As I’ve shared in my first post, my husband and I are seriously thinking of stopping at one child because we don’t think we can go through the trials of taking care of a severe eczema baby the second time. If a mom comes up to me today and asks what she may expect should her newborn have eczema, here is my chronological order of ‘expectations’…
From Hospital to Home
Pregnancy, delivery and hospital stay is the easy part. Having nurses to take care of you and push your baby out whenever she cries too loud is a luxury. Some eczema babies are born with dry skin but for my baby, her skin is smooth and we didn’t suspect she’d have eczema at two week-old.
During Confinement Period
In Singapore, it is common for mothers to rest at home for a month, enlisting the help of a confinement lady who does everything except breast feed. This includes cooking special food for the new mom, bathing the baby, changing diapers and tending to baby when she cries at night. I didn’t hire a confinement lady as my mom wanted to help. However, having a baby with eczema proved too difficult for us and here’s just a sample of the unique problems that first-time moms of eczema newborn face in the initial three months:
1. Switching to Hypoallergenic Milk – As the only food that a newborn takes is milk, your baby’s doctor may recommend you to switch to a hypoallergenic formula (if you’re feeding formula milk). Hypoallergenic milk is partially hydrolysed milk which almost taste ‘bitter’ when compared to breast or formula milk – I can’t describe the taste but just smelling it is enough to want to pour it down the sink! I had a very hard time coaxing my baby to switch to this milk and her milk feed dropped from 80ml to 20ml and didn’t increase even when she should be hungry. For a new mom, the anxiety and the stress of baby not drinking milk is an enormous weight on your shoulder.
2. Worrying what’s in your breast milk – Breastfeeding up to 6 month old is the recommendation, even for eczema babies. My personal experience was more of not having sufficient breast milk (plus other problems that can only be revealed to a lactation consultant!) and I stopped pumping milk after 3 months. But I’ve come across parents who really worry if it’s their pregnancy diet or their current diet that’s affecting the newborn.
3. Struggling with a Colic Baby – I don’t know if eczema babies tend to be colic but I know my baby is. From one month old to end of three month, I have to deal with her crying, refusing to drink partially hydrolysed milk, having lots of wind plus a serious acid reflux. The milk which was so painstakingly fed to her would suddenly be vomited into the air, flying in a tangent over her face.
4. Pumping more breast milk – This is an almost impossible task by the time my baby is three month old – she can scratch even when she’s swaddled, looped or ‘mittened’. With all your time focused on holding your baby’s fingers and keeping an eye on her, it’s impossible to pump every three hours (and pumping includes setting pump up, pumping for 15 minutes each breast, storing, washing and sterilizing!). I barely have time for a toilet break, let alone keep up a breast pumping routine!
5. Sleeping is Battleground – Given that eczema children don’t sleep well due to flare-ups, bed time usually becomes a battle to keep baby from scratching. I deal with it by co-sleeping with my baby but that’s tough – don’t imagine it’s blissful sleeping but more like you got to be the anti-scratch device on alert the whole night.
6. Dozing off and Waking up Guilty – This is the worst: Guilt for stay-at-home mom who is alone and tired (I’ve moved to my own apartment when my baby is 1.5 month old). I remembered once my baby was already swaddled, asleep and I dozed off sitting beside her crib. I woke up a few minutes later to a scratching sound and saw blood flowing from her ears and side of face/neck. Another time, I was cooking (yes, I persevered in home-cooked meals to create some semblance of normal family and they say, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!), turned around and found my baby scratching her neck against the blood-stained metal frame of her bouncing chair.
7. Making sense of Family Life with Eczema Child – It’s difficult. You’ve got to hang on to your spouse and together weather the initial years before your child (hopefully) grows out of eczema. Simple family events like eating at a restaurant and going for a swim may get stressful if your child scratches. Your after-work hours will also be less relaxing than other families and there’s less couple time. Some parents may get uncomfortable when people stare at their child or angry when ‘kind’ remarks from others seem to insinuate it’s the parents’ fault for their child’s eczema.
Eczema is a chronic condition, no miracle cure and no blaming of anyone. You’ve got to believe you’re the best parent for your child and hang on to your spouse and child. Together you can get through eczema and come out feeling proud you’ve weathered it, supporting each other.