In this section
Most mothers with epilepsy are able to breastfeed their babies, if they choose to do so. However, you are advised to talk to a medical professional about the safety of breastfeeding when you have epilepsy, before your baby is born. This could be with an epilepsy specialist, epilepsy nurse, a midwife with an interest in epilepsy or an infant feeding adviser. The advice you are given will depend on your baby’s health, and which epilepsy medicine you take.
Epilepsy medicine can pass into your breast milk. So when your baby drinks your breast milk, they also get a small amount of your epilepsy medicine. Most babies are not harmed by their mother’s epilepsy medicine. They are already used to it, from being in the womb. However, if you find that your baby is very sleepy, hard to wake, struggling to feed, or has a rash, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may 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. This could be a problem if lack of sleep is a trigger for your seizures. In this case, you could ask someone else to feed your baby expressed breast milk or formula milk, during the night or each day. This would allow you to catch up on missed sleep.
When you are looking after your baby or young child, you might forget to take your epilepsy medicine. You will probably also have disturbed sleep. These are common triggers for seizure. Some people also say they have more seizures if they miss meals.
Here are some suggestions for ways to reduce the risk of having a seizure:
- If you don’t have a smartphone, 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.
Tel: 0300 999 0004
- Avoid missing meals if possible. You might find it helpful to prepare meals in advance, so you always have a supply of something ready to eat.
- If you want to lose any weight that you put on during your pregnancy, seek advice about a well-balanced diet from your family doctor.
- If possible, share night-time feeds with your partner or a friend so you can have longer periods of uninterrupted sleep.
- Talk to your family doctor or health visitor about setting a good sleep routine for your baby or child. When they sleep more soundly, so will you.
Many people with epilepsy successfully care for babies. But if you are having seizures, it is advisable to talk to your doctor or epilepsy specialist nurse. They might suggest making changes to your epilepsy medicine to try to lower the number of seizures you have. The aim is to be seizure-free.
Here are some simple steps to keep your baby as safe as possible, if your seizures are not fully controlled. You can also ask your health visitor for more advice.
- When feeding your baby from a bottle or your breast, sit on the floor, preferably on a thick rug or next to a large cushion or pillow. This way, if you had a seizure your baby would not have far to fall and would not land on a hard surface.
- When you are feeding your baby solid food, put them in a bouncer chair or car seat on the floor.
- When your baby is in a highchair, make sure you cannot knock it over.
- Never bathe your baby on your own. A safer alternative is to do a ‘top and tail’ wash. This is when you lay the baby on a towel or changing mat and wash them with water from a shallow bowl. If your baby can crawl, make sure that the bowl of water is out of their reach.
- Change your baby’s nappy on the floor.
- When carrying your baby up or down stairs, use a car seat. This would help to reduce the risk of injury to your baby if you had a seizure.
- Use safety gates at all times.
- Use a pram with a brake that comes on when you release the handle.
Epilepsy Action can provide details of companies that provide safety brakes for prams.
Epilepsy Action has more detailed information about caring for babies and young children when you have epilepsy.
Post-natal depression can happen to any new mother. Symptoms of post-natal depression may include low mood, tiredness, not being hungry and feeling stressed or anxious.
Depression is more common in people with epilepsy than people without epilepsy. Some studies suggest that mothers with epilepsy have a higher risk of developing post-natal depression too. If you have symptoms of post-natal depression, do speak to your health visitor or doctor. They will be able to help you.
Epilepsy Action has more information about epilepsy and depression.
Epilepsy Action would like to thank Beth Irwin, Epilepsy Nurse/Midwife, Royal Hospitals, Belfast, UK for reviewing this information.
Beth Irwin has no conflict of interest to declare.
This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.
- Updated September 2014To be reviewed September 2017