If you want to breastfeed your baby, there’s no reason why you should not. Epilepsy medicine can pass into your breast milk, which means your baby will get a very small amount of your medicine when they feed. This is not usually harmful, as your baby will be used to the medication from being in the womb. However, if your baby is very sleepy, hard to wake, struggling to feed, or has a rash, talk to your doctor. They might advise you to stop breastfeeding and start formula feeds, to see if your baby improves.
While you are breastfeeding, your night-time sleep will be broken regularly. If lack of sleep is a trigger for your seizures, this could be a problem. So, getting your baby into an early bedtime routine can help with this. If possible, express some breast milk, or make up formula milk in advance so another person can help with the night-time feeding and you can get some rest.
Ways to lower the risk of seizures when you are looking after your baby or young child
It’s easy to forget to take your epilepsy medicines when you are looking after a baby or young child. And you will probably have disturbed sleep. Both are common triggers for seizures. Some people also say they have more seizures if they miss meals or get over-tired. These are some suggestions about avoiding these triggers:
- Use an alarm or the Epilepsy Ireland app to help you to remember when to take your epilepsy medicine. You could also ask your pharmacist to blister pack your medication.
- If possible, share night-time feeds with your partner, family member or a friend, to avoid interruptions to your sleep. Don’t sleep alone, for safety reasons.
- Try to make meals in advance, so you always have a supply of something ready to eat.
- Try to avoid getting over-tired.
- If you want to lose any weight that you have gained in pregnancy, seek advice from your family doctor about a well-balanced diet.
- If your baby doesn’t sleep well, talk to your public health nurse or GP about setting a good sleep routine for them.
- Accept any help that is offered, especially in the first few weeks.
Advice to help care for your new baby
Women with epilepsy can feel particularly anxious when caring for a newborn. You should be reassured that there is little published evidence concerning any risk to the newborn from the mother’s epilepsy. The risk of the child being harmed depends on the type of seizure and its severity and frequency, and this risk is probably small if you take time to educate yourself in safety precautions.
Mothers with uncontrolled juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME) appear to be at most risk. This is usually because of sleep deprivation. You should be advised on common safety precautions before you are discharged from the maternity hospital. This advice should include instructions on not bathing the baby alone, and instructions on the safest way to carry the baby; baby slings are not recommended. The safest way to feed the baby is on the floor surrounded by cushions. We would encourage the use of an enclosed area (e.g. a playpen) for when mum does not feel well. Bed sharing with your new born is best avoided.
Remember to watch for triggers, including stress and sleep deprivation, especially in the first 6 weeks after delivery. It is also advised that women with epilepsy should not sleep alone for the first year after birth.