4 Tips for Balancing Motherhood With CF

As a new mom, it can be difficult to balance motherhood with maintaining your cystic fibrosis care. Here are four tips that made my journey as a new mom with CF a little easier.

| 5 min read
Janeil-Whitworth-headshot
Janeil Whitworth
Janeil-Whitworth-With-Fenn-Featured-Rectangle

When you are a new mom like I am, everyone wants to offer advice and share their personal experience of motherhood.

Now that our son, Fenn, is six months old, I will share some tips of my own that made my journey as a new mom with cystic fibrosis go relatively smoothly.

Janiel-Whitworth-Fenn-Walker-Rectangle
  1. Ask for (and Accept) Help
    Following the birth of our son, my family and friends signed up to drop off meals every other day for the first four weeks. Having prepared meals and snacks in the house was so helpful and took the stress off me to cook for our family. It was easy to heat leftovers up and encouraged me to eat as often as I could while breastfeeding.
    It is important to gather a group of trusted individuals and ask them to lend a hand for the first couple weeks by washing dishes, doing laundry, dropping off meals and groceries, or just holding your baby while you nap or have some alone time. It's never easy to ask for help -- and is something I am still learning to do myself -- but it can make a big difference between enjoying and “just surviving” the newborn period (and beyond).
  2. Make Self-Care a Priority
    They say that motherhood is a continual season of selflessness. Following a typical decline in my health post-baby, I see how very true that statement can be.
    Frankly, caring for an infant and breastfeeding like I am is physically and mentally demanding (AKA, it's exhausting) -- even for individuals with perfect lungs and working pancreases. It is so easy to forget about yourself and your wellbeing when your primary focus is keeping your baby healthy and happy.
    The way I see it, keeping up with my treatmentseating well, staying hydrated, and resting my body are all ways for me to still actively take care of my son. I want to be here to share in all his milestones, and I use that motivation to make self-care a priority each and every day.
    It's not always easy, but my little boy deserves me at my best. I made it this far -- I'm a mommy! So, why overlook my health now when it matters most?
  3. Develop a Routine
    Babies and those with chronic illnesses like CF have something very much in common -- we both thrive on routines. Implementing an age-appropriate routine for sleep, eat, and play has helped both me and my son know what comes next in our day. (Note: I say routine instead of schedule because we all know babies can be wildly unpredictable some days.)
    By following his cues, we have developed a routine that looks something like this:
    • 6:30 a.m.: Wake up, nurse, make coffee
      Playtime (Mom eats and takes pills)
    • 8:30 a.m.: Nurse and nap
      Mom does first set of treatments
    • 11:00 a.m.: Wake up and nurse
      Playtime (Mom eats lunch)
    • 1:30 p.m.: Nurse and nap
      Mom does an extra set of treatments if needed
    • 3:30 p.m.: Wake up and nurse
      Playtime (Mom eats a snack)
    • 5:00 p.m.: Cat nap
    • 5:30 p.m.: Wake up and nurse
      Family eats dinner
    • 7:00 p.m.: Nurse and bedtime
      Mom does second set of treatments
      Goodnight!

    A routine has helped encourage me to stick with my treatments and medications by prioritizing my health as something that needs time and attention in our day. It has also brought a better balance to my busy role as both a mom and patient. 

    Janeil-Whitworth-With-Fenn-Featured-Rectangle

    I know that our routine will evolve and change as he ages or as I experience an exacerbation and need extra time to care for myself, but it will keep us on the right track. Plus, there's always time for hugs and kisses!

  4. Be Kind to Yourself
    No mother is perfect -- and yet, we undoubtedly strive to have it all together, all the time. Add CF into the mix, and it can sometimes feel like you are lacking in multiple areas, including energy, time, or normalcy.
    I learned early on that I needed to be kind to myself. Releasing certain expectations that I had for myself and appreciating that my son was happy, healthy, and loved made me a better mother. So what if my husband loads the baby into the car to spare me the extra energy and breathlessness? No big deal.
    This winter, we didn't attend any baby story times at the local library during cold and flu season like I had imagined we would. But it's okay -- we still have spring and summer. And some days, I need to bring toys to bed and rest while my baby plays next to me. More moments for cuddles! Those things do not make me a bad mom.
    If you are struggling to breastfeed while maintaining your health, it's okay to stop. Likewise, if you are breastfeeding and feel an exacerbation coming, it's okay to treat with IVs without feeling guilty like I did. (Obviously, make a plan with your physician to use medications that are breastfeeding-friendly).
    You have to do what's best for your family, your baby, and yourself, and sometimes, that's a bit detached from the “normal.” Someone once told me that motherhood is a marathon, not a sprint. Be kind to yourself and you'll enjoy every step.

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Janeil is a Cleveland native who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of 4. Currently, she works as a freelance writer for a health information site where she shares about living with CF. Her favorite thing is being a mom to her two young boys. During her small amounts of free time, she enjoys drinking coffee, reading too many books, and gardening. Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

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This site contains general information about cystic fibrosis, as well as personal insight from the CF community. Opinions and experiences shared by members of our community, including but not limited to people with CF and their families, belong solely to the blog post author and do not represent those of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, unless explicitly stated. In addition, the site is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.