“If a new mom with RA has involvement of elbows, hands, and wrists, it may be difficult to position the baby for breastfeeding,” says Shreyasee Amin, MD, a rheumatologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
If you need more support or guidance, an occupational therapist can prescribe splints to take the pressure off affected joints and allow for easier, more comfortable breastfeeding, Amin says.
It's also important to know that some arthritis medications are safe during breastfeeding, while others are not.
“Steroids and Plaquenil [hydroxychloroquine] are OK, but the more traditional disease-modifying anti-rheumatic medications would be problematic in breastfeeding, as well as during pregnancy,” says M. Elaine Husni, MD, MPH, vice chairwoman of rheumatology and director of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Center at the Cleveland Clinic.
Some women find they can get enough relief with these drugs to breastfeed before returning to their regular medications. In other cases, says Emilio B. Gonzalez, MD, chief of rheumatology at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, “If the RA is more severe, women may want to consider treating their RA and using formula to feed their baby.”
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