Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Breastfeeding with Lyme Disease

Though I don't have much to share in terms of future Lyme treatment (still giving my body a break from all drugs for another week until I meet with my LLMD), I will discuss an issue that's been on my mind a lot lately.


The Lyme Literate doctors all say no way; my other doctors say there's no recorded proof that spirochetes can be transmitted through breast milk, and if it does happen, the chances are so slim, it's not worth worrying about.

All I hear is, "There's a slight chance you could make your kid very sick, but no worries--everything is just fine!"

Once again, I find myself having to choose between two very opposite sides of the spectrum. There's no middle ground when it comes to basic decisions like feeding. Boob juice or no boob juice. That is it. Simple, right?

The first time mom in me steps up and says, "You'd better think about this long and hard, because YOUR actions determine the health of this baby, who can't speak or think for himself. YOU are the protector."

But "breast is best!" No s***, really?! If I read one more militant mommy rant about how it is cruel and selfish to deprive a child of breast milk, I'm going to kick something. Yes, animals in the natural world nurse their young for a reason. Yes, I am remorseful and already sad about not being able to share in that bonding experience.

Breastfeeding just does not work for some families, and whatever that reason is, the mother should not be made to feel like a failure for her decision. So why am I second guessing myself about going straight to the bottle? I'm assuming it's because I haven't had much support so far, and I want to feel like I'm doing the right thing and being a good mom.

Yesterday I saw one of my favorite doctors--she's works closely with my main OBGYN (the woman I always speak so highly of). When I brought up my apprehension about breastfeeding, she was quick to (kindly) lecture me about how I needed to breastfeed. All mothers need to do it, regardless of the situation. "Even mothers with serious diseases like HIV can breastfeed because the transmission rate is so low, so stop worrying about Lyme!"

I know she didn't mean to sound ignorant or insensitive, but really?! Serious diseases? And for what it's worth, I wouldn't risk passing on HIV either, no matter how slim the chance, but hey, that's just me.

I'm aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. Babies need mom's milk to build up their immune systems and ward off illnesses. Breastfed babies have fewer colds, ear infections, childhood illnesses, etc.

I can't help but take a look back at bad years of my life, particularly the last three.

Paralysis, neurological problems, claw hands, blue feet, Bell's Palsy, wheel chairs, weekly doctors visits, anxiety, depression, thyroid and adrenal problems, severe stomach issues, allergic reactions, food intolerance, vertigo, double vision, heart problems, the humiliation of fainting in public places, trips in ambulances, excruciating physical pain that at times left me drifting off to sleep wondering, "Will I wake up tomorrow morning, or is this it?"

I'm not saying this to be melodramatic; this is very real. So, I think I just settled my own internal debate. When baby Wyatt makes his grand appearance, he will lovingly receive his very first bottle of manufactured formula. I say let him get an ear infection. Let him get five! These are minor problems we can fix. I couldn't live with myself if he experienced any of the others listed above because I folded under the pressure of critical doctors and judgmental spectators.

I'm not sure which camp is right. Either I'm completely wrong for buying into the better- safe-than-sorry group, or perhaps in the years to come, Lyme will be taken more seriously, breast milk transmission will be proven, and I will feel sad for the women who had to tell their sick children, "I'm sorry, we didn't know much about Lyme back then, and the doctors said it was safe."

I am very curious to read other thoughts, opinions, and experiences on this subject, as I'm in unknown territory here. Any breastfeeding with Lyme info (preferably scientific) is also greatly appreciated. Anyone out there have kids during an active Lyme period? How is everyone's health now, and looking back, would you have done anything differently?


  1. you go girl! listen to the lyme drs i say. and also, as always, listen to your heart! go with your gut. use good boundaries to shut the naysayers out... whats good for one is not good for all. i am a total damn i wish my mom had breastfed me, think it maybe crucial for bonding etc etc but after reading your post i agree with you. i worry about this (not exactly related topic) of vaccines and autism... but i think we do whatever we can do insure the health of our child. and always we weigh the pros and cons. your con sounds like a REAL con and the pros are all hypothetical?

