Mothers with chronic health problems are relatively common, but these conditions can make breastfeeding challenging. Below we have some general advice for taking care of yourself postpartum.
General Suggestions for Mothers with Chronic Illness
- Make sure you get enough rest.
Fatigue is common for new mothers, but even more so for mothers with chronic illnesses. It is essential that you rest regularly. That’s where Laws 2, 4 and 5 (use skin-to-skin, breastfeed frequently, and respect your unique feeding rhythm) will be particularly useful. Nap with your baby. Hold your baby skin-to-skin during the day. Learn to nurse lying down so that you can rest during the day. Keep your baby close at night so that you don’t need to fully wake up to attend to your baby’s needs. And limit the number of guests that you have (especially those you have to entertain)
- Accept all offers of help.
So often, new mothers think that they need to handle everything alone. This is not the time to demonstrate your independence. Being overly fatigued can cause your symptoms to flare. So for the first few weeks, or more, accept help.
- Get advice about your medications.
You might be currently taking one or more prescription medications. Most medications are compatible with breastfeeding, but a few are not. Check with a mother-to-mother breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant, who generally has access to reference materials that other health care providers do not. Another option is to purchase a copy of Medications and Mothers’ Milk.
- Realize that you may be vulnerable to depression.
Several types of chronic illness are associated with higher risks of depression (e.g., lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, MS). Be aware that you are probably more vulnerable than most mothers. If you seek support and follow the steps listed above, you have a good chance of preventing its occurrence.