Infant feeding among women with a history of breast cancer



Health professional organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, but there are mothers, such as those with a history of breast cancer, who are unable to exclusively provide their milk for their infants. Minimal research has been published on mothers’ experience with lactation, breastfeeding, and bottle-feeding after breast cancer. This study explored mothers’ perspectives of infant feeding after a history of breast cancer.


Qualitative interviews were completed with 20 mothers who had experience with infant feeding after breast cancer, including exclusive breastfeeding, partial provision of human milk with formula supplementation, and exclusive formula feeding.


Mothers shared their perceptions, barriers, and experiences of infant feeding. Four themes were identified: miracle of motherhood after breast cancer, medical misinformation or no available information contributing to the exacerbation of mothers’ worries, post-breast-cancer feeding challenges, and desire for infant-feeding support rather than pressure.


Mothers who have had breast cancer and have since given birth face specific challenges to infant feeding which are compounded by limited resources and knowledge among healthcare providers. Findings of the study highlight the importance of healthcare professionals becoming more educated to provide adequate support and evidence-based information on lactation and infant feeding for women with a history of breast cancer.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

Understanding the experiences of women who have given birth after breast cancer can help women in similar situations know that they are not alone, identify resources, access peer support, and seek evidence-based infant feeding advice from healthcare providers involved in their care.

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The authors thank the mothers who participated in the study and shared their experiences.

Funding information

IC received funding from Ohio University to conduct the study.

Author information

Correspondence to Ilana R. Azulay Chertok.

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Ethical standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of interest

Author IC declares that she has no conflict of interest. Author JW declares that she has no conflict of interest. Author SB declares that she has no conflict of interest. Author EW declares that she has no conflict of interest.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Azulay Chertok, I.R., Wolf, J.H., Beigelman, S. et al. Infant feeding among women with a history of breast cancer. J Cancer Surviv (2020) doi:10.1007/s11764-019-00852-z

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  • Breast cancer
  • Infant feeding
  • Mothers’ experience
  • Qualitative study