Please note: this is not medical advice. This is the advice I have been given as a breastfeeding mother who has Shingles.
So, unless you’re new to this blog you probably know that I’m a pretty busy lady. Let me recap:
- PTO President
- e-boutique owner
- active blogger on many sites
- starting a consulting company
- night school teacher
- working on a Philadelphia-area-blogger-collective-group-thing (that I’m not going to try to explain right now)
- mom of 3 (one of which is breastfeeding)
The [dot dot dot] should make it clear I’m not done, right? And you wonder, or at least I know many wonder, how do I do it all? Well, apparently, I don’t. Or I shouldn’t. Because my body can’t keep up with me and now I have Shingles.
Monday I noticed a huge feeling of irritation around my bra line. I must have changed bras 6 times, trying to find one that didn’t irritate. But, thinking it was something from the first, I did my best to ignore it and work through the pain.
Tuesday the pain was so much worse. In the afternoon I noticed a series of red bumps in one area. Strangely, the pain was worse where the bumps weren’t. Still, I lived, mommed and worked through the pain, concluding that it will, eventually go away. That night the fearful monster entered my mind and I got caught up in the what if’s. So, I asked the Huz to stay home in the morning (he’s usually gone by 7:30 am) so that I could see the doctor. Something just wasn’t right, and, after 7 years of parenting, I know to follow my gut.
So Wednesday morning I left before the kids so that I could put my name on the list during open hours at the doctor’s office. Once I was in the actual room, the wait time between the nurse and doctor was long enough that I fell asleep on the table. Let me tell you, it was probably the best 20 minutes I’ve had in a while. (sorry, honey).
Anyway, it took all of a quick glance and the question “are you busy or stressed?” for her to diagnose me: “Are you familiar with Shingles?”
“No.” pause. “I mean, wait. As in Chicken Pox?” –me
And then she went on to explain: Once you had chicken pox as a child, it never truly leaves your body. Its always in you. And when you’re beat and your immune system is compromised, the pox comes back up to the surface, resulting in shingles. Its more common in older people because they already are in stages of immunodeficiency, but stress and exhaustion bring it on just as much.
(Now, I’m taking this to mean that since our children have been vaxed they, too, have the pox in their systems which would mean that they can get Shingles when they’re older, too. But I’m not a doctor. Just thinking through the facts as I understand them.)
Anyway, the doctor (who I met today and think is wonderful) looked up medicine and we both celebrated because the perscription is breastfeeding safe. But. That doesn’t mean that its necessarily safe to breastfeed Little. So I have a task ahead of me: Get lots of rest, destress, take my meds, and get on the phone, pronto, with the ped to check on Little who, at 7 months, hasn’t been and is too young for the Chicken Pox vaccine.
She also explained that Shingles is contagious only to the touch. If your outbreak is on the face or hands, then you need to stay inside because you’re likely to touch something and spread Chicken Pox, but because they’re covered you’re safe to live life to its fullest… as best you can when you’re destressing and resting.
The Lactation Consultant cleared the meds that I’m taking, but the breastfeeding part is still a bit of a challenge. Because the outbreak is along the bra line, with one “pock” on my breast, though not near the nipple, its safe to breastfeed because its not mixing into the milk. If the pox were on the nipple or areola it would be a totally different story and I’d be doing the old pump and dump, because the milk would be contaminated, not as its created, but as it comes out. Plus, you just don’t want the baby to mouth a chicken pock.
My Lactation Consultant is also a pediatric nurse practitioner, so I killed a couple of birds with this stone phone call. We went on to talk about the kids and she agreed that the boys (who were both vaccinated) are safe around me. And that Little should be too. The incubation period for Shingles is as long as it is for Chicken Pox: 14-21 days. So its likely that she would have already gotten Chicken Pox, if breast milk didn’t offer her the immunity (it does, even when the mother is sick.) The problem, however, is where the pox are on my body. They’re right at a place where she touches when she nurses. In fact, Tuesday, I found myself moving her hands away, not knowing exactly what was wrong, but knowing that something didn’t feel right and she probably shouldn’t touch it. Because I want to be so careful that my baby-thumb-sucker doesn’t touch the pox, I’ll wear my nursing tanks, which will present a barrier between her and most of the pox, and cover the exposed pox in moleskin.
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- Shingles vaccine hope for elderly (news.bbc.co.uk)
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