingles?

It is possible for a baby to get chickenpox from someone with shingles. This is because they are not immune to the varicella-zoster virus, which causes both chickenpox and shingles. Infection can occur only through direct contact between the baby and an active shingles rash.

Nursing can be safe for your baby, but only if there are no shingles blisters on the breast or in an area that comes in contact with your little one. Direct contact with fluids from the blisters can cause chickenpox in newborns. The virus is not passed through breast milk.

If you have blisters on your breast caused by shingles, it’s important to continue expressing your milk to prevent an infection. You cannot give this milk to your child if you have an active rash on the breast. Washing your hands often and covering your lesions with bandages is essential.

Checking with a pediatrician and your doctor about taking antivirals while nursing is highly encouraged, as well as asking about shingles precautions while nursing.