Taking Care of Your Baby When You are Epileptic
Photo by Joshua Rodriguez on Unsplash
Submitted by Dr. Supriya Mishra
Giving birth and raising a child is not an easy task and when the mother suffers from epilepsy the challenge gets doubled. The epileptic mother is often worried about the safety of the child. Is breastfeeding safe for her baby? What if she gets convulsions while breastfeeding or while bathing? What if she is alone with her kid and suddenly she gets a fit? All these questions constantly revolves around the new mother who is epileptic but still trying hard to raise her child like other mommies do. This article is an answer to all the questions raised regarding taking care of the baby when the mother suffers from epilepsy.
- Avoid things that can trigger the seizure attack : The labour and delivery often leave the mother extremely exhausted and looking after the new born and taking care adds to this exhaustion who then tend to lose track of her life. For an epileptic mother the most important thing is to look after herself and avoid things that can trigger the seizure attack. Some of the triggers can be – forgetting to take anti seizure medicines on time, disturbed sleep, extra work resulting in tiredness, stress, hormonal changes and missed meals. Not all mothers are accompanied by triggers when they have an epileptic attack but those who have can follow certain measures that would definitely make a difference in their living.
- Set a reminder or alarm for taking medicines on time.
- Take the help of your partner or someone else who is trustworthy in taking care of the baby so that you can get more time to rest and don't get over tired and stressed up.
- During night feeds ask your partner to do the feeding so that you can get enough sleep. If you are breastfeeding express your milk in the bottle and give it to your partner for feeding the baby. You can also alternate between breast milk and formula feed.
- If possible always make an extra meal for yourself in advance so that there is enough and readymade food for you to eat whenever you want.
- Get the required dosage of anti seizure drug checked again after delivery : Often during pregnancy the dosage of anti convulsion drugs are adjusted depending on the type and severity of seizures as well as their adverse effects on the foetus. The reduced concentration of drugs are used for a safe and complication free pregnancy. However, after birth the mother should be carefully monitored to re adjust the dose of anti epileptic drugs. Usually it is recommended that the dose is slightly increased over a period of 2 weeks to 3 months.
- Taking care of the baby and keeping him safe: The form of seizures that the mother goes through determines the type of precautions to take to keep the baby safe. Some type of seizures don't have any warning signs and they tend to start all of a sudden while some come with an aura or warning signs before the actual attack starts so that the victim gets aware of the upcoming event beforehand and make necessary changes or preparations to keep the baby safe. If the seizures are uncontrollable, the mother loses consciousness and is the only adult at home then there are certain precautions that the mother should know. Even if the seizures are in control then also it is better to take precautions to protect the baby from any kind of danger.
Seizures and feeding the baby
- It is completely safe to breastfeed the baby while you are on anti epileptic drugs. Very little amount of these drugs reach the baby through breastfeeding. Moreover the baby is already exposed to anti epileptic drugs while he or she is in the womb. Infact the amount of medication is far less than that exposed from the bloodstream during pregnancy. However if you notice that the baby is extremely sleepy, this can be due to phenobarbitones and primidones that you might be taking for seizures. To prevent sleepiness in your child you can consult with your doctor whether you can switch between breastfeeding and formula milk or not or if the medicines can be substituted by other drugs.
- Always breastfeed or bottle feed on the floor furnished with carpet or a thick rug with back well supported by a wall so that even if you have the seizures the baby doesn't get injured by falling on a hard surface. Feed the older baby in a low chair rather than high chair to avoid any undue fall.
- If you happen to fall on the same side every time at the time of seizures then remember to keep the baby in the opposite side.
- Some of the anti epileptic drugs might produce confusion and forgetfulness so it is advisable to keep a note on when and how much you have fed the baby. Also mark the food items and stored milk with the date and time of preparation.
- Keep the food ready for the baby in advance so that if you met with seizure attack someone else can give the baby in case he or she gets hungry or you are unable to make after a seizure attack.
- If you need to prepare the milk or food in the kitchen better to avoid entering the kitchen while holding the baby. Keep the baby in a crib for a small baby or well strapped in a low chair or a booster seat instead of high chair or in an enclosed space well proofed beforehand for an older baby.
Seizures and carrying the baby
- While holding the baby always use a baby carrier or sling. Even at home you can use stroller or push chair to move around the baby instead of holding up the baby in arms.
- While you buy a pram or pushchair make sure that it is adequately padded and comes with an automatic safety break so that in case the pram or pushchair is released accidentally, the brakes come in and stop the pram.
- Ask someone else to carry the baby to move upstairs and down.
Seizures and bathing and changing clothes of the baby
- While changing clothes, nappies or diapers of the baby it is advisable to do the work on the floor with a rug or carpet on it or a baby changing mat on the floor rather than table or bed in order to prevent undue fall of the baby if the mother happens to get a sudden seizure attack.
- If seizures are uncontrollable and come without any warning signs then it is recommended that bathing of the baby is done by someone else instead of the mother. If you are alone with no one around then either do sponge method of bathing or top and toil bathing technique that is cleaning the baby with a small mug of water. Make sure beforehand that the baby is not left alone with water around if you happen to suffer from the attack. Keep all the water containing bowls, buckets and tub out of baby's reach.
- Make the house “baby proof" as much as possible. Keep all the things that could be dangerous to the baby out of baby's reach.
Other tips to keep the baby safe
- Don't use iron, hair straightener or any electric gadget when you are alone with the child.
- Make sure that a spare bunch of keys of home has been given to a neighbour or some trustworthy person so that timely help can be reached if you or your child is in need. Also ask your friend or family member or a neighbour to call you everyday at a specified time to make sure that you are alright.
- If the child is slightly older teach him or her about the seizure attack that you get. Teach the child to stay calm and not to panic and call any other trustworthy adult at the time of epileptic attack. Make a label providing the contact numbers and addresses of people whom to contact. This also includes the emergency numbers of nearby hospitals.
- Try to avoid going outside with your child alone. Somebody should accompany you. If you happen to go alone remember that someone from your family or friends should be aware that you are out with your child so that if by chance you don't return on time he or she may get alert and provide you with necessary help.
- Avoid going to places that are unguarded like swimming pools, ponds, lakes, rivers, railway lines, or hilly areas when you are alone with your child.
These guidelines for keeping the baby safe when you are an epileptic mother are in accordance with the New York university's Comprehensive Epilepsy Centre, North Pacific Epilepsy Research, the Epileptic Society, United Kingdom and Epileptic Action, United Kingdom. If you are concerned about parenting and epilepsy always feel free to consult with your health care provider.
Dr. Supriya Mishra – The author is a Periodontist by profession, a Post Graduate Diploma in Maternal and Child Health Care, a mother of a sweet little girl and a writer by passion. Her posts usually talk about everyday pregnancy and parenting issues, pregnancy and parenting tips and stories of experiences of going through the period of pregnancy, postpartum and during raising up a child.