MRSA (staph infection) and breast feeding?

Originally Published: July 3, 2009
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Dear Alice,

Is it okay to breast feed if I have been treated for MRSA?

Dear Reader,

Congratulations on the new addition to your family! MRSA is a dangerous bacterial infection, so you're smart to be concerned about breastfeeding. Formally known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, MRSA is a hardy strain of staph bacteria that is resistant to treatment with commonly used antibiotics. Health professionals believe MRSA can be passed through breast milk, which is bad news for moms-to-be and mothers who want to breastfeed. Symptoms of MRSA include:

  • Redness, warmth and tenderness of a wound
  • Pus — a yellowish-white fluid that may have a foul smell
  • Fever
  • Pneumonia

It seems that MRSA can be spread from mother to infant by direct breastfeeding and also through milk expressed with a breast pump. Infants and young children are particularly susceptible to MRSA since their immune systems are still developing.

MRSA responds to treatment with some antibiotics but not others. If you were recently treated for MRSA, you may be been prescribed an antibiotic called vancomycin. This medication can have serious side effects including damage to the kidneys and hearing. The risks of using vancomycin during pregnancy or while breastfeeding has not been studied.

Since MRSA and treatment with vancomycin poses serious health risks, talk with your obstetrician, pediatrician, or another health care provider about ways to protect yourself and your baby. At Columbia, students can make an appointment at Primary Care Medical Services (PCMS) by calling x4-2284 or logging on to Open Communicator.

Best of luck to you and your baby!

Alice