“We just need to check if you can breastfeed on that…”
As far as I’m aware mammals breastfeed. People still choose to breast/ chestfeed so why over the past few weeks have I heard “we just need to check if you can breastfeed on that…”?
A friend of mine was told that if she wanted to change anti-depressants then she would have to stop feeding her son. Grossly untrue and misleading information by a healthcare professional that as a society we are taught to trust and not to question. Thankfully this incredible lady did her research and whilst breastfeeding is still working for her she’s able to carry on.
As a healthcare professional I am an advocate of breastfeeding people. As a mum I have gotten so much joy out of feeding my nine month old son and frankly, hearing this (sometimes untrue) narrative of “you can’t take that because you’re breastfeeding”, is damaging.
I’d been suffering from reflux since my son was born
I’ve had reflux since my son has been born. Typical post pregnancy stuff right? I’ve spent hours in agony, having a bath and crying at all times of night to try to not disturb my son and husband. Waking up the next day, after a couple of hours and trying to be the best mum for my little boy. Very recently I had a bout of reflux that would not settle.
I was awake all Saturday night in pain, but I pushed through until Monday when I called my GP. “Emergency appointments only” went the message. Reflux? Not an emergency, surely. I thought it best to do something else but my husband was very insistent that it was urgent. I ended up taking my son to baby group and went to the pharmacist. After crying to the sweetest pharmacist she recommended that I saw an out of hours GP. I’m an intensive care nurse and I was genuinely bereft at seeking urgent care for reflux, but this was 48 hours of pain now and no sleep.
I’m an intensive care nurse and I was genuinely bereft at seeking urgent care for reflux, but this was 48 hours of pain now and no sleep.
Finally I got a thorough examination
I saw an out of hours GP, he was lovely. He gave me a thorough examination. “Could well have reflux but the gallbladder is causing you the pain”. I was shocked, I’d been into hospital with the exact same pain. I was sure it was reflux. He prescribed some codeine and told me to go to the GP in the morning to arrange an ultrasound.
The codeine did nothing, also it is not advised for breastfeeding women. I took a dose because I wanted to sleep. I’d read that if no other alternatives available then codeine can be taken as long as the baby is monitored. My husband was vigilant.
By this point I’d gone yellow and was in agony
To cut a long story short the next day I saw the surgeon who sent me home and told me to take paracetamol and codeine. I wasn’t willing to take more codeine. I was in agony. The following day I went back for an ultrasound, gallstones! With a blocked bile duct and and inflamed gallbladder. By this point I’d gone yellow (jaundice), my urine looked like cola and I was still in agony.
I was sent home with antibiotics but still told the codeine was fine. A medic, angelic friend of mine encouraged me to get some dihydrocodeine prescribed. I called the GP and got them to prescribe this. It is considered safe for breastfeeding use under a physician.
The pain was awful and my liver wasn’t working properly
It didn’t do much, the next day I looked like a character from the Simpsons. I went back into hospital and was admitted. The pharmacist came to see me and nobody had told her that I was breastfeeding despite making that very clear on my admission. She went through all of the drugs I’d been prescribed to see if I could breastfeed on them. Honestly I wasn’t in the right place to question by this point. The pain was unbearable and my liver wasn’t working properly. I slept all the time.
To give credit where it’s due the hospital did allow my son and husband to stay with me so that I could keep breastfeeding. I needed him. I shouldn’t need my son but I craved that connection and I missed him horribly whenever he was taken home for some normality. It was hard being away from him and not watching him play and sleep and learn.
To give credit where it’s due the hospital did allow my son and husband to stay with me so that I could keep breastfeeding.
I developed a rash from the toxins accumulating in my body
Over the next few days I developed a rash from the toxins accumulating in my body. Whatever I ate would cause bile to reflux into my liver. I asked for something to help the itching at approximately 15:00 as the itching was so intense. At 22:00 a midwife came to tell me that chlorophenamine was fine to take. Piriton – an over the counter drug!
I honestly couldn’t believe it took the medics and nurses took almost seven hours to check to see if it was safe for me to take Piriton whilst breastfeeding!
I was told I couldn’t breastfeed for 24 hours
Soon I needed to go for an endoscopy. Once I got into the room for the procedure the consultant told me I wouldn’t be able to feed or give my son any milk for 24 hours because of the sedation. 24 hours? Knowing I was breastfeeding, and the damage that could do to my milk supply/ my mental wellbeing.
Luckily I’d done my research. Once I’d gotten back from my procedure and woken up I asked to speak to the pharmacist. I’d looked on the specialist pharmacy services website and knew that I could feed post procedure. She agreed with me that I could but would not go against the consultant and would recommend that I didn’t feed.
We need more support for women breastfeeding with longterm health conditions
My son is weaning but he feeds from me. I am his main source of nutrition. Why was it ever deemed acceptable to suggest that I would just stop for 24 hours? This procedure is routine, why isn’t it common knowledge that women can feed after having certain sedatives? Why aren’t there more resources to support women breastfeeding with long term health conditions? I’m surely not the only breastfeeding parent?
This procedure is routine, why isn’t it common knowledge that women can feed after having certain sedatives?
I’m home now and recovering. I still feel really poorly but we’re getting there. I’m obviously still breastfeeding. I’ve still got no intentions of stopping.
My advice – do your own research
If you are told to stop breastfeeding because you need to take a different medication then I suggest you do your research. Express your concerns to your doctor, contact Drugs in Breastmilk information service run by The Breastfeeding Network or look at the specialist pharmacy services website (UK based).
Take care of yourselves, feel free to question and advocate for yourself.
Disclaimer: I want to make it very clear that the drugs I took were based on medical advice from healthcare professionals. I would not recommend you taking any medication without consulting a physician.