Have you ever wondered what it’s like to have a baby when you have IBS? How parenting and IBS can go hand in hand? If it’s even at all possible? If yes, then this post is for you!
I have IBS-D and I also have a baby. And today, I’m going to share the good, the bad, and the ugly about parenting with IBS.
Recovery can be a struggle
Let’s start at the very beginning of a parenting journey: the delivery. If you have IBS and choose to have a vaginal birth as I did, recovery can quickly become a struggle.
The first pitfall are laxatives and stool softeners they tend to give you at the hospital. If you have IBS-D, please do yourself a favour and stay clear of them! For some reason I took them, and they lead to the absolute worst flare I’ve ever had in all my life. Just don’t take laxatives if you have IBS-D. Please.
The second issue you might run into is tearing. Lots of people tear, but those stitches have a much harder time healing if you constantly go to the bathroom. My recovery was super long because of that, and it wasn’t fun. Again, this can somewhat be prevented by not taking any stool softeners and being very careful about what you eat.
And if you want another reason to not risk a flare right after birth: those muscles need a bit of time before they work properly again after a tiny human stretched them out.
The good news is, even with all these issues, I was basically fine 3 months postpartum. But they were difficult months to live through.
Breastfeeding is even harder with IBS
I never anticipated that breastfeeding might be impacted by my IBS, and yet it was. A lot, actually. Breastfeeding is a struggle as it is, but breastfeeding with IBS can feel impossible at times.
Firstly, you need to eat in order to produce enough milk. At least I did. And this meant that I wasn’t able to fast like I normally do when I get a flare. Can you imagine being miserable to the point where you can’t even look at food, and having to force yourself to eat anyway? It’s not fun. Of course, I don’t recommend doing that and in hindsight, I wish that I hadn’t put so much pressure on myself. Just feed your baby formula when you’re in the middle of a flare. You matter, too.
Secondly, there will come a time when you’re sick with IBS but your baby needs to be fed. I’ve sat through so many feedings dying internally. Or having to interrupt so I could use the bathroom. It’s terrible. And once again, I regret putting so much pressure on myself. I could have just pumped and given a bottle. Or ask my partner to give the baby formula.
If you take away anything about breastfeeding with IBS, just remember that you don’t have to push yourself so hard. You deserve to fast when you need to. You deserve to rest when you need to. We ended up doing a mixture of breastmilk and formula feeds and it worked so well! Baby was happy, mommy was feeling less stressed, and daddy was excited to feed baby, too.
Resting during a flare requires some creativity
Before being a mom, I was able to focus on myself whenever my IBS flared up. I would lie down, watch YouTube videos or a show, listen to music…
Once you’re a parent, that’s no longer possible. Not like this, anyway.
When your baby is very little, you’ll have to feed them even when you’re sick. I suggest delaying diaper changes though if at all possible. At least until you’re a little bit better.
Sometimes, baby will fall asleep on you, which makes it really difficult the use the bathroom. For this, you could use a wrap or carrier. This way you can take your baby to the bathroom with you, which is better already.
If you have a baby who crawls or walks, I highly recommend a playpen. You could also just babyproof the entire house. However, I personally find it impossible to have everything 100% babyproof, so I always put my son in his playpen whenever I have to do something. Not just during an IBS flare, but anytime I leave the room.
My biggest tip for parenting during an IBS flare? Give yourself a lot of grace. You’re not a bad parent for taking care of yourself. Letting go of the guilt and focusing on getting better is so much more effective than stressing yourself out, which in turn will make your IBS flare even worse.
A support system is much needed
Every new parent needs a support system, even without IBS. But when you do have IBS, make sure that there’s someone you can call just in case.
My partner and I don’t have any family close by, so it’s just the two of us. But he’s aware that if I’m ever feeling very sick, he’ll need to be there to take care of our son. Of course, this happens even when people don’t have a chronic illness. Everybody gets sick. It might just be a bit more frequent with IBS.
When my son was a newborn, my partner took quite a bit of time off work to help. And I’m so glad he did because I literally couldn’t do anything during the first month and a half. Between postpartum recovery, constant IBS-flares (because of those laxatives and then hormones, I guess?), I was such a mess. He did diaper changes, cooked food, went grocery shopping. All I did was breastfeeding and feeling sick.
Then, he went back to work (I was feeling so much better by then). Yet he still promised to come home if ever I was too ill to properly take care of our baby.
For me, just knowing that he’ll take over in case I’m sick helps keep any anxiety (and thus flares) at bay. I know that not everyone has access to a support system, but if you do, don’t be afraid to rely on it when needed.
In the end, parenting with IBS is not that different
Parenting with IBS is hard. But parenting is also just hard in general.
Overall, it’s those first few months that really got me. After that, it’s just like life with IBS in general: unpredictable, but sort of okay as soon as you stay close to a bathroom. Which is somewhat easier once you’re a parent because you’re not going on many road trips anyway.
I’m writing this post when my son is only 10 months old, and I’m sure that I’m in for lots of surprises yet. Like what if I miss school events because of my IBS? But that’s an issue for another time, and I’m not going to worry about that years in advance.
The bottom line: you can have a baby when you have IBS. You can be a good parent with IBS. It might just be a little bit more difficult.
Are you a parent with IBS? If yes, I’d love to know your thoughts about his! Please let me know in the comments and share this post on social media if you liked it. 🙂