Gallbladder Surgery while Nursing

After experiencing some excruciating pain that felt like extreme heartburn, I was actually relieved to find out I just had gallstones. I thought I was dying. Apparently, pregnancy puts you at risk for developing them. The gallstones were too big to dissolve and not big enough to warrant immediate surgery, so opting for gallbladder removal was going to be totally up to me.

I sat on the idea for several days because my new baby boy was still only about 4 months old, so I was worried what effect the surgery would have on our nursing relationship and (since he was still so little) I worried that juggling him and my toddler while recovering would be impossible on my own.

Ultimately, getting the surgery scheduled sooner rather than later made the most sense. It was better to get it out of the way while I had access to the most help and to avoid the risk of further inflammation.

When I searched Google for some information from mothers of newborns to help me make this decision, I didn’t find much outside of a few snippets in forums. Hopefully sharing my account might help some other mothers facing the same surgery.

Gallbladder scars

Healed gallbladder scars

Day of Surgery:

  • Appointment set for 6am, which made not getting to eat or drink after midnight a bit easier. Also meant I could get home sooner in the day.
  • One of my lovely neighbors came over to watch both boys and her kids came too and everyone played.
  • My other lovely baby-crazy neighbor came over and was able to get the baby to take a bottle. Phew! Getting the baby fed was one of my biggest concerns in all this.
  • Told anesthesiologist about concerns for breastfeeding (in a hilarious coincidence, I gave birth a day after his wife in the same hospital and they heard me screaming 😂). He adjusted the meds accordingly so I’d have less of the “long-lasting stuff.” Based on studies and his knowledge, he thought waiting to nurse 2 hrs after surgery would be sufficient, but recommended 4 to be on the safe side (Note: Please talk to your own health care provider for best guidelines). I also told him about my concerns for nausea based on my experience getting wisdom teeth removed he included some anti-nausea meds.
  • The surgeon prayed with me before the procedure which put my mind at ease and made me feel better prepared. I was so worried about post-op and my kids that I hadn’t actually slowed down to think about the surgery itself.
  • I was awake before I knew it and came out of the anesthesia pretty easily. Had small sips of juice and water and took my first painkiller with crackers in hospital, which required I stay and extra 30 min just to be monitored.
  • For pain relief, I was prescribed 5/325 Hydrocodone/Acetemetophine. I double-checked with the nurse about the painkillers and breastfeeding, she read the database entry and talked to my surgeon who said it was to okay for BF’ing. The nurse still seemed a tad wary and told me what warning signs to look for in baby in case of a bad reaction. After looking up the LactMed entry myself at home, it seemed best to try and limit the number I took. I also decided to take my doses AFTER feedings to ensure that by the next feeding the meds were leaving my system rather than at their highest.
  • I did pump and dump when I got home just in case and to stimulate my supply. It had been almost 6 hours since my last feeding and about 3 hours since waking from surgery. My husband gave baby some milk from my stash in the meantime.
  • LOVED my reclining chair for resting during recovery. I have the electric kind, so I could just sit and and ease myself back.
  • Had my husband create ice packs for my abdomen by freezing a couple wet dishtowels in gallon bags.
  • Nursing is a challenge. I ended up having to lift my shirt to expose my boob with one hand, husband put baby on my boob for me while I protected my incision sites from a flailing baby.
  • Lying flat on my back was way too uncomfortable. Slept propped up.
  • CO2 gas trapped in shoulders pretty painful too.
  • Ate only jello and chicken noodle soup.

Day 2:

  • Able to move around better, still took a couple prescribed pain pills throughout the day.
  • Nursing still a challenge but I figured out how to use one arm to keep baby’s lower arm and legs away from my incision sites.
  • Still pain from CO2.
  • Added oatmeal and banana to my menu.

