Breastfeeding and IBD: A good combination?
I’ve been writing about my experiences of IBD, pregnancy and beyond so today I thought I’d broach the topic of breastfeeding. Like most aspects of IBD, this seems to be very personal and unique to us all. Some new moms find it impossible whilst others find it a breeze. Some find it makes symptoms better and others worse (sadly I fall into the latter camp!) I asked as many mothers as possible to share their relationship with breastfeeding and IBD to help you learn more and eventually make a decision that works for you.
Tips from women with Crohn’s and colitis who breastfed
Louisa: “I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when my second baby was 4 months old and my first really bad flare about a month after she was born. I lost a lot of weight, was extremely tired and was unable to leave the house for over 2 months whilst waiting to get my diagnosis. I was, however, able to breastfeed through this, and my little girl continued to thrive. With advice from my surgeon, I have continued to BF whilst taking the meds. Breastfeeding can be lonely at times, but breastfeeding with a newly diagnosed, hidden disease that many people don’t understand can make you feel this even more. I might not still be breastfeeding if it wasn’t for the advice and open conversations I’ve been able to have with the other ladies in the Breastfeeding with IBD facebook group.”
Katy: “I breastfed but the hardest part for me was managing feeds in the early mornings. Often I’d have to take my daughter to the toilet with me and she’d then be wide awake whereas without the toilet trip she would have gone back to sleep. Also running into places for the toilet became more of a mission but easier to explain as people just assume it’s a nappy situation with the baby! The tiredness was hard at times but I had a snooze most days. I was on Mesalazine max dose throughout the flare but avoided anything else as I find my flares reoccur quicker if I take additional meds.”
Rachel: I have ulcerative colitis. When I had my 2nd little girl and flared, I was admitted yet again, but I said I wasn’t stopping breastfeeding and she was brought up to me in the hospital to feed and our journey continued until a week after her 2nd birthday. I hope I will have given them some protection towards IBD in the future. In the middle of all that, I trained to become a breastfeeding peer support worker as I’m so passionate about feeding through obstacles. My advice? Take each day as it comes and be proud of yourself, what we go through as mums isn’t easy but doing it with UC or CD makes us superheroes in my eyes!”
Annabel: “I breastfed my youngest for 3 years. I was diagnosed whilst she was 6 months old. We spent a week in the hospital together (still breastfeeding her) whilst on a steroid drip. I didn’t give up, carried on for her no matter how weak or poorly I was.”
Cree: “My second child is 6 weeks old and going strong with breastfeeding. Not going to lie, fatigue is kicking my butt. I feel so drained even though I’m in remission but I manage as long as I keep hydrated and eat.”
Tips and advice from women who weren’t able to breastfeed
Heather: “I’ve got Crohn’s and my little boy was born via planned C-section in February a very healthy little man. I solely breastfed him for 2 days but I was put on ‘breastfeeding friendly antibiotics’ 3 weeks in for a perianal abscess and was warned they could still upset my little boy’s belly. 4 days into the antibiotics it was obvious his belly was uncomfortable and his nappies were bad so I just formula-fed until the end. I spent the next 3 weeks trying to get him back to breastfeeding but it was painful and I had to top him up with a bottle after each feed anyway. I was getting more ill so I stopped at 6 weeks and started back on Humira.”
Shell: “I chose not to breastfeed due to the extreme fatigue I was suffering due to flaring during & after pregnancy. I wanted the support of family to help with feeding & I also felt I couldn’t give my body anymore, even to my babies. It’s such a personal choice & I just knew I wouldn’t cope with the demand of breastfeeding.”
Jennifer: “I got Crohn’s colitis for the first time at 7 months pregnant. I had planned on breastfeeding or at least trying, but I was so sick when he was born that my milk never came in and that was that.”
Danielle: “I never breastfed and chose not to from the very beginning. There was no part of me that wanted too if I’m honest. Even when the midwife asked and I explained I didn’t want to because of fatigue, I wanted the help and support of my partner with feeding times. And she fully understood and told me she’d probably do the same. I thought I would get pressured into it but she was very supportive. No regrets here.”
Ciara: “I did breastfeed, but had to stop due to regular hospitalization lasting about 2 weeks each time. On top of this, I found out I had latent TB before starting on Humira and had to have rifampicin and isoniazid for 3 months, which is unsafe for breastfeeding.”
I hope these experiences help you make the right decision for you, your baby and your family.
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