After the birth

Can I breastfeed?

If you want to breastfeed, having epilepsy and taking epilepsy medicines shouldn’t usually stop you. But talk to your midwife or infant feeding adviser first, for advice about how to breastfeed safely. The advice they give will depend on whether your baby was full-term or born early. It also depends on your baby’s health, the epilepsy medicine you are taking, and the type of seizure you have.

Epilepsy medicine can pass into your breast milk, which means your baby will get a small amount of your medicine when they feed. It’s rare for side-effects to be reported in breastfed infants of mothers taking epilepsy medicines. However, if your baby is very sleepy, hard to wake, struggling to feed, or has a rash, talk to your doctor urgently. 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. Then someone else will be able to feed your baby. It will give you chance to catch up on your sleep.

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 clock, alarm on your mobile phone or a pill reminder to help you remember when to take your epilepsy medicine. The Disabled Living Foundation can give you details of suppliers of pill reminders: dlf.org.uk, or phone 0300 999 0004
  • If possible, share night-time feeds with your partner, family member or a friend, to avoid interruptions to your sleep
  • Try to make meals in advance, so you always have a supply of something ready to eat
  • Try to avoid getting over-tired. There are all sorts of ways of doing this, for example, shopping online to save you time and energy
  • If you want to lose any weight that you have gained in pregnancy, seek advice from your GP about a well-balanced diet
  • If your baby doesn’t sleep well, talk to your health visitor or GP about setting a good sleep routine for them

Caring for your baby when you have epilepsy

Caring for a baby is hard work, and all parents need help from time to time. If you are still having seizures, it can be more of a challenge. Here are some tips to keep your baby safe if your seizures are not fully controlled:

  • Whether breast or bottle feeding, sit on the floor, on a thick rug, with your back well supported. It will stop the baby falling onto a hard surface if you have a seizure
  • If your epilepsy medicines make you feel confused, or you have a poor memory, keep a note of when you fed the baby and how much they had
  • Label food and milk containers with the date and time you prepared them
  • Fasten the baby into a low chair, rather than a highchair
  • If you always fall to the same side during a seizure, make sure you feed or hold the baby at the opposite side
  • Try to keep a supply of ready-made food for the baby, in case you can’t make any after a seizure
  • ‘Top and tail’ the baby, rather than bathing, if you are by yourself. This is where you wash the baby with water from a shallow bowl. If they can move around, make sure the bowl of water is out of their reach
  • Change the baby on the floor, rather than a changing table or bed
  • Keep nappies and changing materials on each floor of the house. It’s safer than carrying the baby up and down stairs. Don’t use hot equipment like irons and hair straighteners, or carry hot food or drinks, when alone with your baby

Epilepsy Action has more tips for caring for babies and young children when you have epilepsy.

Do I need my epilepsy medicines adjusting after the birth?

If your epilepsy medicine was increased while you were pregnant, it may need re-assessing once your baby is born. Otherwise, you might get side-effects from taking too much. It’s worth talking with your doctor or epilepsy nurse about this and having a plan in place before you go into labour. You can use page 4 of the epilepsy maternity toolkit to do this: womenwithepilepsy.co.uk/pregnancy-toolkit

Post-natal depression

It’s usual to feel a bit down, tearful, or anxious in the first week after having a baby. This is called the ‘baby blues’. Feeling like this doesn’t usually last more than two weeks, but if it does, it could be post-natal depression (PND).  

Depression and other mental health conditions are common in women with epilepsy. Some studies suggest that mothers with epilepsy have a high risk of PND too. If you have symptoms of PND, talk to your health visitor or doctor. They will be able to help you. You can read about other women with PND on the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ website: rcpsych.ac.uk
Epilepsy Action has more information about epilepsy and depression.

If you would like to see this information with references, please contact Epilepsy Action Info_Requests_Helpline

Code: 
B112.11

Epilepsy Action would like to thank Kim Morley, epilepsy specialist nurse/midwife advanced clinical practitioner for her contribution to this information.

Kim Morley has no conflict of interest.

  • Updated July 2020
    To be reviewed July 2023

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