Breastfeeding Through Fertility Treatments (IVF and FET)

Update! I know many people find this post from a forum or google search on breastfeeding through fertility treatments!  Welcome and good luck on this difficult decision.  I get lots of questions about how my story turned out.

I *did* breastfeed through my FET and I did not tell the doctors.  I was prepared to completely lie but no one even asked (probably because they didn’t think an 18 month old was still nursing).  They thawed 2 5-day embryos and grew them to blastocyst.  They both survived for transfer day and 7 1/2 months later I gave birth to my beautiful twin sons, Asher and Boston.  My daughter weaned at 22 months during my pregnancy but it was on her terms and I’m so glad I didn’t prematurely wean her for my FET.  Thanks for stopping by and much babydust to all of you undergoing treatment!

So, I’ve made an important decision.  I didn’t make it lightly or quickly.  It involved information that was, frankly, very hard to find.  I want to include my research here so someone else might be able to find it in the future. I’ll talk about my decision at the end.


The topic: Doctors require you de riguer to wean your baby before attempting a subsequent IVF or FET cycle.  This might seem like a black and white issue to some – why not wean if you doctor says so?  You want to have another baby right?  But, for infertile women it is a very loaded question.  I have journeyed through hell to get my baby and I want to give her ALL that I can.  At the same time I want more children and want to bring my embryos a chance at life.  Sadly, this isn’t researched/discussed at all and most (in the US nearly ALL) doctors won’t even discuss it with you.

I don’t want to hurt Aellyn with drugs.  I dont’ want to hurt our breastfeeding relationship by reducing my supply drastically or weaning.  I don’t want my Frozen Embryo Transfer not to work.  I don’t want to wait (as I get older and older) to attempt to have more children.  If we have to build our family in another way (foster, adopt, etc.) time is ticking.  So, I wanted the facts.  I didn’t want to just take at face value “thou shalt wean.”

Here is what I’ve found:

The absolute best resource I could find was from a talk by Jeany Elliot of the Australian Breastfeeding Association - Hot Milk Podcast on Breastfeeding Through IVF Treatment.  She had 2 children via IVF and FET while breastfeeding.  Here are my notes from her podcast or you can listen yourself at the link.

Knee jerk on the part of doctors reaction to wean a child before treatment.  Prolactin inhibits ovulation and development of the lining.  Prolactin levels decrease over time.  Many women resume ovulation while continuing to breastfeed.  “You must wean” fails to recognize the wide diversity of patients and not given true choice.

Are the drugs dangerous to the baby? Determined by age of child, frequency of nursing, and types of drugs.

  1. BCP (birth control pills) – no harm to baby.  some reduction in milk supply (however, pregnancy will also reduce supply so that isn’t a good reason to wean).
  2. Gonadotropin releasing hormone (Lupron – injection, Synarel – spray) –   drugs for suppression.  Broken down by baby’s digestive system1.  Given once or twice a day so you can breastfeed immediately before dosing to reduce exposure (note: she isn’t saying this is necessary but just an additional way to reduce risk if it bothers you).
  3. Clomid – superovulation, daily oral dose.  once per day so time breastfeeding.  May cause reduction in milk supply (see caveat above #1)
  4. Stimulation drugs (Gonal-F, FSH, LH) – normal hormones in menstruating women with no harm to baby.  Once daily so time breastfeeding. 4-6 hour half-life common.  If it passes through it is unlikely to be absorbed by baby’s digestive system into the bloodstream.
  5. HCG (ovidrel) – triggers ovulation.  injection.  normal hormone of pregnant women.  no known harm to babies.  Once daily so time breastfeeding.
  6. *Progesterone – (injectible PIO or suppositories) normal hormones in women.  no known harm to babies.
  7. (she did not talk about this but I added it because it is used in my FET protocol) *Estrogen (estrace) – normal hormone.

Who NEEDS to wean:

  1. menstrual cycle not returned during lactation
  2. women who do not ovulate without drugs – prolactin would interfere so weaning would be better

Who MAY NOT need to wean (ideal candidate for not weaning):

  1. resumed regular menstrual cycles with adequate luteal phase and known ovulation – no benefit of weaning
  2. frozen embryos don’t need to superovulate.  all they need is timing – no benefit of weaning
  3. male factor is reason for infertility
  4. Fallopian tube blockage is reason for infertility
  5. b/f child over 1 year
  6. not breastfeeding more than 3 or 4 times a day

Psychological issues – 2 mindsets

  1. Will you regret not doing “everything” to make it successful?
  2. Nothing is guaranteed in infertility treatments.  I’m not going to compromise the b/f relationship with the child I have for a pregnancy that might not happen.

