As a new mother, one of the first decisions you will need to make is whether you will breastfeed. Although early studies suggested that the breastmilk from mothers with cystic fibrosis had higher-than-normal levels of sodium, subsequent research has confirmed that women with CF can safely breastfeed their babies and provide them with the appropriate amounts of protein and sodium.
At the same time, breastfeeding is a tiring process that uses up many calories, which has certain implications for women with CF. By understanding the potential impact of breastfeeding on your health, you can ultimately decide if it is right for you.
Should I Breastfeed?
Research has shown that there are many benefits to breastfeeding in terms of your child's health and development. However, it is also an exhausting process that will require extra calories.
Not only do people with CF have a harder time maintaining good nutrition than the average individual, but their caloric needs are also greater than those recommended for healthy people of the same age and gender. For this reason, it is important to talk with your CF care team before you decide to breastfeed.
"Surround yourself with an educated support team such as your CF care team, lactation consultants, your child’s pediatrician, and women with CF you feel comfortable with." -- Janeil Whitworth, adult with CF, from the CF Community Blog
In addition to good nutrition, there are other factors that you will need to take into consideration before making your breastfeeding decisions.
For example, some mothers with CF specifically choose not to breastfeed so that others can easily get up to feed their baby in the middle of the night, thereby allowing them to rest and get the sleep they need. Other mothers will breastfeed and then pump after nursing so that others can provide their child with breastmilk while they are away. Some parents choose to bottle feed and breastfeed as opposed to just breastfeeding.
No matter what you decide, it is important to find a compromise that works for both you and your baby.
Optimizing Your Nutrition With Your CF Care Team
Because breastfeeding your child takes greater amounts of energy and calories, you will need to work with your care team to ensure that your nutritional health is adequate to support breastfeeding. This means partnering with your CF nutritionist or dietitian to develop a plan that will provide enough extra calories for both you and your baby. You will also need to make sure that you are staying adequately hydrated by drinking extra fluids throughout the day.
Some women with CF may have trouble breastfeeding exclusively or with maintaining their weight. In these situations, it is important to take a step back with your care team and problem-solve to find an alternative method of feeding that works for you and your family.
Breastfeeding and Medications
It is possible for mothers to pass the medications they are taking — including CFTR modulators — to their baby through their breastmilk, so let your care team know if you are planning to breastfeed. Your care team can work with you and your pharmacist to evaluate your current treatment plan and ensure the safety of your medications.
Medications that were safe for you to take during pregnancy are not always safe for breastfeeding and vice versa, so partnering with your care team to closely assess your current list of medications is key.