Caring for your Baby

Caring for your Baby by Sinead Murphy, Community Epilepsy Specialist Nurse first published in Epilepsy News Issue 25 - Spring 2004

In this article I am answering some frequently asked questions about epilepsy and caring for your baby.

Can I breast feed my baby?
In general the answer is YES - there is no reason why epilepsy should prevent you from breast-feeding. We recommend that women who wish to breast-feed should be encouraged to do so. It is important to remember that through the 9 months of your pregnancy your baby has been getting used to the anti-epileptic drugs you take and that breast-feeding may help with the withdrawal process. If you decide to breast-feed then you should be made aware of the possible side effects to pay particular attention to such as drowsiness and irritability with your newborn. If this continues see your GP. Otherwise, have patience and persevere and your epilepsy should not cause any further difficulty.

However, if your baby is born prematurely you may need to discuss breast-feeding with your paediatrician.

Breast-feeding is done on demand and can often be a very tiring but rewarding experience. Breast-fed babies often need to be fed every 2-3 hours initially and we would recommend sleeping when the baby sleeps (day and night time). Some centres would also advocate expressing milk so that your partner or family can help with particularly the night-time feeds. This can be discussed in further detail with your midwife prior to leaving the hospital and your public health nurse following discharge.

The only problem that may be linked to breast-feeding is that your night's sleep will be regularly broken. It may be worth noting at this time that being sleep deprived can contribute to an increase in seizures and so I cannot emphasise the importance of getting enough sleep. It is also very important to take your medication regularly as prescribed and on time during this period and to avoid where possible other known triggers.

How best can I protect my baby should I have a seizure?
It is encouraging to know that women with epilepsy have babies and manage very well indeed. Below are a few simple guidelines that will help you feel more confident and reduce the risk of accidents to your baby (most of which are common sense precautions and should be taken by all mothers whether they have epilepsy or not):

Will my baby inherit my epilepsy?
Epilepsy itself is only inherited in a few very rare instances. It depends on what type of epilepsy you have. It is best to check this with your Neurologist.

Should I do anything else after having my baby?
I would advise that all women follow up with their Neurologist quite soon after their baby is born as medication that may have been increased during pregnancy may now have to be reduced again. I would also encourage women to continue to take their Folic Acid 5mg as prescribed and to talk to their doctor/midwife about future methods of contraception. I would also encourage the women at this time to inform their Neurologist if and when she decides to plan another baby and to avail of pre-conceptual advice and support available.