She didn’t tell the doctors! :)

*****

Other resources:

Dr. Hale’s thread on fertility drugs during lactation.  I also checked LactMed.  For FET protocol (at my clinic they do not use Lupron just estrace and then progesterone.  medrol and tetracycline on transfer day) all of the drugs are generally recognized as safe during breastfeeding by LactMed and the AAP.

Transition to Full Fertility at Kelly Mom

Trying to Conceive while Breastfeeding at Kelly Mom

*****

I’ve lost much sleep worrying about this and then I decided to just do what I do best – research.  Now I feel comfortable with my decision.  I’m going to do my FET while breastfeeding and I’m not going to tell my doctors.

How did I choose this?

  1. I’ve had clockwork menstrual cycles since Aellyn was 8 months old.
  2. I know (via Natural Family Planning methods) that I’m ovulating
  3. Aellyn will be 18 months this summer
  4. She currently nurses 3-4 times a day
  5. We have male factor infertility
  6. I’m doing a Frozen embryo not fresh cycle (thus I don’t need to superovulate)
  7. I’m lying because a) I believe, through my research, that it is not life threatening to me or my child (I wouldn’t lie about something germane to our health) and therefore b) I’m not going to argue my case with my doctor about what comes down to a judgment call when her judgment might not (and probably doesn’t) include the value I place on breastfeeding and c) I know my FET has about a 30-40% chance of success and I won’t blame breastfeeding on a failure but I would blame myself for prematurely weaning Aellyn.

I hope they don’t read my blog!


Edited to Add: Based on Deb’s comment I’m going to post some things I find about prolactin and implantation.
The Role of Prolactin in Implantation and Luteal Maintenance in the Ferret
BRUCE D. MURPHY

“It is concluded that PRL can sustain luteal progesterone production during the first half of pregnancy in hypophysectomized ferrets. Further, PRL can qualitatively maintain the CL of pregnancy as evidenced by its ability to induce embryo implantation in hypophysectomized ferrets.”

Paracrine control of uterine differentiation and implantation
HN Jabbour, HOD Critchley & O Gubbay

Prolactin is secreted by the decidualised endometrium at the time of predicted conception and in the event of pregnancy local expression/secretion of prolactin persists until term.  PRLR deficiency results in implantation failure2

http://www.biology-online.org/articles/control-human-trophoblast-function/decidualization.html

Decidualization

In order for implantation to occur, endometrium has to be changed into decidua. This process consists in modifying endometrial stromal cells, uterine glands and vessels, as well as the population of uterine immune cells. In humans, unlike other species [1], decidualization is independent of the blastocyst’s presence in the uterine cavity and begins in the late secretory phase of the menstrual cycle. It is evoked by progesterone
Together, these results show that luteal P4 production via ovarianPRLR signaling is required for implantation and early pregnancy.The function of uterine PRLR remains unclear. However, the eventualloss of pregnancy in P4-treated PRLR-/- mice suggests that uterine PRLRmay be essential for the support of late gestation
Control of luteal function and implantation in the mink by prolactin – I read the following passage and it sounded bad because it uses the word termination.  I had to find out what embryonic diapause was.  It is a dormancy state of an embryo that some mammals use when ecological conditions are not right for having offspring.  This allows the embryo to suspend its development until conditions are right when it then implants.  so “termination of embryonic diapause” is the embryo coming out of dormancy and implanting.
Mink (Mustela vison) were treated during the period of embryonic diapause with prolactin or ergocryptine (CB-154). Prolactin advanced implantation time and hastened onset of luteal phase progesterone secretion. Duration of gestation in prolactin-treated adult mink was shorter than that of control mink. Ergocryptine had the opposite effects, prolonging gestation and inhibiting onset of luteal phase progesterone secretion. Prolactin is suggested to be the luteotrophin necessary for termination of embryonic diapause in mink.

