Most parental mental health problems are treated in the community rather than hospital setting. It is still important for hospital professionals to understand how breastfeeding and mental health problems can be interlinked, in both positive and negative ways, when seeing parents and children for other reasons. See the GP Infant Feeding Network information on maternal mental health and our own resources on medication and lactation, which include antidepressants.

When admission is needed for parental mental health problems

Rarely, admission to hospital is needed for parents with postnatal psychosis, severe postnatal depression or exacerbations of existing severe mental health problems. NICE guidance is that those with a severe mental illness requiring hospital admission should ideally be admitted to a Mother and Baby Unit. There is very little evidence available on breastfeeding in this situation. One study reports that a third of those in a mother-baby inpatient psychiatric unit maintained some breastfeeding.

Full links related to antipsychotics and lithium in lactation are signposted here - these medications are not completely contraindicated in breastfeeding but families and prescribers need to fully understand the risks and monitoring required. NICE says "discuss breastfeeding with all women who may need to take psychotropic medication in pregnancy or in the postnatal period. Explain to them the benefits of breastfeeding, the potential risks associated with taking psychotropic medication when breastfeeding and with stopping some medications in order to breastfeed. Discuss treatment options that would enable a woman to breastfeed if she wishes and support women who choose not to breastfeed"​


Thank you for visiting the Hospital Infant Feeding Network. This website is a repository of relevant knowledge and best practice resources for health professionals. To join the conversation, ask questions and share your experiences please join us on Facebook or Twitter.


We will be running Q&A sessions on various topics, which will be advertised on our social media sites. Please email if you have ideas or want to get more involved. We welcome health professionals passionate about supporting breastfeeding and lactation in the hospital setting to join our steering group, please get in contact if this is you!

You may have noticed that we use 'additive' language on our website to refer to lactation and human milk feeding. This means that we might refer to 'breastfeeding/chestfeeding'. Chestfeeding is a term that some non-binary people use to refer to feeding their child at the chest if the word breast is not congruent with their gender identity. Using additive language helps reduce a feeling of exclusion for non-binary and transgender people, without taking away from the importance of words like breastfeeding and mother. There is a much more detailed description of the additive approach here.

Hospital Infant Feeding Network logo
  • Facebook
  • Twitter


T: @HIFN12


© 2019 by the Hospital Infant Feeding Network
Proudly created with