I have Shingles. Gimme a break. (with #breastfeeding information. #bfing )

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
  • freelancer
  • 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)
  • wife
  • house-runner

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

“Exactly.”

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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mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel (jewelryverse.com) and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2010, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. Megan K. says

    Oh no! That’s awful! Hopefully you can take some time to rest this weekend! Do you need help with anything?

  2. Sara says

    Sorry you have shingles. My mom had them last year. I just wanted to correct one thing that you stated earlier. Children who have been vaccinated for chicken pox will not get shingles. That is one thing my mom’s doctor told her. He said that the main reason they vaccinate for chicken pox is to prevent shingles down the road. Chicken pox is not dangerous but shingles can be very dangerous.

  3. says

    However, before getting depressed and sad the first thing you or anyone for that matter should do if they experience any of the symptoms described in this article is to seek medical confirmation of their condition. This is especially true with so many of the signs and symptoms of herpes being similar to other ailments.

  4. Andrea says

    Hi,

    I came across this post while googling “shingles nursing mother”. I am going through the EXACT same scenario right now. I first thought also that I was having awful chafing from my nursing bra, felt achy and weird along my torso, got the pox, and found out it was shingles. My pox are also near my breasts – some right under, some new ones have formed a little further up, near the midline. I opted not to do the oral anti-virals, as I think my case is relatively mild (though still really uncomfortable!) and my doc thought I missed the window for them to be most effective. I am doing topical antivirals and am trying really hard to keep the pox near my breasts covered. But I don’t know if the baby may have touched them before I realized I had shingles.

    I am wondering – did your baby end up getting chicken pox? And how long did it take you to recover?

    I know this was brought on my massive stress – my 2 year old was going through a terrible phase last month, and the baby has a milk protein allergy, which has been really stressful too. I can’t wait until this is all a distant bad memory….hopefully it is for you by now! Just curious about how things went for you and the baby. Thanks!

    • says

      I am SO sorry I never responded to this. So very sorry, Andrea. I’m sure you’re better by now, but keep in mind, Shingles can come back. you’re likely to notice the symptoms, though, so if you sense it, start enforcing rest immediately. (worked for me.)

      No, my daughter never got the pox. I produced enough antibodies in my breastmilk that she was immune at that age. I was VERY scared it would happen, and wanted to stop breastfeeding for that reason, but the doctors all promised it it would be better for me to keep breastfeeding.

  5. says

    THANK YOU FOR THIS POST. I just got diagnosed with shingles an hour before my son’s 2 month old appointment. Luckily mine in along my waist so nursing tanks are covering it but my doctors were doing a lot of research to make sure. This blows!

    • says

      oh, it’s SO dreadfully painful. I’m so so so sorry. Try to rest (yeah, right.) and know you WILL get better. But it does take time. You’ll also learn the signs to keep it away in the future. So sorry you have shingles, Brandy.

  6. Kayla says

    I wanted to thank you so much for this post! Found out today that the rash I have along my bra line is shingles! :( I have been worried cause I am exclusively breastfeeding my 3 month old. I will need to go get few nursing tanks as my nursing bras don’t cover the area enough to my liking. THANKS!

    • says

      So glad it was helpful, Kayla. I’m always amazed at the number of women who search for and find my post. It seems that Shingles in nursing women is more prevalent than I ever would have thought.

      Try to get some rest.

  7. halula says

    hi. just found out I have shingles and my 4month old has chicken pox. devasted! i was tolerating the pain and rash thinking i must be allergic to something.

  8. Nisai says

    I also have shingles on my right breast and underneath my bra line. I was also encouraged to continue to breastfeed my 6 mos old on the unaffected side. I have the same concerns of my son developing chicken pox. @halula was your baby exposed to the rash? If so, was it before or after the blisters appeared. I unfortunately exposed my son to the rash before I knew it was shingles and before it blistered, so I’m hoping he is ok. How long after you had shingles did your baby develop chicken pox? Sorry for all the questions but I’m so worried he’ll develop chicken pox :(

    • says

      Nisai,
      I’m so hopeful your baby will be okay. Have you called your pediatrician so that you know the signs to look for? Thinking of you and your baby as you go through this very unpleasant experience. Hang in there and try to rest. I promise it will get easier.

      • Mari says

        I have shingles but they telling me I can’t breastfeed my baby if I drink valtrex idk what to do can someone help !! :( I don’t want to stop breastfeeding and I don’t want to get worst

        • says

          Mari, so sorry to hear that!! I’m not a doctor and I don’t know what valtrex is, but if you’re concerned and think the doctor’s advice isn’t right, you should get a second opinion. Another thought is to check with your local lactation consultant.

          Sorry I can’t offer advice, but hopefully you’ll find someone who can.

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