Breastfeeding initiation, duration, and reasons for weaning in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus

Rheumatol Int. 2017 Jul;37(7):1183-1186. doi: 10.1007/s00296-017-3750-1. Epub 2017 May 24.


To assess breastfeeding in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a cross-sectional study of patients with SLE compared to a non-SLE sample was performed. Patients who had pregnancies subsequent to their diagnosis of SLE and who were followed up in the hospital were interviewed. The group of non-SLE mothers consisted of patients who had no known rheumatic disease at the time of their pregnancy, and who were approached at the hospital paediatrics service waiting room. Thirty-six pregnancies in 31 patients with SLE and the same number of non-SLE mothers were studied. The number of SLE patients who did not initiate breastfeeding was higher than that of non-SLE mothers (19.4 vs 5.6%, respectively; p 0.07). The average duration of breastfeeding in SLE patients was 6 months (SD 6 months) versus 12 months (SD 8 months) in non-SLE mothers (log rank p: 0.003). Fifty-three percent of the non-SLE mothers indicated no particular reason for weaning, and considered that they had nursed their children a suitable amount of time. Conversely, SLE patients often set weaning in motion on the grounds that they had been placed on medication (41%). However, when the treatment was analysed, in 6 out of 12 cases, it consisted of low doses of either corticosteroids or hydroxychloroquine. Patients with SLE showed reduced rates of initiating breastfeeding. They also showed reduced duration of breastfeeding, and the reason for cessation was frequently cited to be therapies which were actually of low risk. Breastfeeding duration could be optimised by improving the level of information provided to patients.

Keywords: Breastfeeding; Hydroxychloroquine; Systemic lupus erythematosus; Weaning.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage*
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects
  • Adult
  • Antirheumatic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxychloroquine / administration & dosage*
  • Hydroxychloroquine / adverse effects
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / diagnosis
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Weaning*
  • Young Adult


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Hydroxychloroquine