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Abstract: Breastfeeding in Chronic Illness: The Voices of Women With Fibromyalgia

  [ 76 votes ]   [ 1 Comment ] • July 9, 2004

MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2004 Jul-Aug;29(4):248-253. Schaefer KM. Karen Moore Schaefer is an Assistant Professor, Temple University, College of Health Professions, Department of Nursing, Philadelphia, PA. She can be reached via e-mail at

PURPOSE:: To describe what it is like for women with fibromyalgia (FM) to breastfeed their infants.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS:: Nine women with FM who chose to breastfeed their infants were the sample for this qualitative study. van Manen's phenomenological method of reflection, writing, and rewriting was used to analyze the data collected through in-depth tape-recorded interviews and written stories.

RESULTS:: All nine women felt that they were not successful in their attempts to breastfeed, and felt frustrated. Themes included (a) muscle soreness, pain, and stiffness made it difficult to breastfeed the baby; (b) fatigue interfered with the breastfeeding process; (c) the need for medication, perceived insufficient milk supply, and sore nipples led to forced unplanned weaning; and (d) being forced to wean the infant when not ready to do so created sadness and a feeling of depression.

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS:: Nurses who work with women with FM who choose to breastfeed need to be proactive in providing informational, emotional, and physical support to facilitate a successful breastfeeding experience for these women. Knowing that the pain, muscle soreness, stiffness, and fatigue of FM may affect breastfeeding can direct nurses to help women with FM plan for support after childbirth and learn techniques to control/reduce the muscle pain and stiffness. Nurses are encouraged to refer breastfeeding women with FM to lactation consultants and support groups for encouragement and validation regarding their concerns about breastfeeding. It is important that nurses continue to serve as advocates for breastfeeding women with FM and keep other healthcare providers informed about the issues related to breastfeeding for women with FM. PMID: 15238752 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

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Article Comments Post a Comment

Severe fibromyalgia & breastfeeding successfully
Posted by: JenniferT
Jun 17, 2010
I am 35 and have had fibromyalgia for at least 15 years. In the past 5 years it became severe and I became disabled. I became pregnant in July of 2009 and my son was born via c-section in March 2010. I was committed to breastfeeding even before I got pregnant. My son and I had a rocky start of it. He had trouble latching and I had trouble finding a comfortable way to sit and nurse him. It took about 2 weeks until we both knew what we were doing. I have to tell you this. I am in LITTLE to NO PAIN. For me, breastfeeding has been a cure for fibromyalgia. I have taken so many neurological medicines and supplements before now and none of them have worked. I could not walk more than 5-15 minutes. I had trouble climbing stairs. I have been breastfeeding for 12 weeks now and walk 1 hour or more every day with my son. I sit on the floor and play with him. I am as good as I was 10 years ago. I encourage all women who are considering breastfeeding to stick with it. Especially those with FM, perhaps your body will have the same positive reaction mine did. Very active in the FM community, I know there is no cure for FM, there is no such thing as remission and there are a lot of people online trying to tout a miracle for you. I wouldn't have believed anything could help me, my FM was so much worse than anyone I met. Breastfeeding has literally saved me from FM. I hope you will try it and have the same success I have. I really hope more research will be done in this area. I believe when I stop nursing my son my FM will return to level 8 pain daily.
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