Pacing for Chronic Illness When You Have a Baby

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Last Updated on September 30, 2023 by melissanreynolds

Pacing for chronic illness with a baby is much like other times except that it’s harder (at work we know we get a lunch break)!

pacing for chronic illness when you have a baby

So what is pacing? Why would we do it? And how can we do it with a baby in tow?

Pacing for chronic illness is trying to live in alignment with your energy levels. It is learning how to live within our energy allotment each day and trying to build our energy allotment by avoiding the boom-bust cycle. You can learn more about pacing for chronic fatigue syndrome from MEpedia here.

This requires some stability in your lifestyle, which having children doesn’t always provide.

I have four small children, all an average of two years apart. So I’ve driven this road. I’ve done it when I was less well and when I was more well.

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Key areas to look at with pacing are:

  • How much you “work” each day (the macro view)
  • Your activity to rest ratios (the micro view)
  • Appropriate rest (the ultimate tool)

When our children are very young, there is limited choice. They need us 24/7. This is the time when we need support.

One smart thing we were able to do with my first son was that I expressed milk at 9pm, went to bed and left my husband to feed him a bottle in the late evening. This gave me 3-4 hours head start on the night. It was crucial. Because from 1am I would have to alternate between giving him his bottle and expressing. I highly recommend making this work if you can. Even if you’re nursing, adding a late evening bottle (so you can go to bed and get a few hours sleep) can be a lifesaver.

This is the time to reduce all other responsibilities. Be like Elsa and let the perfection go. Do the bare minimum. Find strategies to make chores and food preparation easy. Let others help. Reduce your work. The baby is more than a full time job whatever your energy levels.

Activity to rest ratio

The activity to rest ratio is generally easier when baby is small. If they nap, you can rest. Unfortunately we don’t always get babies who nap nicely.

There were times when I couldn’t get a rest so I’d lie on the bed, couch or floor and pop on a 5 or 10 min meditation. You could also try legs up the wall (or on the couch) pose while baby has floor time. Or take breathing breaks – you can do breathwork while feeding baby.

I was able to nurse my third and fourth babies, so I made each feeding during the day a mini rest break. I’d lie on my side in bed and rest. From here you can do breathwork, meditation or just watch some TV. This was game changing, because it forced me to embrace the activity to rest pattern.

Try my free yoga for chronic pain and fatigue series for four yoga tools for your rest.

I wrote one of the only books that exists about pregnancy and parenting with chronic pain and fatigue:

Pacing for chronic illness: a proper rest break

By five months my babies were taking reliable naps a couple of times a day. In our house we have a rule – the early afternoon nap is everyone’s rest time.

I 100% recommend yoga nidra guided meditation break during this time. This is what I call the full stop rest break.

If you must, you can keep injecting short rest breaks across the day. But a full and profound rest is ideal.

This can be done when your partner gets home from work, your mother visits, at any nap time, or right before bed.

See this post for why I recommend yoga nidra.

pacing for chronic illness when you have a baby

If you can afford it, now is the time to hire a cleaner or a mother’s helper. If you can get some help in the day, I’d first use it for a decent rest and secondarily for the thing you hate most out of cooking and cleaning.

If you have friends or family who want to know-how to help, ask them to hold the baby so you can rest.

At this stage in our lives decent rest is king.

One final tip – go to bed. I know that once baby is asleep, it’s tempting to do the chores, or blob on the couch. But if you have a chronic illness, sleep is where its at. You’ll be thankful you did when baby gets up at 5am!

Tell us your best tips for pacing with a baby?

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