Breastfeeding and IVF and Possibility

This post is in honor of World Breastfeeding Week and part of Mothering’s “Blog about Breastfeeding” event.

While Kris and I tried to conceive a second child, my son Arlo breastfed through all four of my IVF cycles.

Total weaning is the policy held by most clinics and their fertility doctors before embarking upon IVF.  I was not comfortable weaning Arlo, but age and recurrent loss would not allow me to delay IVF.  Determined to do both, I rolled up my sleeves and discovered what was possible for my family.

Here are some of the things I did to move forward:

  1. I met with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Melony Kendell.  She confirmed what I’d already learned from my doctor:  breastfeeding doesn’t jive with pregnancy.  When your child nurses, the uterus contracts, which could possibly expel the embryo.  Also, your hormones are anti-pregnancy;  your body is actually working against pregnancy so that your existing, nursing child can survive.  But – and this is key – this relates to babies.  Arlo was already 21 months old and long past being exclusively breastfed.  I no longer had let-downs.  I no longer had cramps.  My menstrual cycle had resumed normally.  I was ovulating.  I felt we were past those risks.
  2. I read Dr. Thomas Hale’s site:  There is extensive yet clear information on risk and bioavailability of the drugs prescribed in an IVF cycle.  I looked up every med I would take and determined they were all safe for me AND Arlo.
  3. Every clinic I called or e-mailed refused to treat me while breastfeeding, demanding a total wean plus three-cycle clearance.  Even my own Reproductive Endocrinologist (Arlo was conceived via our second cycle of IVF) refused until I told him I had done extensive research, met with an IBCLC and that I was ready to move forward.  At that point he relented, requiring only a signature from my son’s doctor saying it was okay.
  4. I provided Arlo’s doctor a copy of all the Hale research and he signed off.

That was the easy part.  Truth be told, I was terrified the entire time.  I was convinced the birth control pills prescribed during IVF would dry up my milk instantly and then my god, my poor son.  Then every shot, every pill.  All those hormones.  I just had to keep telling myself – they have no bioavailability – they are not passing through my milk.  One of the most comforting thoughts was that if these drugs were so easy to get into my body, I would be drinking them, not injecting them.  Melony told me that and it was very reassuring.

As to the breastfeeding itself, Arlo never skipped a beat.  Because we were living in Bermuda at the time, I traveled to the States for treatment (there are no REs or fertility clinics in Bermuda as of this post) which meant Arlo breastfed even more frequently.  I was a wreck.  I did the work though and I trusted in what I learned and the professionals who advised me.  In the turmoil of secondary infertility, I was still able to gave my child that which he needed the most: the unwavering love and comfort of his mother’s breast.

Start now.  Stay aggressive.  Never quit.

2 thoughts on “Breastfeeding and IVF and Possibility

  1. Pingback: Writer’s Lock | Black Panty Salvation

  2. Pingback: 2,000 Days of Breastfeeding | Black Panty Salvation

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