Hormonal requirement for ovum implantation – This article isn’t about humans but I took it to read that either progesterone alone or progesterone and estrogen are needed for implantation.

examination of effects on hormone levels and the receptivity of target tissues of drugs which interfere with implantation. The reported results indicate that both progesterone and estrogen are needed for implantation in rats, mice, and Mongolian gerbils; in other species of animals progesterone alone may be sufficient to induce implantation, although synergistic effect of estrogen appears to be seen in some species such as in the rabbit. It remains to be determined whether the blastocysts of those animals that need only progesterone for implantation have greater ability to produce estrogen than the blastocysts of the animals that need both progesterone and estrogen. Control mechanism of secretion of progesterone and estrogen for inducing implantation may be different in various species. It has been suggested that both leutropin and follicle stimulating hormone are needed for pre-implantation estrogen secretion in the rat, whereas only follicle stimulating hormone is needed in the mouse. In the species where the obligatory delay in implantation is observed, neuroendocrine mechanisms are reported to be involved in controlling the pituitary-ovarian function that causes a delay in implantation.

Prolactin and Delay of Implantation in Lactating Adrenalectomized Rats – adrenalectomized means “had the adrenal gland removed”

Adrenalectomy before pregnancy in rats caused the persistence of high blood levels of prolactin (PRL) throughout the ensuing postpartum lactation. The persistence of hyperprolactinaemia was without effect on the (delayed) timing of blastocyst implantation during lactation. The findings indicate that ovarian cycles and pregnancy may continue normally despite the absence of adrenal hormones. They reveal that the enhanced release of pituitary PRL in response to suckling is not dependent on the removal of the adrenals during early lactation. The normal delay of blastocyst implantation through suckling, in the presence of abnormally high concentrations of PRL in blood, throws doubt on the supposed critical role of PRL in determining the length of the period of delay of implantation during lactation.
Neither TSH nor prolactin levels correlated with overall IVF outcome
Just more reading for everyone interested!

Show 2 footnotes

  1. She talks about this with several of the drugs.  The point being that they aren’t give to women orally specifically because they break down in digestion and not enough reaches the blood supply to work.  Even if some reaches the mothers breastmilk and then the baby gets it the drug must be digested by the baby.  The resulting bioavailability is exceedingly low
  2. Paracrine refers to hormones that are secreted locally into adjacent cells as opposed to hormones released into the bloodstream

 

Author: Paige

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50 Comments

  1. I faced this exact same question and found the same talk (I’m a member of the ABA). However, this does not cover all of it. I don’t say this to sway you, just to add some information.

    My fertility clinic agreed absolutely that there was no need to wean for the safety of the baby I already had. However their reasoning was that breastfeeding caused hormone surges in oxytocin and something else I can’t remember (sorry it’s 3 years ago now, it may have been prolactin) which could interfere with implantation of the new embryo. They didn’t ask me to wean, but strongly suggested that I cut down to one or two feeds a day. Their reasoning was that if you are going through all this trouble you want to give the new embryo the best chance you can.

    I didn’t wean but cut down for two unsuccessful FET cycles with two day old embryos. I then weaned completely and we grew our remaining embryos to blastocyst stage, with only one beautiful candidate which took and is now our amazing second daughter. Do I think it was due to weaning? I have no idea. I doubt it, because I think the embryo/blastocyst difference was more important, but at the time it was psychologically important to feel I had done everything I could.

    Also important is the fact that my eldest daughter unweaned while I was pregnant and went on to breastfeed until she was 4 and weaned naturally, so I know that has influenced my views.

    Good luck, it is a hard decision. I sincerely hope you have as good an outcome as we did and have the next child you long for. For the record, not that you need this, I completely agree with the ‘lying’ and would do the same in an instant.

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    • Thanks for your sharing your story Deb! I didn’t know you had a FET baby!

      I have read about prolactin and implantation. I’ll probably research more about that and see if it changes my opinion.

      How cool that your daughter unweaned. I was wondering if I could do something like that for the month of the FET.

      We have 2 3-day embryos and 1 blastocyst frozen. I haven’t gotten to talk to the RE yet about what their plan would be (this is a new decision). I really think that success is largely about the viability of the embryo.

      Thanks for adding to my understanding! :)

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  2. congratulations on coming to an educated decision! i agree that it’s hard to have conversations with MDs about breastfeeding when they don’t place the same value on it as we do.

