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Breast feeding and your scan

Breast feeding advice

Your doctor would like you to have a Nuclear Medicine Scan. You will have to stop feeding your breast milk to your baby for a short period of time. How long this time is depends on exactly what sort of scan you are having. The Nuclear Medicine Department can give you more information.

Generally the instructions are to:

  • feed your baby normally just before the start of the test
  • express your breast milk fully from both breasts at each normal feed time from the time the test starts until the end of the period of time you have been told
  • discard the expressed milk and do not give it to your baby
  • after the period of time you have been told, you can go back to feeding normally again

Why does the scan affect breast feeding?

As part of the scan you will be given a small amount of radioactivity. Some of it may go into your breast milk. If your baby drank this milk, he/she would also drink a small amount of radioactivity and it is best to reduce this as much as possible.

Why use radioactivity at all?

Different tests tell your doctor different things. Your doctor considers that a radionuclide scan is the best test in your case. The amount of radiation you will receive is very small: similar to an X-ray.

How much radiation will my baby get?

If you follow the specific advice are given by the Nuclear Medicine Department for the test you are having, then your baby will get only a tiny radiation dose. However, even if you did not follow this advice, your baby will only get a radiation dose that is less than the natural background radiation we all get every six months.

Why must I stop breast feeding for a few hours?

This is to keep the radioactivity your baby gets from your milk to a very low level. This is done in two ways:

  • Wait for some time - this is because the amount of radioactivity in your milk will go down with time
  • Express your milk - by expressing your milk at normal feed-times you will get rid of the radioactivity

What shall I feed my baby with instead?

If you have the chance:

  • express your milk before the start of the test
  • store this milk
  • use this to feed your baby


  • you can use formula milk for the necessary feeds; or cooled, boiled water can be used in place of one feed

How shall I feed my baby?

If your baby has only been breast fed up until now, most midwives recommend that you do not use a bottle (some babies find it hard to breast feed after having a bottle). Instead you can use a special "Ameda" cup.

More questions?

If you need help with expressing your milk, storing your milk or feeding your baby, please ask your midwife, health visitor or breast feeding counsellor.

If you have more questions about the test you will be having, or about how long a period you will have to interrupt breast feeding, please contact the Nuclear Medicine Department.

Last reviewed: 14 June 2023