Infant care tips for migraineurs

I never thought I’d be caring for an infant at almost 45, yet here I am looking after my granddaughter while her parents work. When I first made the offer I was feeling pretty good with very manageable attacks. As we all know, living with migraine means adapting to change. So now I get the opportunity to juggle a beautiful baby while fighting migraines and cluster headaches.

Do you like how I framed that? Babies are very sensitive to adult emotions. They are in tune with their caregiver’s emotions yet lack the developmental ability to cope. What happens to Mommy (or in this case Grandma) can leave baby feeling insecure. So I’ve learned to smile and laugh through the pain, making silly faces with an ice pack strapped to my head. It’s really amazing how much I can do when Little Squirt needs me.

I have learned a few tricks along the way. If you have little ones, maybe these tips will come in handy for you, too.

Breastfeeding releases pain-blocking hormones.

Little Squirt's mommy has found that she can nurse through a migraine and it eases the pain. Nursing mommies out there, remember that nursing releases hormones that will help you relax and block pain signals. Plus, you can nurse your baby anywhere, anytime, even lying down with an ice pack wrapped around your head.

I'm not the lactating one, so Mommy pumps a supply of breast milk and freezes it. It's available for us to use during the day. I thaw a day’s worth the night before and put bottles in the refrigerator to be warmed as needed.

Mix it up in bulk.

If you supplement or formula feed, then prepare the milk in bulk and freeze in serving size bottles in advance. It saves a lot of time. Little squirt's appetite is getting bigger, so it's hard for Mommy to always keep up. We have a supply of back-up formula just in case.

Rice cookers make great bottle warmers.

Mine gets filled and turned on first thing every morning. It takes less than 5 minutes to warm a bottle to perfection. It's also great for thawing frozen cubes of baby food. I make my own, a week's supply in advance, and freeze it in ice cube trays. One or two cubes is the perfect serving size.

Convenience is critical.

Have a supply of pre-mixed formula and commercial baby food is essential for the very worst days. You can keep it close by and not even worry about thawing, warming, or any preparation..

TheraPearlTM ice packs are divine!

I tie one (or two) around my head with a bright scarf. It stays put, giving me just the right amount of cold and pressure to knock the pain down a few levels. Plus, the pretty scarf entertains baby.

Nap when baby naps.

It’s advice that no new mother ever listens to. But if you have frequent migraines, it’s essential. You need the rest.

Drink when baby drinks; eat when baby eats.

Keep your water bottle handy. Use baby’s meal times as a reminder to get your daily water and as cues to make sure you are eating frequently, too. You need to stay hydrated and keep your blood sugar up to ward off attacks.

Music soothes the nerves.

I keep Pandora running all day. We switch it up. There are classical and lullaby stations for naptime and more upbeat tunes for playtime. It really helps manage the pain, too.

Fans are therapeutic and entertaining.

Cool air blowing keeps me from getting overheated. The white noise helps baby relax, too.

Rocking chairs are therapeutic.

I don't know why it helps, but my head feels so much better when I am rocking baby to sleep.

Wear your baby.

Being hands-free is a must when baby insists on being carried and all you want to do is take your medicine to stop the pounding in your head. Choose a carrier that baby likes. It doesn’t really matter which one you use as long as it’s comfortable for both of you. Little Squirt likes using a sling when she's sleepy and a Moby Wrap when fussy.

Use a pill box or medicine tray.

I have two - one for daily medicines and one for acute medicines. Fill them up once a week with all your medicines and set alarms on your phone so you don’t forget to take them on time. You don’t have time to read labels and count pills while looking after a busy little one.

Pack a box of necessary supplies for the week.

I keep a small crate in my living room where we spend most of our time. It gets filled once a week with diapers, wipes, burp cloths, bibs, changes of clothes, and more. This prevents me from having to move around too much during a migraine. You can even buy a second diaper pail or just keep yours in the room you use most.

Coping with crying.

I was surprised that baby’s cries are not painful to me when adult voices are so magnified. If baby crying worsens your phonophobia, make sure you have a pair of ear plugs handy. My favorites are the silicone variety that mold to the shape of your ear.

Do you have any tips for migraineurs caring for infants?

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