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Exploring Options

Carol King
Villingen-Schwenningen Germany
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 3, May-June 2004, p. 94

In August 1997, I had a tooth abscess, which required extraction to be followed by a course of antibiotics. My daughter, Emma, was only six-and-a-half weeks old and exclusively breastfed. My dental surgeon tried to avoid prescribing antibiotics, but the infection was acute and I needed them. The choice of antibiotic was limited because of my allergy to the two main groups of antibiotics that are suitable for treating this type of infection, namely penicillins and tetracyclines. The dentist suggested a newer type of antibiotic, which would have been suitable for me, but he said that this would require interrupting breastfeeding for two weeks.

Naturally, I was very upset by this, as was my husband, Dan. I could not face the thought of trying to formula-feed Emma while pumping to keep my milk supply going, and then trying to re-introduce her to breastfeeding. I would also be caring for my son, Adam, who was only 23 months old. This all seemed like so much hard work -- especially since breastfeeding was going so well and Adam was very accepting of his baby sister. Dan worked long hours and was often away on business trips, and I had no other family here in Germany who could help. My mother offered to come over from England, which was a very kind offer, but I felt that it should not be necessary.

I refused to accept that interrupting breastfeeding for such a young baby was the only option. I contacted Eileen Harrison, my LLL Leader. She advised that, if there was no alternative, I should formula-feed with a spoon or cup -- not a bottle -- to avoid any problems when reintroducing the breast. My mother, who is a registered nurse, suggested that I phone my doctor in England. The doctor advised that an antibiotic from the cephalosporins group would be suitable. (She had prescribed this medication for a chest infection that I'd had during pregnancy only a few months previously.)

Luckily, I had a copy of the British National Formulary -- a book of prescription drugs used by doctors in Great Britain. Dan took this book along with the doctor's recommendations to the dental surgeon, who phoned the dental department at the University of Freiburg in Germany. The doctor was then able to prescribe a suitable antibiotic and Emma continued to be an exclusively breastfed baby. Adam was also having "milky" once or twice a day, so he was pleased, too!

My dental surgeon was very understanding and appreciated our efforts in helping to find an appropriate medication that enabled me to continue breastfeeding. I knew I needed antibiotics, but felt very strongly that I should continue to breastfeed my daughter. That objective was achieved.

Although this happened over six years ago, it is still close to my heart, and I know that I made the right decision in refusing to accept that breastfeeding had to be interrupted just because I needed to take medication. I hope this story will be an inspiration to other mothers in similar situations.

Editor's Note: Most antibiotics are considered compatible with breastfeeding. For more information, see the article "Medications in the Breastfeeding Mother from the Nov-Dec 2003 issue.

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