Surgery, Anesthesia and Medications while Breastfeeding

Surgery, Anesthesia and Medications while Breastfeeding

If you are faced with the possibility of having surgery, you may be concerned about how this might affect breastfeeding. You may have time to plan ahead for surgery but sometimes it has to be done on short notice.

Here are some things to discuss with your surgeon:

  • Let your doctor and other healthcare providers know that you are breastfeeding and that you want to continue to breastfeed your baby before and after your surgery.
  • Find out how long your surgery will take and how long you will need to be at the hospital before and after the surgery.
  • If you will need to stay in the hospital overnight or for a few days, find out what the hospital policy is about having your baby brought to you for feedings. Some hospitals won’t allow babies on the surgical unit. If that’s the case, you may be able to go to a public area in the hospital, or outside to your vehicle, to feed your baby once you are mobile or can be taken there in a wheelchair. Perhaps your baby and a support person can even stay with you while you recover.
  • If you must be separated from your baby, you will need to pump or hand-express your milk in order to maintain your supply and to avoid engorgement. Ask your healthcare providers where you can store your milk until you can get it to your baby.
  • Ask if there is a hospital pump you’ll be able to use, and if you will need to purchase a collection kit in order to use it. If a hospital pump is not available, you will need to bring your own pump or plan to hand express. Ask if the hospital will provide storage containers for your expressed milk or if you need to bring your own.
  • Ask about the anesthetic you will be given for your surgery. Most anesthetics are short acting. By the time you are awake enough to feed your baby, the drug will be mostly out of your system and won’t be passed on to your baby.
  • Discuss using pain medications and antibiotics that are compatible with breastfeeding. Most medications are safe to take while breastfeeding, but it is wise to check on specific medications to be sure. If you are told that you cannot breastfeed while taking a particular medication, it can be helpful to get a second opinion. Or you can ask for a different medication to be used.
  • You may be told to wean temporarily or pump and discard your milk for a period of time. If this happens, double check that the healthcare provider is using up-to-date information and resources.
  • Discuss what kind of movement restrictions you may have after your surgery. You may need to plan ahead for help with lifting your child or positioning your baby at the breast.
  • Discuss whether you will have any restrictions or impediments to eating or drinking fluids after your surgery. You need to be well nourished both to heal yourself and to feed your baby.

Before the surgery:

  • Decide who will care for your baby/child while you’re away.
  • Consider pumping prior to surgery to have milk readily available.
  • On the day of the surgery, plan to breastfeed your baby or pump as close to the time of surgery as possible. This will help keep your breasts from becoming overly full during the surgery and recovery period.

If you have any breastfeeding questions or concerns, contact your local La Leche League Canada Leader who can provide you with support and information to share with your healthcare provider. La Leche League Canada Leaders can look up herbal or manufactured medications and share with you information about the potential side effects prior to a discussion with your healthcare provider.

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