Although breast milk is the best diet in the first few months of life, risks can arise for the breast-fed infant. The article gives a comprehensive overview of possible risks regarding xenobiotics and pathogens in mother's milk, including medications, smoking, alcohol consumption, coffee consumption, persistent environmental contaminants and residues as well as infections.Where drug therapy is indicated, suitable medications are available for most conditions nowadays, so that prolonged nursing breaks or even weaning is not required. Long-term treatment, especially under combination therapy, needs to be examined on a case-by-case basis, however. Smoking and alcohol consumption should be avoided during the breastfeeding period, while moderate coffee consumption (up to 2 cups daily) is not of concern. The current levels of environmental contaminants and residues in breast milk are considered to be harmless to health; indeed, the body burden of dioxins considered to be critically high more than 20 years ago has been reduced by a factor of 10 to date. Among maternal infections, an human deficiency virus (HIV) infection is one of the few medical indications for weaning in countries with adequate hygiene standards.All in all, the risks of xenobiotics and pathogens in mother's milk are generally low in exclusively breastfed infants, so that there is usually no need for prolonged nursing breaks or even weaning. In only a small number of maternal conditions (certain medications, HIV infection), the infant should not be breastfed.
Keywords: Breastfeeding; Contaminant; Infection; Medication; Residues.