Can I breastfeed when I have fibromyalgia?
Antenatal class advice
During antenatal classes, one of the biggest topics covered is feeding your baby. Breastfeeding is promoted as the best way to feed your baby, with the World Health Organisation stating that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of their lives. However, in all the talks I had, fibromyalgia and breastfeeding was never mentioned.
Feeding your baby
I want to make it clear before I get into this blog post that, I am in no way saying that formula feeding is bad or that you cannot formula feed your child. As long as your child is fed and well nourished, it doesn’t matter how we feed our babies. The reason I want to discuss breastfeeding, in particular though, is because fibromyalgia and breastfeeding are not ever discussed.
Breastfeeding with fibromyalgia – my experience
I have been successfully breastfeeding my son for 21 months now with no plans to stop at the moment and I have fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and anxiety. So ,in my personal opinion, I know it is possible to breastfeed when you have a chronic illness.
(The bright yellow hoodie I am wearing is from Stylish Mum. It is a breastfeeding hoodie that is super comfortable and practical to feed in. It is also warm and more importantly stylish! This item was gifted to me but my opinion is my own. I would never promote a product if I did not believe in it!)
Research on breastfeeding with fibromyalgia
Positive Google search results on breastfeeding with fibromyalgia
On the website La Leche League USA, Yeal Breimer shares her experience of breastfeeding with fibromyalgia. She echoes my thoughts that it is a challenging thing to do. In the article, she goes on to explain how it can be challenging particularly with stiffness from staying in one position for too long to decreased sleep. She also goes on to explain how you have to make sure any medications you take are compatible with breastfeeding, too. (For medication advice please do speak to your doctor or The Breastfeeding Network do a fantastic resource of medications during breastfeeding.)
She then goes onto explain, in detail, the benefits she derived from breastfeeding. The hormones released during breastfeeding have been proven to actually help lower pain in the body and help keep your moods in check. Yeal also goes on to explain how the side lying position helped her dramatically to feed, with less pain. She then goes on to explain how she decided to co sleep with her child to help with night waking and to get more sleep.
Negative Google Search Results on breastfeeding and fibromyalgia
I do believe on this blog that it is important to give a rounded view of this and so in full disclosure, there are some articles on the internet that say that some women have not been able to breastfeed or have had to stop because it was too painful.
The question I am asking though is ‘Can I breastfeed with fibromyalgia?’ and the simple answer is yes you can with help and support.
Helpful strategies for breastfeeding with fibromyalgia
To support Yeal’s findings, On the website Breastfeeding with love the author goes on to say that breastfeeding with fibromyalgia is possible. She gives lots of useful tips like finding a comfortable position, resting as much as possible and making sure your diet is full of all the essential nutrients you need.
Here are 5 strategies I put into place to help me successfully breastfeed my son.
During the first 3 weeks of my son’s life, he hardly slept at all which meant I hardly slept. He just didn’t seem to like his Moses basket or being away from me. One day, I phoned La Leche League breastfeeding helpline in tears and at a loss for what to do. They then suggested I co-slept or bedshared. My immediate reaction was “I can’t do that I’ll roll on him!”
However, they showed me how to bed share safely and I never looked back. For the first 20 months of my son’s life we bedshared and it made feeding so much easier and sleep so much better, which helped my fibromyalgia enormously. (Please do consult your own health visitor and conduct your own research before trying bed sharing.)
2. Side lying position
This is a breastfeeding position that can take the pressure off your arms and back and enable you to rest at the same time. I have included a diagram that shows you how to do this position.
Before becoming pregnant, I had never heard of slings before! I asked for one for our baby shower and I am so glad I did. I had a wrap around sling which was so useful for breastfeeding and carrying my baby, alleviating pressure on my arms.
4. Vitamins and Minerals
I used special post natal breastfeeding supplements for a long time with my boy so that I knew I was getting the right minerals and support for my body. Boots have their own brand as well as Pregnacare and many more.
5. Sleep and naps
I have mentioned this lots before but what helped me the most with breastfeeding and parenting, in the first few months, was sleeping when my baby slept. I am also very lucky in the fact that I have a supportive husband who gives me lie-ins regularly!
If there is one takeaway I would like you all to remember today is that fibromyalgia shouldn’t inhibit your ability to breastfeed but it will be a challenge. With the right help and support, you may be able to take part in this magical experience. However, I need you to know you are not a failure if you cannot. I need you to know you are doing the best you can, your child/children love you just as you are and you are Mummy the Fibro Warrior.
Until next time,
P.S. I would love to hear your breastfeeding stories in the comments below! Did you manage to breastfeed? What help and support did you have? Do you have any tips or strategies to share with other fellow fibro fighters? Please do comment below! I reply to every single comment and really appreciate each and every comment I receive.
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