When Milk is Poison

As most of you who actually read this page already know, I’ve been dealing with pneumonia for a few weeks now.  I thought it was gone and I was just dealing with the after-effects, but turns out it’s actually hanging on and not going away like they’d hoped it would.

As a result, the doctor put me on a bunch of antibiotic yesterday and basically said it’s this or we admit you.  So… I am taking the drugs.  No, I don’t want to.  Yes, I’ve tried lots of alternative options from breathing Qi Gong exercises to essential oils and while both of those things have helped the symptoms, they are not curing the problem.

This leaves me little choice but to follow the doctor’s orders and go forward with two antibiotics and a decongestant, none of which are safe while nursing.

Now, please understand I would NEVER agree to take these meds if my kids were younger, reliant upon milk for their daily nutrition or could be harmed by having to supplement.  They are old enough now where milk is because they want it and it’s good for them, but not because they need it and depend on it for their survival.

At ages 2 1/2 and 4 years, they are both old enough to understand they are not in trouble or being denied their milk because they did something wrong.  This was the most important factor to me and always has been.  I absolutely will not withhold their milk if they might feel they are being punished somehow.  Since this is not the case and they are old enough to understand and I really would like to stay out of the hospital, I felt this was the best option for everyone.

I was dreading this conversation with their tiny, sweet faces that I knew would barely understand what I was saying, so I drew upon examples I knew they would understand.

I let them know mama was still sick.  They both understand that because I’m coughing and feeling terrible and have no voice.  They also remember when they were sick over the winter holiday.  We talk about how the soldiers in our bodies keep us safe and fight off bad germs.  How the white blood cells are the knights in shining armor to save us from feeling yucky.  I told them the doctor gave me a diagnosis just like Doc McStuffins and I have to follow the doctor’s orders to get better for them so life an go back to normal.  The doctors orders are that I have to take this medicine that will go inside me and kill the bad germs, but it’s also very dangerous for kids and will make their milk poisonous like Snow White’s apple.  If they drink the milk when the poison is in there, it could hurt them a lot and we have to keep them safe.  That meant they could only have milk at certain times of the day until I was all better.

I reviewed all the information I could find on the meds I was given and with the pharmacist’s help, (who just happened to be a big breastfeeding advocate and supporter, as luck would have it) we learned that 3 hours after the meds are taken, the levels that seep into the milk are untraceable and so it should be safe at that point.  They won’t have to go entirely without it, just not “on demand” as they are used to. I told them to watch the clock on the wall. When both the big and little hands are on the top pointing at the birds, they can have milk again.

After a few times of explaining all of this, a few tears, some adamant disapproval of the plan, eventually and much to my relief, they both understood what was happening and that they were not in trouble.

Liam, my little knight in shining armor, tells me he wants to shrink very small and get inside my tummy to kill the bad germs so milk is okay.  He keeps watching the clock checking to see if both hands are on the 12 yet…

Lottie says, “can I kiss the milk?” I say sure… so, since 9am, every time I sit down, she climbs up on my lap, asks me if she can hug the milk, pulls my top down and gives kisses and hugs to the milk, knowing it’s there for her but right now it’s not safe.

They understand that the medicine that is working to make the bad germs go away can also make them sick if they drink milk, which, I thought would be a really hard concept for them to follow, but they seem to get it. Not only do they seem to understand why they can’t have it, but they are both showing an understanding of compassion I’ve never seen in them before. Because my sickness is now effecting them, the need for me to get well and to be taken care of is clear to them.

They’ve both come up to give me hugs and kisses several times and anytime I cough, Lottie hugs me and Liam says, “mom are you okay? Do you need some coffee or more medicine?”

I was in tears with worry over this yesterday, but today, I am relieved.

This experience is teaching all of us some great lessons.

PS… Right at 12:00, Liam told me, “the clock says it’s time and now we can have milk again!” You would have thought I’d told them we were moving into Cinderella’s castle. Milk has been had, both are now happily asleep, and I am on to dose #2.

I hope the next 9 days goes this well…

Have you ever had to withhold breastfeeding for a medical reason?  How did you and your babies handle it?  What advice would you give to a nursing mama who has no choice but to take medicine that interferes with their milk safety?


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