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  3. I was just thinking more about my decision making process. I guess I see only four possible outcomes of my FET:

    1. I don’t wean and I get pregnant – happy beyond measure

    2. I wean and I get pregnant – insanely happy but always wonder if I cheated Aellyn

    3. I don’t wean and the FET fails – Always wonder if the FET would have worked had I weaned.

    4. I wean and the FET fails – Unparalleled devastation that I lost my embryos AND my breastfeeding relationship with Aellyn.

    1 and 2 are great. 3 would be hard. 4 is not something I can live with. It would be horribly devastating to me. I guess that’s why I’m choosing not to wean.

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  4. @babydust Thanks for the mention, but I think it was @ScienceMum Deb who gave the information. I totally support you, though!

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    • @DebChitwood lol my bad! @sciencemom that’s what I get for tweeting between meetings

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  5. Thanks for the mention, it looks like prolactin is actually pretty good.

    My gorgeous girls are both from FET cycles, I produce insane numbers of eggs and they won’t let me implant during a collection cycle because I’m at high risk of hyperstimulation.

    I like your 4 options, that’s pretty much where I was. I did two cycles with the big girl still feeding then my husband and I agreed we needed to wean just so we could be sure we’d done everything. I think it’s important to remember you can change your mind and wean later, but not always so easy to unwean even though we did it, so I agree absolutely with trying first. Good luck.

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  6. @babydust Thanks for the mention! #infertility #FET #IVF

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  7. Have you asked if you can do a natural FET? Since you think your ovulating all you have to do is track ovulation with BT’s or OPK’s and they time the transfer around your ovulation so that it fits in with your luteral phase timing. Sometimes they help you with a trigger and progesterone but thats all so it’s a minimum drugs cycle and would suit you since you wnat to safely BF through it.
    Just a thought.

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  8. Yay! Great post! I’m so glad to find someone else who not only DOES breastfeed through out her treatment, but speaks out about it – especially in an educated way.

    I researched before we did our last round of IVF and decided I had the same 4 options. I did talk to my Dr and she said she would prefer that I cut down to night time nursing and comfort nursing. Part of that for him, and part to aid in implantation, or rather, not to hinder it.

    I breastfeed until I was 12 weeks pregnant, and miscarried. I was away from him for 4 days recouping (no pump. I never mastered that skill) and was sooo worried I would lose my milk supply in addition to the baby, but luckily didn’t and he is nursing again. I’ll be doing a FET again in September and plan on nursing through that as well.

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  9. I’m planing on doing a FET in late Oct or early Nov. I don’t want to stop breast feeding either. I have a hard time lying but would be more then happy to not even mention it to my doctor. However how can I say i’m not breast feeding and then they take levels of my hormoes and they are sky high like I am breast feeding. They have to know. Call it my guilty concious but to me the doctor can call me on it. Am I just parinoid? If I knew I could pull off lying about it i’d just say yeah I’m not breast feeding anymore, he’s still drinking breast milk but it’s from what I collected and stored (which wouldn’t be a lie because I have a deep freezer full). I know I can’t pump enough to store for my son until he is 1, from now until the FET and still continue to breast feed him at night and pump while I work an 8 hour day (pump every 2 hours). I guess my question is what would you say to the docs if they said well it looks like you are still breast feeding your hormone levels are really high.

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  10. You say that one MUST wean if one hasn’ t had a period and if one doesn’ t ovulate. I am 49 and haven’ t had a period since my baby boy was born 10 months ago, don’ t know if it is menopause (I was having periods before getting pregnant) or the fact that I BF very frequently still and during the night.
    Why is that?
    Thank you for being there, I finally found other women who are going through the same!
    Good luck to all of you
    Lucia

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  11. I would tell the docs that you still pump a little bit or squeeze some out just so you avoid mastitis… it would explain the higher than normal prolactin levels. It’s what I’m gonna do.

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  12. Thank you so much for this! I am having a really hard time with this whole thing. The problem is, I have to take provera to induce a period. I am about to start treatments and I’m worried that I don’t have a thick enough lining to keep a pregnancy. Thank you so much for summing up all of my thoughts! My husband read this with me and it makes me feel so much better that I’m not the only one! :)

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    • I’m so glad LIndz! It was a very hard decision and I didn’t feel like the doctors were giving me the whole story. I wish you luck on your decision. Check back and let me know the outcome!

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  13. THANK YOU!!!! My son is 18 months and we tried for many years to get pregnant and I’ve ben battling with wether or not to wean him before our next try (in 6 months to a year). We will be doing an FET also. We’ll see what the next 6 months look like….but we will nurse on through if need be. THANK YOU!

