Fibromyalgia and Caring For Your Newborn
Whether you've just given birth, watched your partner give birth or have gone through the long journey of adopting a child when you have a newborn your body has already been pushed to the limit just by getting to this point. Now how do you manage your pain and other symptoms while giving this tiny person everything they need?
The needs of your newborn represent in almost perfect antithesis everything your are not supposed to do when managing your fibromyalgia. While other new parents can do their best to push through the lack of sleep, the crying etc if your tried to do the same your pain would quickly deteriorate until it was impossible or you to take care of yourself or your child, The fact is that even that is a very real possibility when being faced with this, one of the most challenging periods in your life.
So how do you deal with it all?
One of the most important things to accept from the very start is that this is going to be hard as hell. We all know how hard caring for a newborn is even for the healthiest of people, but in a whole different way you are in for a whirlwind of challenges and the best thing you can do is communicate with your support system, your partner, amily members or friends in advance and remember that you simply cannot push through like everyone else. You must work extra hard to find alternatives and strategies to manage your pain as well as possible.
Sleep is the most important aspect of handling your fibromyalgia and one of the hardest resources to come by when caring for a newborn. The best you can do is get as much sleep as possible, o course, and in this you are going to need help from your support system. There are many ways to handle this situation.
One is to discuss with your partner or a friend or family member giving you the oppurtunity or at least four hours of uninterrupted sleep everyday. Four hours is the amount of time that it takes or a healthy body to experince one REM cycle. This should be the minimum. For me personally our hours could never have been enough sleep to keep my pain at a manageable level. My husband stayed home for the first two months after our son was born so that we could take shifts. I slept for eight solid hours at night, and he slept as much as he could during the day.
The advice to sleep when your baby is sleeping is just not enough with finromyalgia. It is a good idea to exhaust every possible resource to get as much uninterrupted sleep as possible.
When caring or a newborn new parents often eat what they can when they can, and no one could blame them. I would advise against trying to find the time or the energy to prepare food for either you or your partner. You two have to focus on your newborn's needs and your own health. So fill your house with foods that easy to eat in a second, with one hand, that are also high in nutrition. Fruits, vegetables, cured meats, cereal or granola bars etc. Finding friends or family who are willing to drop of meals would of course give the welcome break of hot food as well. Just don't put pressure on yourselves to make food on top of what else your doing. But remember to keep the house of clear of foods that will cause your pain go up such as sugary protein bars, meal replacement shakes, cereal etc. Any foods that effect your pain are going to directly effect your ability to care for your baby and yourself.
Feeding your baby:
Feeding your baby is a huge challenge when you have fibromyalgia. Depending on your situation you may have up to three options: breastfeeding, pumping, donated breastmilk or formula feeding, With FMS you have many things to consider for each option.
Breastfeeding - breastfeeding is certainly the best and most natural option for your baby but is it the best option or your family? Breastfeeding may require discontinuing your medication,abstaining from using narcotics for pain relief as well as staying in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time while supporting the weight of your baby. It also means that in order for your baby to eat, he/she has to be touching you no matter what your pain level is. On top of that you must wake up with your baby everytime he'she is hungry which could mean your sleep is being interrupted ever half hour or so. All of these challenges mean that for many parents with fibromyalgia breastfeeding is not the best option.
Pumping - pumping has many of the same challenges as breastfeeding in that medication must be discontinued or used very sparingly to make sure the milk is safe for your baby. It also requires pumping of course, which can be painful if you gave FMS (while healthy people will tell you that it shouldn't hurt at all). Pumping can also take a great deal of time which means that you are sitting up, holding the pump to your breasts or a great deal of time. On the bright side pumping allows your partner or someone else to feed your baby while you get uninterrupted sleep and gives your baby all of the wonderful antibodies, vitamins etc that they can only get from your breast milk.
Donated breastmilk or formula feeding - For many new parents with firomyalgia this is the best option. Formula or donated breastmilk puts as little stress as possible on your painm sleep and body. Anyone can feed your baby and you can even prop your little one up on a pillow while you feed him/her so that you are not having to support your baby's weight or be touching them if your pain is very bad. Of course making this choice to bottle feed is one that may cause a great deal of personal emotions to come up. Feelings of guilt or anxiety are not uncommon.
Whatever choice you make when it comes to feeding your baby you must remember that you are making the choice that is best for your family, not somebody else's.
Babies cry, a lot, and they tend to get quite loud. Your baby has no regard for your headachesor migraines and your pain has no regard for poor timing. I bought ear plugs (though they did hurt the insides of my ears) thought I wore along with hearing protection (though it did hurt the sides of my heads) and gave myself a break when it came to taking medications for headaches, whereas before I would have waited until it was turning into a migraine to medicate.
A tip about crying babies: they tend to quiet down with white noise. It will still hurt your head but not nearly as badly as the screaming of a new born.
Flare ups: A very real possibility
When my son was one month old my body had had enough. I was getting enough sleep but I wasn't eating enough healthy food, or enough at all, and I was pushing my body physicially way too far. My pain skyrocketed from almost nothing the week after my son was bon to averaging aound 8 or 9. The stress caused my breastmilk to dry up, and my pain was so consistently high that I couldn't touch my son hardly at all for that second month of his life. It was heartbreaking to hear hi cry and know I couldn't be the one to help him and it was so hard for my husband who was taking care of me and our son single-handedly. It was hard on all three of us each in our own way but the thing we had to keep reminding eachother is that it was nobody's fault. Parenting is hard, really hard, and every family has it's own challenges to face and faces them in the same way. I am now pregnant with my second child and all I can do learn from my past experiences and be prepared if it should happen again. But the challenge, as hard as it may be, was so worth it or me.
© 2013 Mikal Smith