Tourettes and Breastfeeding

Disclaimer: I️ am not a doctor or health professional, so none of my advice should be taken as professional medical advice. I️ write simply to connect with and share my personal experiences with others who struggle like me. If you struggle with any of these health, neurological, or mental challenges, please consult your health professional to address your concerns in the best personal way for you.

Hey, everyone! Thank you so much for being patient while I hid under a rock for a while. Our son was born in early September, and we’ve dealt with a number of health issues since then, so I’ve been off the grid, due to balancing home life and my regular writing life. (I write fantasy books while I stay home with the kiddos.) But the baby is doing better now, praise God, and I’m glad to be back now, however, and I hope I can keep up better with this blog and everyone who sends me awesome emails and comments.

I was asked a while ago whether or not Tourette Syndrome (TS) could make breastfeeding difficult, and as our baby is now 10 weeks old, I thought I’d address this in a post.

Most of you don’t know this, but I nursed my daughter until she was 13 months old. I’m now nursing Baby #2, and Lordwilling, I plan to do so until he’s around a year old as well. Now for those of you who know me, you know that nursing has not been easy. I’m not one of those people who can fill the fridge will saved milk. I’m happy if I can keep my kid fed period.

Question: Does Tourettes directly affect breastfeeding?

In my experience, no.

Nursing my babies is one of the few areas in my life that nursing hasn’t directly affected. Remember, Tourettes is a neurological disorder (National Insitutes of Health) that affects the part of the brain that control motor and vocal movements. It often comes along with other disorders, but from my personal experience and research, there’s nothing about Tourettes that would make it difficult for a mother to produce milk. Here are a few indirect factors, however, that might make nursing more difficult for a mother with TS.

Severe Tics

Some people with tics do struggle with severe, violent tics. While it’s not the majority of people with tics, those who do have these tics might have a hard time nursing simply because it is difficult to hold the baby still. Women who have severe tics, such as arm flailing or jumping or jerking (where they might jerk their torso or something similar) might need to talk to a doctor about ways to sit that would help alleviate the tics.

Also, keeping up with physical exercise, when possible, might help reduce these tics. I’ve talked before about how physical exercise alleviates my worst tic symptoms. I know it’s hard to find time to exercise (believe me, I have a two-year-old and a ten-week-old), but if you can squeeze even sections of ten minutes out a day to do a safe postpartum exercise (again, consult your doctor), it might help with getting those “jitters” out so you don’t feel so bad while you sit.

Medication while Nursing

If you take medication for your tics, you might need to come up with an alternative plan with your doctor should you choose to breastfeed. Tourette Canada’s fact sheet (Tourette Canada, 2015) says,

“There are a few reports of adverse effects from prescription drugs while breastfeeding, however, it is best to talk to your physician about this.”

From what I can gather, not many studies have been done about the effects of TS drugs in breastmilk. If you’re taking such medication, though, just as with any medication, I would talk to your doctor and see if there’s something else he/she suggests while you’re breastfeeding, just to be on the safe side.

Anxiety

People with Tourettes often struggle with high levels of chronic anxiety. And for those of us with tics and anxiety, we know that usually:

+Anxiety = +Tics

The more anxiety we have, the more tics we have.

And as I have discovered (and research seems to support), exercise and physical movement can often lessen the symptoms and severity of tics. Unfortunately, when you’re breastfeeding, your butt is in a chair the vast majority of the day, at least for the first couple of weeks. As the months go on, it becomes a little less, but you’re still sitting or lying (or even standing) still for hours every day.

Because of the drop in physical activity, the rise in stress (because every baby, no matter how cute, equals STRESS), and the other hormonal changes that are screaming through a mommy’s body, tics can change. Tics wax, wane, and change even without all the craziness of having a baby. It’s only to be expected that you might see another change while going through this physical transition in life.

Livestrong’s article, “Anxiety While Breastfeeding,” by  Cheryl Schafer says that these factors can all affect anxiety while breastfeeding:

  • Physical concerns
  • Connecting with your baby
  • A lack of sleep
  • A lack of understanding about breastfeeding and what to expect
  • Not having a strong support system

If you’re trying to breastfeed, but your anxiety is driving your tics up to an unmanageable level, definitely talk to your doctor. You may need to find ways to address your anxiety issues so that your tics can be address as well.

Some Encouragement

I’ve had more tics than usual lately. My son’s health concerns and just the stress of having a new baby have me ticcing up a storm sometimes. But I’ve also found a great enjoyment in nursing. It’s time for me to be with my baby, and I can multitask (a favorite pastime of mine) while I do it. My tics have never given me any reason to stop breastfeeding, and when I did breastfeed, I found that my daughter got sick less and I felt healthier sooner.

For those of you who try everything and just can’t breastfeed…that’s okay! It’s your decision! Remember, everyone will respond differently to pregnancy and breastfeeding. If you just can’t do it, or it’s making everyone miserable, then maybe it’s not for you. You’re not a bad parent if you can’t do it. You’re just doing the best you can. With prayer, support, and education, you should make the best decision for you and your baby. And don’t let anyone guilt you because of it.

Have you struggled with tics while breastfeeding? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below. Also, if you’re interested in getting updates on posts, as well as a free resource guide, subscribe for free to my email list! As always, thanks for reading!

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Posted under: Neurological Disorders, Parenting, Tourette Syndrome

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