  2. You are doing the right thing to bottle feed. I know because I breastfed and she has lyme and co.

  3. This post was extremely helpful, I have had chronic lymes disease for over 10 years and am in my 34th week of pregnancy. I would never want my child to be exposed to such a horrible disease and if this means formula feeding him that is what I need to do. I am also going to have the placenta tested for the lymes spirochete.

  4. I did breastfeed my baby for almost 6 months, my doctor was very adamant that if your baby is safe while in utero as long as you were on antibiotics the same applied to nursing. I made that decision and I pray everyday it was the right one. It will always be at the back of my mind, that said I have to believe she will be strong and healthy. She is a healthy little girl so far and I am hopeful.

  5. I have 5 children with whom I took pen G IM throughout my most recent pregnancy, and am BFing him, and I will have him tested for lyme when he is a bit older, and I will take abx while BFing him as well. My older 4 tested + for lyme prob congenital, were treated for about a yr each with abx and are now healthy kids but we monitor their health for sx. You have to go with your gut on this one and do what is right for your family. :P

  6. Thank You. This post was helpful. I was born with lyme disease and I am now in my 20's, 30 weeks pregnant, and was considering breastfeeding. Now that I think about it I would also rather my child grow up with ear infections and colds rather then be in and out of the Doctors with strange symptoms their entire life, I am sad I will not get to breastfeed since it is something I have always wanted to do but I am glad I am protecting my baby from what I had to go through. I am also getting the placenta tested when she is born. If it is positive I will have her treated as soon as possible. She wont remember what she had to go through as a baby but I remeber being miserable as a teen and young adult so maybe this can all be avoided.

  7. Hey Mamas!

    Some of you can go here to share your story. Dr. Hale (Author of Medications and Mother's Milk) will eventually be studing BFing and Lyme. Please share and spread far and wide so we can get some real answers. BFing mom with Lyme.


  8. I see a concern about breast feeding, but what about the actually pregnancy? No one has been concerned about that. I have lyme myself and know it is a blood born disease (which all of you with lyme know as well)and is passed directly to the child. Are any of you concerned about your actual pregnancy? Just wondering...

    1. I agree! I was diagnosed almost 6 years ago and took antibiotics for 4weeks and was told it was gone. Now a husband and two children later they are telling me I may still have it. I am terrified! Not only have I breastfed both, but 9m inside of me sharing all I have to give, even if it is a disease. Also some studies also show it can be sexually transmitted. That means our partners are at risk now too!

  9. From everything i have researched and found you can pass it to the baby via the placenta. My son was born with it and we are now finding the reason he has been so sick for his whole life. He is now 2, and the LLMD was shocked at how well he had been doing. I can't help but think it has to do with the fact that he was breastfed and IS STILL breastfed. My body which is fighting the lyme is giving him antibodies to help him fight it. We are now starting natural treatment. Also lyme is everywhere and so many people have it and don't know. We are expecting once we have it treated and in remission that we will as a family go on a parasite cleanse quarterly to kill off any new infections or the dormant ones coming out. Just because you don't breast feed doesn't mean they can't get it.

  10. I'm due next month (April 2015) and am struggling horribly with this decision! I have asked a lot of people but no one can give me a straight answer (or I get polar opposite answers, like the author.) Since this is an old post I'm wondering if there is any new information out there, or lessons learned?

  11. Completely unhelpful post that comes up when you search breastfeeding and lyme.

  12. I've heard LLMD's say to continue safe antibiotics while breastfeeding, not that you shouldn't breastfeed. Lyme tests test antibody response to the Lyme bacteria. Breastmilk is designed to mount an antibody response against anything the mother is exposed to. Therefore it makes sense that a baby will test with antibody response to Lyme because his/her body is making antibodies to fight it.

  13. Hi! So grateful for this article and forum, wondering if there's any new research that anyone knows about? I have chronic Lyme, and a 1 month old baby. I did the umbillical cord PCR test with Igenex, and she tested negative (yay!). But I've been breastfeeding and wondering if I should stop. I have recurrent mastitis and plugged ducts, anyone have thoughts on whether these could be lyme related?

  14. This is particularly interesting to me. I treated chronic Lyme and feel truly well now. But adopting and I'm stressing about formula feeding baby. I LOVED nursing our bio kids and really want to nurse this baby, too. Besides, formula is expensive! Especially the good quality stuff we'd prefer to use.