Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mothers using HIV drug to stop lactating

Apparently moms in the UK are using a drug called Cabergoline to suppress lactation. Cabergoline is usually prescribed to HIV positive women, and others for whom breastfeeding is not recommended, to dry up their milk. The off-label use by moms who just don't want to nurse also results in weight loss.

There are, of course, a couple of problems with this. First of all, the drug has some pretty scary side effects, including the potential for lung and heart damage, extreme sleepiness, and what the article describes as "incapacitating headaches." Yes, just what a new mother needs to be: incapacitated and extremely sleepy. Second of all, women who want to stop nursing because it's uncomfortable or they're going back to work, really need education and support, rather than a quick way to dry up their milk. Instead of talking to the women and getting to the root of the problem, doctors are just prescribing the drug and sending the women on their merry way.

An obsetrician who was interviewed for the article states:

“The breastfeeding police frown on the use of cabergoline, but for some women their breasts are an important part of their sexuality and they don’t want them used to provide milk. There is not enough difference between breast milk and infant formula to make a fuss about it.”

OK, well, where we do begin? Why do so many women believe that breasts can only have one function at a time? You can still be and feel sexy while nursing and you can incorporate your breasts into your sex life while nursing. Most men don't care if your breasts leak during orgasm, they're just happy to be having sex with their woman and thrilled that the baby is finally napping. Trust me on this one.

Perhaps it's a cultural thing, but I just can't imagine any American doctor saying something so idiotic to the media. The whole piece is poorly written, with the author stating, "Others are concerned that suppressing lactation will be detrimental to the health of babies, who are believed to receive protective antibodies and a range of other nutrients from their mother’s milk" (emphasis mine). Well, yes, they are believed to receive antibodies and perfect nutrition from their mother's milk because (wait for it) it's true!

The article claims the use of Cabergoline is a reaction to the "breast is best" mantra and the pressure new moms feel to breastfeed. I guess if you don't want to breastfeed it feels like pressure, but what about all of the breastfeeding backlash in the media lately? I feel bad for any woman who is on the fence about whether or not to nurse right now. If I were undecided and read all of the nonsense being spouted off about how awful breastfeeding is and how formula is so wonderful (I mean, Dr. Nancy Snyderman said it on the Today Show, so it must be true!), I'd probably opt not to breastfeed, too.

If you don't want to breastfeed, that's your choice, but be smart about how you dry up your milk. There are many natural and safe options available that won't mess up your heart and lungs and render you unable to care for your baby.

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