Booby Traps Series: Need to be hospitalized while breastfeeding? Watch out for these Booby Traps.

This post is the 54th in a series on Booby Traps, made possible by the generous support of Motherlove Herbal Company.

Some of us will find ourselves back in the hospital for tests or procedures during the course of breastfeeding.  Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to run headlong into a host of Booby Traps during a hospital stay.

Here are some common Booby Traps to be on the lookout for in the hospital:


Pumping in the hospital.  In many hospitals, a nursing mother out of the childbirth unit is an alien life form.  Getting a pump is often necessary if you need to be separated from your baby, but it can be an arduous process.  A suggestion:  If your providers don’t seem to speak breastfeeding, ask them to call over to the childbirth unit and see if the lactation consultant or other childbirth staff can translate and provide what you need.  Extra points for making clear your needs to your providers in advance of your hospital stay.

Visiting hours for baby.  Even if your baby’s food needs are being taken care of while you’re in the hospital (through pumped milk, formula, solids, or some combination), we all know that breastfeeding is about more than calories.  Babies expect the frequent, physical connection they get every few hours from breastfeeding, and not having it that can make life miserable for both of you.  Make sure you know what your hospital’s visiting hours are in advance, and if they don’t work for you be a squeaky wheel and explain that because you’re breastfeeding you’ll be requesting some flexibility.  It’s worth a try.

General anesthesia.  The American Academy of Family Physicians states that in the case of general anesthesia, “mothers of healthy term neonates can resume breastfeeding once they are awake and able to hold the infant.”  But you wouldn’t know this based on the many reports I’ve heard about mothers being told to pump and dump for hours afterwards.

IV contrast imaging.  Told to pump and dump because you needed an iodinated or gadolinium IV contrast medium for your CT scan or MRI?  You’ll be interested to read what the American Academy of Family Physicians has to say about this:  “It is rarely necessary to interrupt breastfeeding for radiologic procedures. The radioiodides used as intravenous contrast agents for some radiography and computed tomography scanning have an extremely short half-life and virtually no oral bioavailability.  Therefore, they pose an insignificant risk to a breastfed infant.” I’d also point to this statement from The American College of Radiology which says the same thing and might hold more sway with your radiologist.

One almost humorous piece of evidence showing that this is a problem (and perhaps revealing the culprit in the background), they also state: “the knowledgeable family physician can reassure patients going for such procedures that there is no need to interrupt breastfeeding, and may need to intervene on their behalf if the radiologist recommends temporary cessation based on misleading manufacturer’s literature.”  For what it’s worth, I’ve seen radiologists take the “misleading manufacturer’s literature” and double the amount of time they recommend a mother interrupt breastfeeding.

The American Academy of Family Physicians also states, “most diagnostic procedures using radioisotopes do not require interruption of breastfeeding. However, there are some which may require temporary interruption and, rarely, cessation of breastfeeding. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has a list of radionuclides and the duration of any required interruption of breastfeeding.”  They recommend that providers choose materials which require the least interruption of breastfeeding.

Medications.  Chances are you’re aware that nursing mothers are frequently given poor advice about medications from their providers, leading mothers to pump and dump, or even wean, unnecessarily.  This is true in hospitals too, but some advance planning can help.  Discuss which medications you’ll need to take before, during, and after your test or procedure, and run them by the Infant Risk Center, founded by world-renowned expert Dr. Thomas Hale.  You’ll get accurate, up-to-date information which you can share with your providers.

Some resources for avoiding the Booby Traps when you’re hospitalized:

Did you have to be hospitalized during breastfeeding?  What kind of support or advice did you get while there?

3 thoughts on “Booby Traps Series: Need to be hospitalized while breastfeeding? Watch out for these Booby Traps.

  1. Been there, done that! I was hospitalized when my daughter was 3 weeks old with gallstone pancreatitis. I was not allowed to eat until after my surgery. In all I spent 5 days in the hospital without food. I just brought my own pump (Medela Freestyle). A hospital grade pump was offered but I didn’t like it. The human body is amazing! I continued to produce enough milk to feed my daughter even without eating, though I could see that my milk was less rich. My partner did bring her to visit me every day but I was squeamish about her being in the hospital too often, even though I had a private room. (Another thing to ask about– my hospital provides private rooms for nursing moms.)

    I was told to pump and dump after surgery but I did my own research and called my lactation consultant. I am glad I was wise enough to do that and did not waste all that milk! How silly! We cut it close with having enough milk to see us through the hospital stay and dumping would definitely have made us have to supplement.


  2. I was hospitalized with a ruptured appendix just after my first son turned 1, the hospital was surprisingly knowledgable and worked with us really well, they made sure all my meds were breastfeeding friendly, even after I got a nasty infection and had to have a PIC line, and they let me stay in the pediatric ward so my son could visit whenever he wanted to.

    I also had a LLL consultant on stand-by just in case I needed more advice.


  3. I looked up this page because I have swelling in side my head, behind my forehead. I’m worried because I already have a crack in skull that branches all over the place, they’ll have to do brain surgery. I’m an exclusively breastfeeding mother, what would I do?


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