Breastfeeding While Pregnant
Before I educated myself in the field of lactation, I thought that if a woman got pregnant and was breastfeeding her previous child, she needed to stop nursing immediately for the sake of the unborn child. Well, that is not the case in most situations. Women who get pregnant while breastfeeding usually can continue to do so throughout their pregnancy.
There are some situations in which breastfeeding during pregnancy may need to be discussed with your health care provider, such as: previous miscarriages, pre term labor and birth, currently carrying twins or multiples and other risks for preterm labor. When breastfeeding, oxytocin is released into the bloodstream, causing uterine contractions that could initiate labor in the cases previously mentioned and result in premature delivery.
A nutritious diet, drinking to thirst and getting as much rest as possible are essential to meeting the demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding.
A few things that you will experience while breastfeeding during pregnancy are:
– Fatigue, and this is not necessarily because you’re breastfeeding. Pregnancy hormones are taking over. After all, making a new human being is hard work and you need to rest! To top it off, you will also be taking care of another baby(ies)/child(ren) who need your attention. This fatigue will decrease as pregnancy progresses. Lay down and rest or sleep if you are able to when your baby/toddler naps.
– A drop in your milk supply and a change in its taste in preparation for the new baby. These changes will sometimes make your older child self-wean. If your child is younger than a year old, breastmilk is the main source of nutrition for him; arrangements need to be made so he can continue to get the nutrition he needs through breastmilk either from a milk bank, milk shares, or another woman’s milk, or artificial infant milk.
– Sore/sensitive nipples. This is another hormonal change, so regardless if you are or aren’t breastfeeding during pregnancy, you will experience it during the early weeks of gestation. To make breastfeeding more tolerable if you’re experiencing discomfort, make breastfeeding sessions shorter and perhaps more frequent. Share with your child, if he is able to comprehend, why the breastfeeding routine is changing and that it has nothing to do with him. This tenderness will decrease also as pregnancy progresses.
If breastfeeding becomes unbearable and you feel it is time to wean and your child is under the age of one, again, arrangements need to be made to ensure he is getting his nutrition from breastmilk or artificial baby milk. However, if he is over the age of one, find ways to nurture your child other than at the breast. Cuddles and hugs, a walk around the neighborhood or at the park, riding his tricycle/bike, playing his favorite game or giving him his favorite snacks could do the trick. This is also a great opportunity to get partners involved pitching in to help ease the weaning process.
There will be tears (few or a lot) and not just from the child; transitions/changes are not always easy. You might feel you are being put in a difficult situation where you need to choose between your children. All these feelings are common, but keep in mind that it’s not just about your children; it’s also about yourself and how breastfeeding is affecting you emotionally, physically and mentally. Make the best of the situation and focus on the positives of it. Perhaps your child can spend a bit more time with his dad, giving you a little more freedom to prepare for the new baby or get the much needed rest you have been putting off.
Some women had a great breastfeeding relationship during pregnancy and are able to breastfeed their older child throughout the whole pregnancy, but there is no reason to feel like a failure if it didn’t work out for you. There are kids that return to nursing after the new baby has arrived and find it wonderful that the milk has blossomed and there is more milk than before. If you decide you want to breastfeed your new baby and his older sibling (tandem nursing), remember to give the new baby plenty of opportunities to get the nutrition he needs from the breast before letting his older sibling nurse.