Day 3:

  • God Bless my neighbor who came over while my husband had to leave for work for a couple hours!
  • Feeling much better, able to do more and even put baby down in his crib at end of day.
  • Stopped taking hydrocodone since the pain has mostly subsided. Took a 600mg ibuprofen instead.
  • Pain from CO2 has almost disappeared.
  • Felt that I could eat more. Had hummus on toast for lunch, plain chicken & teriyaki for dinner and a couple cookies. Was kinda hoping some risky foods might move a bowel movement along. (Was growing worrisome about constipation from painkillers.)
  • Took stool softener too to help along bowel movement. Had one by the end of the day though.

Day 4:

  • Husband had a 24-hr duty, had neighbor and other milspouses help me throughout the day. (God Bless our close-knit community here!)
  • Feeling healed enough to pick baby up for night feedings and set him back down on my own. (He’s less active at night, so I don’t have to manage so much flailing.)
  • Eating things like pot roast with only some minor stomach gurgles, but no serious or long lasting pain/discomfort.
  • Have gotten the hang of nursing more efficiently by using one arm between me and baby to block his arms and legs from jabbing me.

Day 5:

  • CO2 pain has completely gone by now
  • My dad arrives to help.
  • Ate lasagna with the top cheese layer taken off and felt okay.
  • Unfortunately, the oldest child woke up with croup. Left husband home asleep with Baby. Had my dad run with me to hospital in middle of night so he could do all the lifting.

Day 6

  • Running on almost no sleep. Last night has made me feel like I can do more activity. Holding baby for longer periods of time and transferring him short distances that don’t require much bending or lifting.
  • Finally slept flat on my back last night instead of propped up.
  • Dad made arroz con pollo with brown rice. Probably the most satisfying and least upsetting meal I’ve had since surgery.

Day 7

  • Eating more, doing more. No big problems

Day 8

  • Probably stayed active and on my feet too much today. Needed to ice my abdomen at the end of the day.
  • Doing a lot more lifting baby in and out of his various receptacles.

Day 9

  • Took it easier. Sat down in recliner with my son in front of tv more to take a break.
  • Was able to slowly take baby up and down stairs on my own finally.
  • Eating mostly what I want now with no noticeable issues. Haven’t had very greasy foods yet, but have had moderate amounts of fat.

Day 10

  • Able to be active without much of a second thought. Using my abdomen to get up and down and turn is easier, no pain. Still need to be careful with how fast I go. I can feel some soreness at my incisions when I do too much too fast.

In Conclusion…

The first few days after surgery are tricky for managing little ones and nursing, but the overall recovery is so quick. It was certainly better to get it resolved when I did. I even made it back to my regular diet sooner than anticipated. I think I probably should have taken it easier on those first few days when I started to feel better. I think as moms though, sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to do more, when really life calls for slowing down and self-care.

Have more questions about experience with this procedure? Leave them in the comment section!

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6 thoughts on “Gallbladder Surgery while Nursing

  1. beeingamomma says:

    My husband just had an emergency appendectomy, and my mind started to wander on this subject of how exactly I would have needed to handle this surgery if it was me in his shoes. So great to stumble across this! I commend you for powering through it because it doesn’t seem like an easy heal at all.

    Like

  2. piper. says:

    Thank you for posting this! I’m about to go through the exact same experience…4 month old, elective gallbladder surgery (mostly to prevent a need for emergency surgery since i’ve had so many episodes!). Did you experience a dip in milk supply?

    Like

  3. pepo6 says:

    Thank you for posting this! I’m about to go through the exact same situation – daughter is 4 months, etc. I’m wondering if you experienced a dip in your milk supply? If so, was there anything you did to help combat that? I meet with the surgeon today to ask all the questions, but would love another mom’s take 🙂

    Like

    • Claire says:

      I’m happy to report that I did not notice a dip in supply. I think resuming feedings ASAP helped. I also stopped taking the painkillers ASAP too, so I wonder if I would have noticed more of a dip if I had taken them more continuously. Good luck! Feel free to drop by again and let us know how it goes.

      (P.S. did you leave a similar comment as “piper” above?)

      Like

      • pepo6 says:

        thank you! yes, that was me…wordpress told me that comment didn’t go through because i had to log in with this old account i created a million years ago :). great to hear about your supply not suffering. i’ll keep you posted on my situation!

        Like

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