Most of us have heard of the disease, but not the one that causes shingles.

Shingles comes from the same varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox. In fact, shingles happens when this virus is already in a person’s body and gets reactivated later in life.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 1 in 3 people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime. And the rate of shingles has been increasing over the past 20 years.

Adults over age 60 are more likely to have shingles. The main reasons why shingles are not dead are not clear.

The blisters on the body are caused by the condition. It can be incredibly painful and disrupt your quality of life. You may experience a slight ache.

After 2 to 4 weeks, shingles resolves. The severity and length of a shingles case can be reduced with the use of medication.

If you’ve developed shingles after giving birth, you may wonder how the condition affects your ability to nurse, breastfeed, or chestfeed.

“This article reviews research on whether people with shingles can nurse and what you can do to support your and your child’s health during this time.”

Someone preparing to breastfeed a baby.
nomad studio/Stocksy United

No data indicates that shingles is more common in the postpartum period of life.

Some experts think that people with lower immune systems are more likely to get shingles. The stress of the post-partum period can cause some healthy behaviors to fall by the wayside.

According to the CDC, rates of shingles in the United States have been increasing in adults between ages 30 and 69, so new parents may be more likely to contract shingles now than in previous years.

“Most people don’t experience shingles, and it’s not a common experience.”

If you have shingles, you may have concerns about breastfeeding.

The varicella-zoster virus can be passed on to others. It can cause a disease in people who have not yet had the disease.

The blisters that develop in an active shingles infection are the source of the infections.

Yet nursing can still be safe if you have shingles. Even with an active shingles infection, you can still breastfeed or chestfeed as long as there are no skin lesions or open sores on the breast, according to the CDC.

If there are only blisters on one breast, you can still feed on the unaffected one. To avoid direct contact with your baby, be sure to cover blisters with clean, dry bandages.

You should wash your hands often. You can work with a medical team to make sure you are taking all the necessary precautions while nursing.

If you cannot breastfeed or chestfeed due to blisters, it’s important to continue expressing your milk to maintain supply and prevent mastitis, 2020 research suggests.

If your skin heals, you can resume nursing. Before and after doing so, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water and cover the blisters with bandages.

You should work with a healthcare professional to determine what is best for your baby.

We understand that it can be difficult to provide adequate breastfeeding support, so you may consider getting additional support from a lactation consultant, a doctor, or another provider.

People have questions about shingles precautions when nursing.

Can shingles be passed through breast milk?

Breast milk cannot be used to transmit shingles. The varicella-zoster virus can only be spread through open wounds, and it can cause chickenpox in people who do not have immunity.

Can antivirals be passed through breast milk?

An antiviral medication can be prescribed to a healthcare professional.

Antivirals cannot be passed through breast milk. People who are taking antiviral medications to treat shingles can continue to breastfeed, per the CDC, as long as there are no open wounds on the breast.

Can a baby get chickenpox from someone with shingles?

It is possible for a baby to get shingles. They are not immune to the varicella-zoster virus, which causes both shingles and chickenpox.

This can only happen through direct contact with the blisters and open wounds.

If there are no blisters on the breast, nursing can be safe for people with shingles. It is possible to cause chickenpox in newborns by direct contact with blisters.

Mastitis can be prevented if you continue to express your milk. You should wash your hands often and cover your wounds with bandages.

It is possible to reach out to a healthcare professional for additional support.