Healthy living

Hepatitis C and breastfeeding

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver, causing swelling and pain.  It is a blood-borne virus which means it is passed on when infected blood enters another person’s bloodstream.

Is it safe to breastfeed if I have hepatitis C?

Breastfeeding is safe unless your nipples are cracked or bleeding.

Breast milk has not been shown to transmit hepatitis C. 

Reasons to interrupt or stop breastfeeding

As hepatitis C can be spread through contact with infected blood, you should temporarily stop breastfeeding if:

  • your nipples are grazed, cracked or bleeding
  • there is an infection in your breast, such as mastitis
  • your breast is bruised, such as through injury
  • there are cuts in your baby’s mouth.

To make sure your milk supply does not decrease during this time express your breast milk and throw it away.

You can start breastfeeding again once the symptoms above have cleared.

How do I know if my child has hepatitis C?

There is a small risk (about 5 per cent) of mothers transmitting hepatitis C to their babies at birth. We do not know why the spread occurs or how to reduce this small risk.

A blood test is needed to diagnose hepatitis C.

All children born to a mother with hepatitis C should have a blood test after 8 weeks of age. However, it may not be possible to know if your baby has hepatitis C until your baby is 12 to 18 months old

Blood testing can be arranged through your GP or Aboriginal community controlled health service. Your GP can help if a referral is needed to see the General Infectious Diseases Clinic at Perth Children’s Hospital.

What does it mean if my child gets hepatitis C?

There is not a lot known about how hepatitis C affects children. If any liver disease or damage is caused by hepatitis C it occurs slowly. Usually no medical treatment is required in the early years of life. If your child has hepatitis C they should see a paediatric liver disease specialist (gastroenterologist) regularly.

Where to get help

Breastfeeding Centre of WA

  • Counselling and appointments 8.00am to 4.00pm Monday to Friday
  • Phone: (08) 6458 1844
  • More information about Breastfeeding Centre of WA

Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA)

  • National Breastfeeding Helpline available 24 hours, 7 days a week
  • Phone: 1800 mum 2 mum (1800 686 268)
  • Visit the ABA website (external site)

Ngala Parenting Line

  • Phone: (08) 9368 9368 – 8.00am to 8.00pm 7 days a week
  • Outside metro area – Free call 1800 111 546 (free from land line only)
  • Visit the Ngala website (external site)

You can also:

Last reviewed: 24-11-2023
Breastfeeding Centre of WA

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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