MVEC is supportive of breastfeeding at the time of childhood immunisations. In this information page, we detail the different types of vaccines and indications for having a more detailed discussion with your healthcare provider. Immunising breastfeeding mothers will not impact their ability to produce breastmilk.
Inactivated (e.g. seasonal influenza and whooping cough) and live-attenuated vaccines (e.g. measles-mumps-rubella) are generally safe to administer to women who are breastfeeding.
In some instances, antibodies created by the mother in response to a vaccine can be passed onto the infant via breastmilk (passive immunity) to be absorbed orally and provide short term protection. Any maternal antibodies passed onto a baby via breastmilk does not interfere with a baby’s immune response to their own vaccines.
In addition, there are no concerns for a breastfeeding mother to have contact with someone who has recently received either a live-attenuated or an inactivated vaccine.
Annual influenza immunisation is safe and recommended for breastfeeding mothers. Babies less than 6-months of age are at greatest risk from disease yet cannot receive influenza vaccines until they are 6-months of age. Maternal immunisation will provide protection for mothers as well as providing some passive protection for babies through the secretion of antibodies until they are old enough to receive their own influenza vaccine [refer to MVEC: Influenza vaccine recommendations].
The MMR vaccine is a live-attenuated vaccine and therefore immunisation should be avoided in the 28 days prior to a pregnancy and is contraindicated during pregnancy. However, it is safe for immunisation to occur at any time following delivery including whilst breastfeeding with no concerns for the mother or the breastfed infant.
It is safe for mothers who are positive for the hepatitis B virus to breastfeed their baby as long as the infant receives a dose of hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) at birth as well as all scheduled doses of hepatitis B vaccine commencing with the birth dose.
Yellow fever vaccines
The live-attenuated yellow fever vaccination should be avoided in breastfeeding mothers. Anyone travelling to a yellow fever endemic area should have a specialist travel consultation to provide individual travel advice and discuss immunisation recommendations. There is some evidence to suggest that yellow fever vaccine virus can be transmitted to infants via breastmilk. Infants are not recommended to receive the yellow fever vaccine until a minimum of 9-months of age due to its side effects profile [refer to Australian Immunisation Handbook: Yellow fever].
There are a lot of excellent resources that review the evidence and support the administration of routine vaccines to breastfeeding mothers.
- Australian Breastfeeding Association: Breastfeeding and immunity
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Vaccination safety for breastfeeding mothers
- Immunisation Advisory Centre: Immunisation and breastfeeding
- Australian Immunisation Handbook: Vaccination for women who are planning pregnancy, pregnant or breastfeeding
- MVEC: Maternal vaccination during pregnancy
- MVEC: Influenza vaccine recommendations
Authors: Dr Nigel Crawford (Director SAEFVIC, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute), Rachael McGuire (Research Nurse SAEFVIC, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute) and Georgina Lewis (Clinical Manager SAEFVIC, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)
Date: August 2020
Materials in this section are updated as new information becomes available. The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) staff regularly review materials for accuaracy.
You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family’s personal health. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult a healthcare professional.