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  14. Hi ladies,

    I’m currently doing a IVF cycle of which I’m still deciding if I should totally wean yes or no. I have read all the information available and even spoke with the IVF specialist about it. He really leaves it up to me to decide.

    By reading all your replies did any of you get pregnant whille still breastfeedilng? Would be nice to read some success stories.

    Thanks

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  15. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! I have been worried about this since I picked up my Lupron kit. I start my injections in ONE week and I cant fathom cutting my 20 month old off cold turkey. She only nurses twice a day and she BEGS for it. I think once the volume/taste changes during pregnancy, she’ll naturally wean. (The point about bioavailability and having to inject the drugs instead of taking them orally, really made total sense.) Baby dust to all..

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  16. This is such an awesome post and I have shared it with many good friends in the same position as we……. many thanks.

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  17. Thank you, thank you and thank you again for your post, it has helped me very much.
    I was afraid to ask – the fertility center just said “wean” (oh, so easy for them to say) – but when I mustered courage after reading your post and links, and did, their only real argument was as deb says, and I was not pressured to wean…at least not more than what is sadly normal in italy if breastfeeding above 12 months.
    I’m waiting now for the IVF outcome, and still nursing 16 months anna.

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  18. Thanks for all of your posts-they are so helpful to read. I am two days in to having fully weaned my 14 months old. I am really not coping with the whole concept-it feels so wrong. My IVF doctor said just wean and when I started talking to my husband about it during the appointment she said “I don’t care how you do it, just do it” so easy for them to say…..
    I’d be more than happy to keep feeding throughout pregnancy and then tandem feed. I wish there was more definitive information out there. My biggest concern is that BF could affect the embryo implanting-if I knew for sure it wouldn’t I would continue. I am considering unweaning my daughter when/if I fall pregnant-has anyone else done that??

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  19. thank you so much for researching this and blogging about it! I am 37 will be 38 in November. it took us 7 years before finally conceiving our son, who is now 26 months old, with an injectable IUI cycle. I started cycling again when he was 14months, feeling because of my age I don’t have another 7 years to wait, we decided that since it hasn’t happened naturally for #2 we better go back to our infertility clinic. my doctor told me to stop nursing! her reasoning is that prolaction counteracts FSH and so I would not be at my top fertile state while nursing and taking fertility drugs. I am not ready to stop.for a few reasons, i don’t think my boy is anywhere near ready. and nursing though the toddler years feels right. especially when he is frustrated and I get frustrated and we are banging heads and not connection, power struggles etc nursing always brings us back, calms us both down and makes things right again.

    this was perfect for me!!!!
    I was just thinking more about my decision making process. I guess I see only four possible outcomes of my FET:

    1. I don’t wean and I get pregnant – happy beyond measure

    2. I wean and I get pregnant – insanely happy but always wonder if I cheated Aellyn

    3. I don’t wean and the FET fails – Always wonder if the FET would have worked had I weaned.

    4. I wean and the FET fails – Unparalleled devastation that I lost my embryos AND my breastfeeding relationship with Aellyn.

    1 and 2 are great. 3 would be hard. 4 is not something I can live with. It would be horribly devastating to me. I guess that’s why I’m choosing not to wean.
    EXACTLY!!!!!!

    thank you soooo much for your post!!!!!

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    • Your welcome!
      I agree with you. With male factor I don’t think the decreased fertility, if any of lactation, has a huge impact. And the doctors who recommend weaning don’t understand the power of the breastfeeding relationship. It isn’t like “stop drinking coke” for goodness sake! Let us know how your FET goes!

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  20. What great posts! Thank you. I am struggling with the exact same issue.

    When I was 32, I conceived twin girls using FET. (I have a blocked fallopian tube.) My period returned when they were 17 months old. I was anxious to use my remaining two frozen embryos, so I rushed right back the the fertility clinic as soon as my cycle returned. Of course, my doctor said I could not undergo FET as long as I was breastfeeding. So, I lied and said that I had weaned the girls.

    The truth was that they were still breastfeeding, ALOT. I was lucky: My FET was a success and I was blessed with a third daughter. So, it is possible to have a successful FET while breastfeeding — even if one is breastfeeding twins!

