breastfeeding baby

Nikki Heying had an extra reason to celebrate the end of chemotherapy.

As PopSugar reports, the California mom of four learned she had a growth around her heart soon after giving birth to her young son. Not long after, she was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to begin treatment.

That meant Heying only had a few weeks to breastfeed her newborn before chemotherapy made it impossible. But she didn’t give up on the possibility of being able to do it again.

According to The Bump, doctors usually recommend waiting five half-lives (the length of time for a drug to be eliminated from the body) before restarting breastfeeding after chemotherapy. Because the drugs used in chemotherapy can differ, that time might stretch into weeks.

However, waiting isn’t the only concern for breastfeeding moms. Chemo drugs may attack or damage milk-producing cells. Moreover, in order to keep up milk production during chemotherapy, moms have to express milk regularly.

6 weeks old on the left, 30 weeks old on the right. It’s been 6 months. Six months since I was allowed to breastfeed my…

Posted by Nikki Heying on Tuesday, February 12, 2019

So that’s what Heying did. For six months — the time she was in chemo, plus the waiting period after — the mom would pump breast milk and dump it out to keep her milk production up. In a celebratory post on Facebook, she wrote:

Six months of a hard battle against CANCER, getting poisoned with chemo that tainted my breastmilk and prevented me from nursing my infant son. Six months of pumping every few hours and dumping every single ounce of it all down the drain, just so I could keep my supply up, in hopes of eventually being allowed to nurse my baby again.

While Heying had to keep pumping, she also needed to make sure her baby didn’t forget how to latch. Fortunately, a friend was able to help:

Six months of having a dear, sweet, generous friend […] come to my house 1-2 times a week to latch my son, just so he would remember HOW to breastfeed again when I was able.

When she was able to breastfeed again, Heying posted side-by-side photos of it — a pre-chemo picture when her son was 6 weeks old and another of her son at 30 weeks. She wrote:

I had my last chemo session in January and it’s been 35 days post-chemo. My breastmilk no longer contains any remnants of chemo in it, and last night I was able to BREASTFEED MY SON AGAIN!!!!

Heying’s joy at being able to breastfeed again was shared by thousands of commenters. Many said they found inspiration or encouragement in the mom’s determined struggle.

“Very admirable and encouraging. Thank you so much for sharing your personal story with the world,” wrote one mom.

Another gushed, “You are incredible! Fought the cancer fight and fought to feed your baby! Kudos, and prayers the battle is won!”

Heying hoped that her story might help other moms see what is possible. She wrote, “It’s been a long road, but I wanted to share my journey publicly in hopes that it can be shared and might inspire others in some small way.”

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