… oh, talk dirty to me.
Lots of things happened to my body when I had Aifric… but one thing I didn’t expect or prepare for was the possibility of getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) from holding and breastfeeding her.
It totally took me by surprise in January. In the same week that I discovered it would take me a lot longer to recover from our labour that I had initially thought, I started getting pins and needles in my thumb, index and middle fingers on both my hands with shooting pains in my forearms. I found it increasingly difficult to hold Aifric each day and feed her – sometimes my fingers were so numb that it felt like they were rubber. I was completely thrown… it was not our best week by any stretch of the imagination. There were a lot of tears. From me.
As I had been doing for the past 8 weeks of Aifric’s life, I turned to Dr Google for advice (I did also go to my GP, don’t worry)… and turns out there is actually not a huge amount of information about getting CTS from breastfeeding on the internet. I found this article which was helpful but apart from that, not a lot.
So I came up with various ways to cope with it and keep feeding Aifric myself. Some days are good, some days are more tricky. But I thought it might help others if I write down the things I have been doing to make life a little easier.
So for anyone else who is suffering from CTS since having a baby, and finding it hard to manage, here are the things I have done to try to navigate through it:
- Wear wrist splints at night: when you are sleeping your wrists fall into unusual positions – I found the more I bent my wrists – and kept them bent – the worse the pins and needles, the numbness, and pain – so wearing these every night help keep my arms straight when sleeping and let my wrists rest. They are from Amazon, are great and cost £8.99 each. I got medium. When you’re sleep deprived and miserable, you’ll throw money at anything that makes your life better and these are WELL WORTH it… plus compared to the price of everything else you pay for when you have a baby, these cost pennies
- If you have a partner, ask them to do the first lift of the day: Simon picks Aifric up in the morning whilst I take off my splints and move my wrists to get them going again. Picking Aifric up first thing was hard initially and I was worried I was going to drop her, but this way it means I can feel confident that I will be able to hold her and also Simon gets the lovely first smiles of the day – and the first nappy!
- Don’t worry if you are on your own solo-parenting: the times that Simon was away or had to go to work early (before the two of us got up) I just set my alarm 10 minutes or so before I knew Aifric was going to wake so that I could take the splints off and move my wrists. This is if you know when your baby is going to wake up… it’s a total lottery so the times that she woke before my alarm… well, she just had to lie there for a couple of minutes… much better that she’s a bit (!) grizzly than I try to pick her up when I could drop her. Going to the toilet is a good thing to do as you are away from your crying baby for a couple of minutes and warming up your arms!
- Pile up the cushions! I use a load of cushions to breastfeed Aifric – then use this one from John Lewis on top of the cushions and Aifric on top – so she is literally elevated, lying across me and I don’t have to use my arms at all… she’s just lounging and feeding – like a Queen – it’s incredibly decadent
- Bring a blanket with you when you go out: keep one in your baby bag so when you’re feeding out and about you can put that on your lap and pile it up with your coat/jumper and create your own makeshift cushions to continue the decadent feeding in public
- Limit writing long messages on WhatsApp or iMessage: the more I used my thumbs to write messages, the more uncomfortable my hands and arms felt. If you have a computer, use web WhatsApp then you can use your fingers to type your long messages to your pals (when you get a spare moment to write all those long messages… I roll my eyes at this)
- Use your fingers to scroll through Instagram and Facebook rather than your thumbs: same as point above – seems obvious but when you’re breastfeeding, I bet you’re on your phone…!
- Manage the way you carry your baby: I used to carry Aifric around the place in one arm – using my hand as a seat… this exacerbated the whole thing. I loved carrying her like this as she could sit there watching the world and watching what we were doing but no, carry your baby in the most comfortable way that isn’t going to have your wrist bent for a long period of time
That’s what I have been doing so far… if you have any tips or can think of any other things that would help then comment below as I would be super keen to know them!
One final thing is that it will get better: it took about a week to two weeks for the initial pain to go and now it’s just tingly and sometimes achy so I am going to continue doing the things that make it easier, and continue trying to feed Aifric myself. It’s working for now, but if it gets too much then we’ll look into other options… happy mum, happy baby and all that.
*PHOTO: my sexy wrist splints