    I continued to breastfeed my twins during my pregnancy, which I now see as a big mistake. When the baby was born, it was SO difficult nursing all three. I was so tired and unhappy and yet I couldn’t bring myself to wean the older girls.

    Fast forward 18 months and I am STILL nursing all three. The baby nurses whenever she wants; the older girls are only allowed to nurse at night. Unfortunately, two of my daughters still wake up several times a night, demanding to nurse. It’s very draining, both physically and psychologically.

    Truthfully, I wish they would all wake up in the morning and never ask for “bubbas” again. It is really affecting my sanity. Nursing just makes me angry a lot of the time. Still, I can’t bear to push them away.

    I have always dreamed of having a big family and I would like to try IVF again. I am 37 years old, so it is better to try sooner than later. I know I need to wean the girls — and fast. I start Lupron next week. But, I find it is worse than dieting. I have absolutely NO willpower. I give in every single time.

    Here is my grand plan: I’m going to buy a plaster cast at the craft store and wrap it around myself so my girls can’t get to my “bubbas”. I’m am actually that desperate! Aargh!

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    • Thanks for sharing your story Sarah! I’m so happy to hear that your FET worked while nursing and that you’ve had such a long nursing relationship with your twins.

      I’m so sorry about the difficulties you are having now. I was so sad when my toddler weaned during pregnancy but I can see now how difficult it would have been to nurse three kids. I do think that breastfeeding is only working if it is working for everyone. It might be time to wean if it is effecting you emotionally. I suffer from depression and actually right now having a bout of post partum and it is so important to keep mom sane! Happy mom = happy kids.

      Have you read some of the things on Kelly Mom about gentle weaning?

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  21. I am so grateful that I found this information on line. Thank you Thank you Paige for researching and investigating exactly what has been on my mind for months. I have a 16 month toddler and he is very much still wanting to breastfeed and I thoroughly enjoy this nurturing time together. I so much would like to have another child and I have one more frozen embryo. I want to do everything to make it a successful ivf transfer. I can’t say that I have had a period since I had my baby however I am also 48. I had to take estrogen, progesterone, provera, baby asparin(80mg)and I think predisone for a few weeks. Have you come across anyone else who may have taken predisone as a drug for fertility?
    I want to ensure that no drugs could affect my toddler while I entertain the prospect of going through the next ivf treatment while I still continue to breastfeed. Thank you again, Beth

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  22. Thank you so much for this. I’d love to know whether you had success. I am facing this decision, also. My FET daughter is 12 months old and still going strong for nursing. I’d like to cut her back during the day, but I can’t fathom stopping the night nursing. It just works so well for both of us. My first two children were conceived naturally; I was still nursing the first one when the second was conceived. The first weaned while I was pregnant. The second one weaned himself when he was almost two. That was in a previous marriage and now we have male-factor infertility; I have no known issues and my cycle has been regular again for months already. I really don’t want to forcibly wean my daughter. I’d like to nurse her until she’s two. But we have three embryos left and I’m not getting any younger. My daughter was conceived using a natural FET cycle (our first try, single embryo transfer; we never did a fresh cycle) — so the only drugs are progesterone and an HCG trigger. I can’t see how either one would cause a problem, and obviously I have a history of implantation during nursing.

    When the nurse at the clinic said that prolactin levels would be a concern, I didn’t know what to think of that. I continued making milk for over a year after my son weaned. I can’t wait for my daughter to wean and then yet another whole year (or longer) to stop producing milk. Wouldn’t my prolactin levels remain high as long as I was making milk, regardless of whether I was nursing or not?

    I have asked them whether there is any wiggle room in the weaning, and they’ve said no. I am considering lying about it as well because I disagree with their conclusions and I feel I should be allowed to make the final choice. I want to do FET again in 4-5 months and while it’s possible my daughter will have weaned by then, I don’t think it’s likely.

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  23. Paige, what was your outcome? I’m wrestling with the same situation now, but I will have to do a fresh IVF cycle (no male factor). My 13.5 month old is a reverse cycler so he nurses 5 times between 8:30pm and 5:30am and I pump 2 times at to maintain supply totalling 5-7 feedings/pumping sessions per day. I would love to know what your outcome was…

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  24. Hi guys! I’m so glad people are getting help from this post! My outcome was perfect! I nursed through my FET and now have 6 month old twin boys. I wish everyone luck with this decision!

