March 26, 2018
by Kit

Written by Angela Kelly

I have breastfed for 61 months of my life. No, I don’t have twelve children, and I am not breastfeeding a five-year-old (which is normal in many parts of the world). I have three beautiful children ages seven, four & 22 months. I breastfed my oldest son until he was fifteen months, and I would have happily nursed him longer, but I listened to family who voiced their concerns that it was “time to stop.” The continual questioning led me to feel self-conscious and stop breastfeeding.

I loved the connection with my son and the quiet time together while he nursed. When he was six months old he would look up at me, run his baby hand up and down my side like he was petting me, telling me that I was a good mama. Even as he grew older, he would wake often and want to be put back to sleep by nursing; when I stopped nursing him, it broke his little heart. I remember crying as I held him and rubbed his back, telling him, “No num nums, night-night.” I loved the time I spent nursing him, it came easily to us, and if I had been more secure in myself, I would have breastfed him longer. My daughter was also an easy nursling, and I gladly breastfed her until she was two. After we weaned, she would still ask to nurse whenever she would watch me change, yelling, “Niiiii! Niiii! Niiiiii!”

My youngest (and final) baby also loves to nurse, but we have had many breastfeeding challenges. He developed a C. diff infection during a family-wide endemic outbreak of the superbug Clostridium difficile. While fighting C. diff, I found myself losing my milk supply, supplementing, pumping, drinking fenugreek tea, and struggling to keep myself alive while also trying to breastfeed my infant son. We also breastfeed through mastitis and a couple of significant baby bites (ouch). Many would say “Why not stop?” Well, here are five of the reasons I am “extended” breastfeeding my (big) baby:

  1. Breastfeeding helps support his immune system in fighting the never-ending siege of germs brought home by his big brother and sister. Breastmilk also provides him with a significant amount of nutrients and fats, even as a toddler.[1]
  2. Babies who are breastfed are significantly less likely to be colonized by C. diff.[2]
  3. Breast milk Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) are prebiotics; they provide food for good gut bacteria, which help to keep us healthy.[3]
  4. HMOs bind to C. diff toxins.[4]
  5. Nursing helps to reduce stress both for my little big guy and me—which leads to a healthier, more diverse microbiome for both of us![5]

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  1. Monica says:

    My dr told me I had to stop nursing because of the antibiotic the gave me called vancomycin. You said you were fighting for your life with C Diff. I was just diagnosed and scared and truest want to continue breast feeding

    1. Angela Kelly says:

      Hi Monica, this should not be considered medical advice as I am not a medical doctor, but Vancomycin is generally considered to be compatible with breastfeeding. I hope you and baby are doing well. Warmly, Angela Kelly

    2. Morgan says:

      Hi there. Curious what you decided to do. I was diagnosed with C diff and prescribed Vancomycin and my dr and pediatrician say it’s safe, but I’m concerned.

  2. Angela Kelly says:

    Hi Morgan! I ended up being moved to Fidaxomicin as I had difficulty tolerating Vancomycin, I have been recovered from my CDI for about 2 years. Wishing you a speedy recovery!

    1. Stefanie says:

      Angela, did you continue to nurse on Fidaxomicin?

  3. Kristen says:

    Vancomycin is used to treat babies with C Diff, so how could it be a concern?

  4. H says:

    I was diagnosed with CDI 1 week after my son came home from a 21 day NICU stay. We had a very early surprise delivery (at 33 weeks) and as a result were both given plenty of unnecessary antibiotics “just in case”. We both turned out healthy/fine with no complications, until the CDI – likely a result of the antibiotics. What I’m curious about is even though Vanc. does’t reach the baby’s blood stream, does it not still reach the gut further deteriorating the gut flora? In my son’s case not only was he exposed to my IV broad spectrum antibiotic in utero, but then to Gentamycin/Ampicillin for 3 days post birth. Now if I feed out the milk I saved during my treatment isn’t he again undergoing gut flora changes that will make him vulnerable to infections/colonization of bad bacterias/over growth of fungi? Just curious if anyone here who had experienced CDI had any idea how exactly Vancomycin taken orally interacts with a newborn’s GI system? Also my milk supply seems to have diminished with treatment I went from over 130ml per session to about 70-90 ml per session. How have other CDI mom’s experienced this during treatment? Any advice on getting supply back? (I already pump every 3 hrs during the day and every 4 hrs 12 am – 8am and resumed on demand breast feedings of the baby). For those who’ve tried Fengureek did it give them GI issues? I worry about a relapse of CDI and not being able to tell it’s happening due to side effects of Fengureek. Any info would be so appreciated.

  5. Irene says:

    @Angela Kelly for how long did you have CDI? Did you need only one round of Vanco?