The patience, strength, and determination needed to manage IBD are all great qualities to possess when becoming a parent, too.

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Kristen Curette & Daemaine Hines/Stocksy United

I used to think living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) was the hardest thing I would ever go through. Until I became a mother, that is.

Being a mom is really tough — and after 9 months of excitement comes the hard parts: the sleepless nights, hormonal changes, and learning how to take care of a small human.

Experiencing all this on top of IBD can be even more challenging, especially since about one-third of moms with IBD have a flare within a year of giving birth.

However, that’s not to say having IBD isn’t compatible with motherhood.

Like most aspects of life with inflammatory bowel disease, it can be challenging and exhausting, but you will get through it.

As a proud mom to an energetic 18-month-old, I’ve learned some tips for surviving that tricky first year postpartum.

Breastfeeding with IBD is absolutely possible, though it may require a little research.

The good news is that many common IBD medications are safe to take while breastfeeding. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation says that azathioprine/6-mercaptopurine and biologic drugs can all be safely continued when breastfeeding.

I’d recommend joining the Facebook group Breastfeeding with IBD to connect with moms in a similar position.

Also, be aware that breastfeeding can be tiring and demanding on top of living with a chronic condition, so plan for ways that others can support you — whether that’s looking into expressing down the line, or agreeing with your partner or family to take over after feeds so you can rest.

I don’t think I understood how important sleep was for me until I stopped being able to have it.

It’s not just missing sleeping in — sleep is actually really important for IBD.

Past research has shown that people with IBD tend to have poorer sleep in general, so here’s my warning: You need to get some sleep whenever you can. If the baby is asleep, sleep! If someone offers to watch the baby, sleep!

It’s not forever, and soon your baby will sleep through the night (although the definition of “soon” is different for all of us). In the meantime, take every snooze chance you get.

It’s really hard to prepare 3 meals a day at first, so having some belly-friendly meals in the freezer before baby arrives can be a lifesaver.

If you’re like me, junk food and irregular eating patterns may make your IBD worse, so it’s really important to be prepared.

If you’ve stopped medication temporarily during pregnancy, or feel as if you may flare postpartum, it’s important to have a post-baby plan regarding your treatment.

Many people put this off until they’re really unwell because they’re so focused on their little one that they neglect their own body.

Your doctor should be monitoring you closely and have a plan to get you back on track.

One thing you’ll learn quickly: You really can’t turn your back on a baby, especially when they hit the crawling milestone.

Many moms keep a diaper caddy in each room for this very reason, but why not use it to keep your important things, too?

For example, if you’re on many types of medications, you can’t necessarily keep dashing back to the kitchen to take them, so keep them in your room caddy (out of reach of children, of course).

You could also throw in things like water bottles, a heating pad, a change of clothes, and snacks if you feel you need them.

Let me be real with you: If your body is anything like my body, then the bathroom is going to be your baby’s most visited room.

When your baby is younger, you can pop them safely in the bassinet. If they’re crying or have reached the crawling stage, it’s likely they’re going to need to come to the bathroom with you.

Most of us IBD moms have been camped out in the bathroom with a baby on their lap. That’s why I keep some entertainment in there, such as a book or toy that I can use to distract my son (and prevent him from opening the door and running off).

Many of us are regimented in taking our prenatal vitamins during our pregnancy, but you may or may not need to continue the vitamins after your baby is born.

Iron deficiency anemia is a common issue with lots of us and research shows that 60–70 percent of people with IBD have insufficient vitamin D levels.

Just because you’re no longer taking these for your baby, doesn’t mean you still won’t need them, so it could be worth getting your levels checked after giving birth or talking with your doctors to see what they recommend.

In the early days, the thought of leaving our baby leaves us inconsolable, which is why some moms with IBD might neglect to get the help they need for their own health.

However, a hospital trip doesn’t have to mean separation from your baby.

If you’re admitted to the hospital due to IBD, it’s likely your baby will be able to come in the room with you — and it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to breastfeed.

Lots of us are aware of the signs of postpartum depression, but it’s also important to be aware that people with IBD may have an increased risk of a new-onset psychiatric diagnosis in the postpartum period, according to a 2019 study.

Mental health conditions in general are common among people with IBD, so it’s important to care for your mental health — as well as your physical health — during this postpartum period.

Every IBD mom I know (myself included), feels guilty for accepting help. We’re taught that a baby needs their mother 24/7, but actually, what they really need is a mom who’s happy and healthy.

Be realistic about what you can achieve and what you need help with.

Having IBD may mean you have a few more hurdles to overcome in your first year of being a mom, but hopefully these tips will help you navigate things.

Those of us with IBD are used to having the patience, strength, and determination in overcoming setbacks. Thankfully, these are all great qualities to possess when becoming a parent, too.

Jenna Farmer is a UK-based freelance journalist who specializes in writing about her journey with Crohn’s disease. She’s passionate about raising awareness of living a full life with IBD. Visit her blog, A Balanced Belly, or find her on Instagram.