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  25. Hi, all.
    This is just an update on my previous post. I did attempt a round of IVF while breastfeeding my 20-month-old daughter. I ended up with 9 embryos, which is think is pretty good for a 37-year-old. I transferred two 8-cells and a 7-cell. Sadly, none of them took. I can’t help thinking maybe — just maybe — breastfeeding had something to do with the failure. Of course, I’m afraid to ask my doctor, as he didn’t know I was breastfeeding in the first place! My guess is that doctors haven’t got an answer to this question, anyway.
    Now, I’m faced with another difficult decision. I’ve got one frozen blastocyst which I’m hoping to transfer in the next month or two. Should I try to wean my daughter, just for my own peace of mind?
    What a difficult decision! I know, from experience, that FETs absolutely CAN work while breastfeeding. Still, it is easy to blame one’s own decisions when ART fails.
    Personally, I’m NOT looking forward to having to stay sane through another two-week-wait. Then again, it just might work this time around…
    Paige, congratulations on your twins. You are proof that it really does work! It’s helps us all to keep the faith!
    Sarah

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  26. thanks for the info, we are trying at the moment aged 42 and 46, looking into fertility treatment options…

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  27. I just found your post through a google search about this precise topic and I can’t thank you strongly enough for this precise, well researched synthesis. I also love how you make it clear that ultimately it’s up to us patients to take this difficult decision.

    As for my particular situation, I’m 39, conceived my first daughter at the fourth IVF and we still have 5 frozen blasts from that tentative (different IVF center, better biology team, better luck, better outcome all over!). My daughter is now 22 months and still breastfeeding, which we both love very much. I’ve already cut – largely against her will – down to two sessions a day in order to get back my period.

    When I first began to tell my RE we wanted to try a FET – my daughter was 12ish months, she told me that she wasn’t totally against me still breastfeeding as long as I got my cycle back (we live in France, maybe protocols are slightly different here). But when I came back six months later still without a cycle, she did a double take (not very educated on prolonged breastfeeding, this one) and insisted that I had to wean completely, citing the potential hamful drugs (for the baby) as well as having to get my cycle back as reasons. This surprised me as this was different from her first reaction, maybe she didn’t see breastfeeding as so necessary with a 18 months old than with a 12 months old. Anyway, I decided to cut back nursing sessions very gradually in the hope of getting back a period, not of weaning. For me, it was the transition from 3 to 2 sessions that did the trick. I since read from a lilnk in kellymom that what seems to correlate the best with recovering ovulation is the lenght of total succion time, not the number of sessions, and my daughter is indeed a boob-loving succionning monster!

    Now that my cycle is back and I know that I ovulate, I’m tracking my luteal phase to get an idea of its length. If it’s adequate enough, I don’t think I’ll make enormous efforts to wean – now that my daughter speaks, she’s very eloquent about her taste for the boob, and I’d felt so heartbroken to refuse it to her… I have bloodwork programmed for next cycle and we see if the prolactin rise is so apparent! I guess we’ll plan the FET from next spring on (hope hope hope it will work, but since we have 5 chances we might need to use several of them!). She’ll be 26 months then and maybe we’ll both feel different, and if not I’ll probably talk about it to my RE. She tends to be a good listener and I hope to get a balanced and argumented opinion, whatever this opinion is.

    And now I’m heading to the rest of your blog to read more about your infertility, baby and breastfeeding adventures!

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  28. Thank you so much for writing this. My son was conceived through a natural FET cycle and is now a year old. When we went today for a consultation about trying for #2, I was shocked and beyond upset when I was told "no question, you need to wean." This is even for an UNmedicated IUI – no drugs! I was told that my prolactin levels would be way too elevated and would highly decrease my chance of pregnancy. I have had clockwork menstrual cycles for the last 8 months and it was even confirmed in an ultrasound today that I am ovulating. I want very much to continue BFing my son until he is at least 2 years old and until he is ready to wean himself. I cried all day at the thought of having to "choose" between giving my son what is best for him and what I promised myself to give him, and having another child before he is 3+ years old. I am trying to figure out the best course of action to address this and thought I might start by requesting the report of today's bloodwork to see what my prolactin levels actually are. Thanks again for your research!

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  29. Thank you for this information. I was planning on doing an FET cycle- I have only one remaining blasotcyst and I am 43 yo. I am also still brestfeeding my 20 month old on demand which ends up being about 5 times per day. My RE said I need to wean but I really don't want to. My question is will she be able to tell that I am still BF (due to prolactin levels, etc)? I am willing to take the risk but she will not. Therefore, the only way I can continue to BF is to lie. Your thoughts would be very helpful. thanks.

