Chemotherapy and breastfeeding/pumping - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 11-06-2013, 01:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and have been EBF my 2.5 month old, as well as occasionally nursing my toddler. It is a real blow that I won't be able to breastfeed during chemotherapy, which is going to start in around 3-4 weeks. I am pumping like crazy to give my baby the longest time possible with my milk.

 

I'm not sure how much pumping you need to do a day to keep a supply going. My oncologist said I will not be able to nurse between chemo sessions, so I am likely looking at 6+ months of exclusively pumping (and dumping) to keep my milk in. Is that really possible? Would it be easier to let myself dry up and then try to stimulate lactation later?

 

Help!


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#2 of 9 Old 11-06-2013, 01:47 PM
 
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First: call Infant Risk. You *may* be able to nurse in between Chemo sessions, depending on the transfer/excretion rate of the medications. It is really impossible to say w/o specifics but Dr. Hale will know if anyone does.
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#3 of 9 Old 11-07-2013, 11:52 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the resource! I had no idea something like that existed. I imagine quite a few women wonder if a medication they need to take is safe during breastfeeding.

 

I'm not comfortable with nursing during chemotherapy. The drugs have a lot of serious side effects, including unknown long-term effects. I really don't want to expose my baby to that.

 

Anyone able to answer my questions?


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#4 of 9 Old 11-13-2013, 08:31 AM
 
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Thanks for the resource! I had no idea something like that existed. I imagine quite a few women wonder if a medication they need to take is safe during breastfeeding.

 

I'm not comfortable with nursing during chemotherapy. The drugs have a lot of serious side effects, including unknown long-term effects. I really don't want to expose my baby to that.

 

Anyone able to answer my questions?


I'm so sorry you're going through this. :Hug

 

I also, would not feel comfortable nursing between chemo sessions, (I'm a Board Certified Lactation Consultant and am medically trained and feel the same way you do about most chemo drugs.) Without knowing what drugs they are going to use for your chemo, I can't offer a time line on how long it will stay in your system. A LOT of chemo drugs stay in the system a very long time and as they are targeting and killing rapidly growing cells and babies are made of rapidly growing cells nursing during or between chemo sessions is something that is rarely recommended.

 

I can't tell you what to do, of course. I've had a few clients who were going to pump and dump during chemo and all of them gave it up due to the fatigue, exhaustion and other side effects of chemo. These moms all said they wanted to use what limited energy and good days they had during the chemo to spend with their children, not with the pump. A lot of them also got discouraged seeing the milk every day and having to dump it down the drain. It's a psychologically difficult thing to do.

 

If I were diagnosed with a chemo necessary disease during lactation with a toddler, I know I would gently wean and then see where we were once the we were past the danger point after chemo, how I felt and even IF the child had any desire to nurse after that time.

 

One of my children forgot how to nurse after only a week off the breast in toddlerhood. She had not nursed for about a week, heard me telling someone on the phone "I think she may be weaned" and immediately tried to nurse. She did some weird things with her mouth, tried again, tried again, tried again, and then said, "Mama, I can't do it. Nummies don't' work anymore." She walked away humming. And she was fine what that. :)

 

See how you feel during the treatment, if you want to pump and dump, go ahead, but you may not have the energy or want to spend your good hours with your child instead. See where your child is after the chemo and the wait time after (how long you have to wait depends on the agent used, I can look it up if you want to PM me.)

 

Good luck to you. Sending healing thoughts for your quick recovery. :goodvibes


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#5 of 9 Old 11-13-2013, 10:56 AM
 
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Mama Pigeon, I am so sorry you're going through this.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer when my youngest was just over 2, so it was a slightly different situation, but I know that one of the hardest things about cancer when you have children is what it does to your plans about how to parent. 

 

Honestly - I would not pump and dump during chemo.  I found that, during chemo, if I wasn't careful about my physical and mental limits, it was absolutely possible for me to stress myself into fevers, which I then had to be evaluated at the hospital for.  Eating poorly, or not drinking enough water, or going in to my cushy desk job when I wasn't feeling at least 85% could screw with my blood chemistry in ways that meant chemotherapy had to be canceled or delayed.  I was far better off, and I think you would likely be better off, conserving physical resources for the fight at hand.

 

I wouldn't worry about deciding now about re-inducing lactation.  Make that decision when you get there.  Know that, however things shake out with regards to breast milk, your kids will love you, and they will know you love them. 

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#6 of 9 Old 11-14-2013, 11:18 PM
 
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So sorry you are going through this, how scary and heartbreaking. Agree with PP. Chemotherapy is very draining and there will be days where it will take out all your energy to just go to the toilet, never mind keeping your supply up. Six months is also the shortest time and best case scenario, you may have to take Chemo for longer than that because there are often delays due to fevers, low ANC or slow response. Your baby has already got so much goodness from you in his first few weeks and you are doing great job pumping and storing now. If you are concerned about formulas, there are some really good, hypoallergenic ones, organic ones. Millions of children have grown up healthy on formula and YOU are the priority just now. You will also have to watch your energy and calories and pumping takes a lot of the energy that YOU need.

 

I have a friend who is a doctor and she has breast cancer (she found out while nursing her eight month old). If you want, I can put you in touch, just PM me :)

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#7 of 9 Old 11-25-2013, 09:04 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the kind words. It's nice to know that there are other moms out there who understand.

 

I started chemo 4 days ago. The typical treatment for Hodgkin's is ABVD, given every 2 weeks. I actually feel okay, not many symptoms. I'm stage 3, so I may be getting chemo for a while (6-8 months). Bottle feeding is starting to go a bit better, but it's been really emotional and difficult. DD doesn't smile at me anymore (she still smiles at DH and DS), and she is far more willing to take a bottle from DH. I guess it's just going to take some time, but it's hard to accept that.

I'm trying to dry up my milk, since there's no way of knowing exactly how long this will last.


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#8 of 9 Old 11-25-2013, 09:53 AM
 
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Your DD will smile at you again, I promise.  Even soon -  3 month olds are not noted for holding grudges.  But she might be a little standoffish right now because of weaning and because chemo changes how you smell. 

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#9 of 9 Old 11-25-2013, 10:07 AM
 
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Your DD will smile at you again, I promise.  Even soon -  3 month olds are not noted for holding grudges.  But she might be a little standoffish right now because of weaning and because chemo changes how you smell. 

 

Absolutely. Not only that, you have no idea how clever those little babies can be. She may be intuitively concerned about you, they can pick up more than we think and more than we can ever find out at that age. Smiling is not the only way of showing love. Explain to her in easy words what is happening, talk to her all the time. Don't put on a fake happy face if you don't feel like it. Cuddle, co-sleep, carry if and when you can. You are her WORLD

 

Lots of hugs and healing vibes for the whole family. 

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