Severe illness

Can being really sick after delivery affect my milk supply?

A mother who is severely ill during or just after pregnancy may have a temporary or permanently low milk supply or her milk may come in late. Severe illness can affect milk supply or leave a mother unable to breastfeed or express.

A) Describing severe illness

A few mothers become severely ill during or immediately after delivery. Possible illnesses include:

  • Major infection of a Caesarean delivery wound
  • High blood pressure with related problems (pre-eclampsia or eclampsia) (Cordero 2012; Demirci 2018; Leeners 2005)
  • Other complications of labour or delivery such as a major blood loss or drop in blood pressure
  • Other severe illnesses unrelated to pregnancy and delivery

B) Effect of severe illness on breastfeeding

Some very ill mothers are able to establish a normal milk supply. Others may have their milk come in latemay have a low milk supply for a few days or weeks after delivery, or may never have enough milk.

Illness can:

  • Prevent the mother’s body from making milk.
  • Prevent her from breastfeeding or expressing to establish her milk supply.
  • Result in mother-baby separation.


Cordero L, Valentine CJ, Samuels P, et al. Breastfeeding in women with severe preeclampsia. Breastfeed Med. 2012 Dec;7(6):457-63
Demirci J, Schmella M, Glasser M, et al. Delayed Lactogenesis II and potential utility of antenatal milk expression in women developing late-onset preeclampsia: a case series. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2018 Mar 15;18(1):68
Leeners B, Rath W, Kuse S, et al. Breast-feeding in women with hypertensive disorders in pregnancy. J Perinat Med. 2005;33(6):553-60