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  30. Thanks for this information. I too plan to do an FET cycle in the near future, and my baby is 9 months old right now. It makes me so sad to think of weaning him when he is not ready – and also when I am not ready.

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  31. Paige, So how did your FET work out for you through breastfeeding? Did your RE ever find out that you continued to BF through the cycle?

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  32. Love the success story update!! I feel so much more confident since finding your site and am committed to continue BFing my 13 month old. My RE's explanation for why I could not BF during IUIs was the my Prolactin would be "very elevated." Today I called to get the results of my bloodwork and asked specifically about my Prolactin. Normal range is between 3 and 30….mine is a 3.5!!! It doesn't get much more UNelevated than that!

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    • That's great news. I think they just paint such a wide brush about breastfeeding. For them it is "better safe than sorry" but they don't understand the importance of bfing and the effect on the older child. I wish you tons of babydust!

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      • I agree, and thank you! I very much had wanted to mention all the benefits of extended BFing and why it was so important to me, etc. However, this was my first time with this RE and right after she found out I was BFing, she said she had a 4 month old and was "done with that" after a few weeks. I don't know what the reasons were, but either way, didn't want her to be on the defensive.

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  33. I am currently on lupron for a FET cycle. I did all my research prior to starting the cycle. I didn't tell them i was BFing my 9 month old nor did they ask. I will be transfering in 3 weeks. I am so glad I came upon your post!!

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    • Good for you! Please come back and let me know how the FET goes!

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  34. Thank you so much for this information. I am 40 and have 2 embryos in storage (day 6 blastocysts) and still BF my 23 month old son. We are about to go through the FET cycle & I have not told the clinic…again they didn't even ask so i didn't have to lie!!! Thank you for your research, it has reassured me that my heart already knew (that i can do it all!!). Like yourself, I am unsure if there will be any other children and we waited 6 years for our little man so I want him to wean when he is ready. I feel quite happy no matter what the outcome.
    Thank you
    Sassy

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  35. The updates with success or otherwise outcomes are really helpful. I’m 40 and my dd is 17m. She was conceived by ICSI ( we have severe mfi) and bf is the foundation of our relationship – tantrum soothing, reassuring, illness fighting etc etc. I want to start a second ICSI but know the clinic are completely opposed to bfing during tx. I’ve been cycling regularly & ovulating since 13m ( actually got weak bfp day before first period as I was suspicious I had ovulated 3w early) I got my family practitioner to check my prolactin fsh and estradiol today hoping I’ll get a low enough result to give to the clinic before my apmt in 2w. If it’s high I’ll not even mention it. My dd night weaned 2/52 ago but as usual feeds a lot more when period starts and milk production seems to increase so prolactin is prob sky high!

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  36. Lucky we didn't wean, our blastocysts did not survive the thawing process which was quite devastating at the time. We are now considering another complete cycle. Would love to hear from anyone who has undergone IVF and continued to BF. DS turned 2 on Sunday and still loves his "boob boob!!".I am 40, this is our last go & i would love to give it our best shot! Thank you.

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  37. Just to update – the bloods taken on day 3 of my cycle showed prolactin to be normal ( in fact at the very lower limit of the normal range despite her upping her feeds and feeding prior to test) I’m growing more convinced that elevated prolactin isn’t an issue in mothers whose cycles are regular & children over 1 yr. Planning to start ICSI no 3 in July.

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    • I agree. If natural fertility has resumed then the levels are within normal for a non-breastfeeding woman. Much baby dust on your cycle! Keep us posted!

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  38. Truly beneficial blog post. I too run a maternity related blog site and I absolutely concur with everything that you’ve offered here. At times basic aspects have powerful influences on pregnancy.

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  39. How I wish I could breastfeed for a long time. When I gave birth to our firstborn, breastfeeding only lasted for 2 months. I had undergone medication during pregnancy because of thyroid problem and maybe that was the reason.

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  40. I’m so happy to have found your post, as I’ve been struggling with this issue. Having gone through IVF on my own to conceive my baby son (and the fact that he was born prematurely at 27 weeks’ gestation), I am very keen to breastfeed until he is at least two, but also desperate for him to have a little brother or sister.

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