Can you picture this conversation in a doctor’s office?
Physician: “I’m afraid you need to take a medication that you can’t take while breastfeeding. You’re going to have to wean.”
Mom: “Doctor, I really want to continue providing my milk for my twins. I’ve breastfed for a year which is a real accomplishment. They’re not ready to wean and there is still such a great health benefit to nursing. Can we see if there is some other way to protect breastfeeding while treating my illness? I’ve done some research on my own and found some resources to help find us the answers we need.”
Physician: “No. The one reference I checked said you can’t nurse and I am unwilling to look into this any further for you.”
This couldn’t be real, could it? Yes, it is. Last year I worked with a mother of twins. Those early months are always a whirlwind for twin moms, but she worked hard and is still nursing the twins successfully. They are a year old and nurse 4-5 times a day and mom is happy to continue doing this. She completely understands that a child’s need for his mother’s milk doesn’t abruptly end at 1 year, but that’s an entirely different blog topic!
She recently was diagnosed with a thyroid condition and was sent to an endocrinologist. It was suggested that she have a CAT scan with dye. Her physician told her that she needed to “pump and dump” her milk for 48 hours for the scan and that the medication she needed to take was not compatible with breastfeeding, therefore she would have to wean. Mom left the office and was obviously very distraught, so called the BRC. Mom didn’t know the name of the dye being used nor did she know the name of the medication, so I gave her the number for the Infant Risk Center. This call center was developed by Tom Hale, PhD (the leader in the field of medications and how they affect baby and milk supply). Anyone is welcome to use the call center (including moms and healthcare professionals) to get the most up to date research on medications and their effect on breastfeeding. Mom’s endocrinologist REFUSED to call. She stated that her PDR (Physician’s Desk Reference) said breastfeeding mothers should not take this medication and she wasn’t willing to look into it further. In my experience, the PDR indicates that most medications aren’t compatible with breastfeeding, but the most current research is not used! Mom again called me. But really, what could I do at this point? I still didn’t know the name of the medications and the physician apparently did not wish to do a little research to protect breastfeeding. So I say, “I’m not sure what I can do, but it seems that you have three choices. Ask your current physician if there is an alternative medication for your condition that IS compatible with breastfeeding (not sure this is great choice), OR, ask to speak to another physician within the practice, OR go to another practice.”
A few days later mom called again. There was a positive tone in her voice. She had switched practices and her new physician stated that mom didn’t need the CAT scan! The results would tell them whether mom had Graves’ disease or hypothyroidism and in either case she would prescribe the same medication. Secondly, she said the medication IS compatible with breastfeeding, so there was no need for her to wean.
Ok, I understand there are physicians who are more breastfeeding friendly than others, but to outright REFUSE to do further research? I don’t consider this breastfeeding unfriendly, I call this unethical!
Have a question about medications? Call the Infant Risk Center at 806-352-2519
“Your bra’s bigger than mine!”