When Little Warrior was first diagnosed with cancer, I searched everywhere for information on breastfeeding a baby with cancer. I googled all kinds of permutations of +breastfeeding +baby +cancer and all I got was articles about how if you (the mother) have cancer, you should stop breastfeeding. Or how breastfeeding could offer protection against you (the mother) developing breast cancer.
At the hospital, which is a Children's Hospital, I tried to find someone who could talk to me about it, specifically, were there certain things I could eat that would help, or certain things I should avoid? The sum total of advice I received can be summarized in this quote from one doctor:
"Sure, you can go ahead and breastfeed."
Well, duh, Sherlock. If breastfeeding is best with a 'normal' child, I'm certainly not going to put a baby with cancer on formula.
So, for anyone who ever happens to google the topic, here's my experience:
My daughter was 7 months when diagnosed. She's 13 months now.
She was exclusively breastfed til she was about 11 months. We would have started her on solids earlier, but, probably because of the chemotherapy, she just wasn't interested.
I have breastfed in countless waiting rooms, doctors' offices and of course, in the hospital. Little Warrior even got one of her echocardiograms nursing. She was being fussy, and we didn't want to sedate her, so I hopped up on the table, put her on my lap, and latched her on. The tech had no problem doing her echo/doppler.
In the hospital, we had no problems. One nurse put a sign up on the door saying "Knock! Breastfeeding mother inside!" but that was a pain, since they'd knock, then wait for us to yell "come in." With a sleeping baby, not helpful. I'm discreet, so we just pulled the sign down. And I mean, come on. This is my fourth baby. Modesty went out the window 3 kids ago. I think a medical professional could handle a quick flash of boob.
We were pleasantly surprised that when we requested her hospital crib be replaced with a hospital bed so that I could sleep with her, they didn't even bat an eye.
We were also surprised that the lack of measurability of breastmilk wasn't a problem. After her surgeries, as soon as she had taken a certain amount of pedialyte, I was allowed to nurse her. They just weighed all of her diapers and used that for a gauge.
Only challenges: when she went through surgery, she couldn't nurse for about 4-5 days. As soon as you know you'll be in that type of situation, request a breastpump. No matter how stressed you are, pump. Make sure you're pumping every 3 hours. A friend of mine brought me up some "Nursing Mother Tea" and that helped. (Or just fenugreek tea.)
Other challenge: I had never gotten Little Warrior on to a bottle. Didn't really have the need, since I was a stay-at-home mum. The only time this was an issue was when we needed to get "contrast" down her or the pedialyte. Well, they make giant syringes that you can request. It's going to be a pain, and Baby is going to be mad at you, but it's better than doing an NG tube, in my opinion.
Whenever LW gets a CT scan, they sedate her. Coming out of that, they've never required her to do pedialyte. They just let her nurse. After she nurses for a while (with no throwing up), we're free to go.
End result of all this -- realizing that this is purely anecdotal: Little Warrior's blood counts never dropped below range. She was hospitalized once for infection, but it was probably due to e.coli being released in her system during surgery. (Very common.)
To my eyes, she got skinny, but the doctors never worried about it. And apparently the skinniness was due to the tumors eating up all her calories, because after the tumors were removed (but while still on chemo), she began gaining the weight back.
I'd like to take credit for any of that, but science just doesn't work that way. Who knows? Maybe it had nothing to do with it.
But, if you are breastfeeding your baby already and s/he has been diagnosed with cancer ... well, first of all, I send you a giant cyber hug. I am SO sorry you're facing that. But next, let me encourage you to keep nursing your baby if at all possible. I don't have any information on nutrition for you, other than to say be sure to drink loads of water and avoid alcohol, since it can interfere with chemo. For the first month or so, I also avoided caffeine, but I'll admit that fell by the wayside. I had about a cup of coffee every day. I say "about" because I make a cup of coffee, I lay it down somewhere, I find it later, I microwave it, I set it down, rinse, lather and repeat until I finally give up drinking it.
Good luck. God bless. Boobie love.