Can Women With CF Successfully Breastfeed?
Last updated: February 2022
As more women with CF reach childbearing age and start families of their own, the question of how to feed their baby is becoming much more commonplace. Many new CF moms are unsure if it’s safe to breastfeed their babies. Even despite the many documented benefits of breastfeeding for mom and baby, they might also wonder how breastfeeding could affect their weight and health in the long run.
Although choosing to breastfeed is an individual decision dependent on your particular situation and health status, the research shows women with CF can successfully breastfeed their children as long as they want unless it negatively affects their well-being.
Is breast milk from women with CF different?
Research has shown that women with CF can safely and successfully breastfeed their children like those without CF.1 Historically, women with CF were discouraged from breastfeeding because the make-up of their breastmilk was slightly different.1 Breast milk from women with CF does have higher concentrations of sodium but still provides the necessary nutrients, lipids, and protein a new baby needs to grow and develop.1,2
Ask any new mom and they will tell you how draining breastfeeding an infant can be. Because of the demand breastfeeding can put on the body and the extra time commitment, it can be a challenge to add breastfeeding on top of CF treatments, rest, and other busy-day activities. Breastfeeding an infant involves a level of sacrifice all CF moms should be aware of before beginning their breastfeeding journey.
Maintaining weight and adding calories
Breastfeeding burns a significant amount of energy and calories to produce milk.3 For the average woman, an extra 300-400 calories is recommended a day, but for someone with CF the calorie increase might be double.1 Talking to your CF dietician and nutritionist to come up with a plan for adequate calorie intake and nutrition is a helpful step to maintaining weight during breastfeeding.
Medications passed in breastmilk
Many medications taken as part of the typical CF care routine pass the placenta and are excreted in breastmilk in low levels.4 The two categories of medication that are most commonly used in CF but can be concerning in breastfeeding are antibiotics and CFTR modulators such as Trikafta.
If you are planning to breastfeed on antibiotics, it's important to talk to your CF care team and discuss breastfeeding-friendly antibiotic options. Your doctor can help you decide which antibiotics are safe to take and which ones should be avoided.
As far as CFTR modulators, there isn’t an abundance of research studying the safety of these types of medications in breastfeeding. However, few studies have looked at the outcomes of babies where CFTR modulators were used in pregnancy and breastfeeding and found it was well tolerated by both mother and baby.5,6 More information is needed as more and more women become mothers while taking CFTR modulators in the future.
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