In this article, we tried to answer the questions in mind about breastfeeding during pregnancy. We have also included comments from experienced people on this subject.
“The tender nipples while nursing were a give-away that I was pregnant,” shares Traci Coburn.
Sarah Calser has just found out that she is pregnant. “Well, I suspected I was pregnant when my milk production literally dropped to nothing all of a sudden, and what I did have changed,” she says. “The milk was very watery, with a blue tint.”
For many women, becoming pregnant while breastfeeding can come as a surprise. Some do not plan the pregnancy, while others assume a pregnancy is unlikely or even impossible while breastfeeding a child. Holding a nursing child to your breast, a new pregnancy can be difficult to accept. As you care for one baby, how can you be having another?
And yet, many women plan a pregnancy to ensure their children are close together. While breastfeeding can interfere with ovulation, it’s an unlikely birth control for mothers who are nursing older babies.
Why would a mother want to breastfeed while pregnant?
“Breastfeeding is such a special time of closeness that it is unimaginable for some mothers to consider ending the relationship before the baby is ready, even if that means nursing through a pregnancy and subsequently nursing two babies together,” states Ann Calandro, RN, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) from North Carolina.
Throughout much of the world, especially in less “developed” countries, nursing while pregnant is common. In the United States, it is important to understand that there are more misconceptions about breastfeeding during pregnancy that there are actual facts.
A woman can value her breastfeeding relationship with her child, and still ensure the well being of her new child growing inside. With some basic education and information for both the physician and pregnant woman, breastfeeding during pregnancy is almost always safe.
Lucy Geny was breastfeeding her one-year-old when she went to speak with her pediatrician. “She was thrilled that not only was I continuing to nurse my daughter, but that I was going to be nursing while pregnant.” Lucy said. Her doctor asked some health questions and even went on to ask for any resources she might have on breastfeeding during pregnancy.
Some Facts About Breastfeeding During Pregnancy
A woman should be open with her midwife or physician about the continuation of breastfeeding during pregnancy. While rare, certain medical reasons may need to be discussed and even considered reason for weaning, including uterine pain or bleeding, a history of premature delivery, or a mother’s continued loss of weight during pregnancy.
According to the La Leche League, a well nourished mother should have no difficulty providing for both the unborn baby and the nursing child if more than one year old. If a child is younger, the mother will need to watch the child’s’ weight gain and provide additional solid food if needed.
Sophie Chase says that her midwife was completely supportive of her continued breastfeeding of her two-and-a-half-year-old after she became pregnant and in fact, had lots of good information to share. “The hardest part of breastfeeding while pregnant is remembering that you’re actually eating for three — and more importantly, drinking water for three!” says Sophie. “I kept a full 32-ounce water bottle with me at all times. I was drinking 12 to 14 cups of water every day. All that water sure kept my milk supply up. My daughter never complained of less milk.”
Also, changes can occur in the breastfeeding relationship. The mother might experience new feelings such as sensitive skin and the nursing child may not like the taste of colostrum being developed by the mother somewhere between the fourth and eighth month. A study of 503 La Leche League nursing mothers showed that 69 percent of children weaned on their own when the mother became pregnant.
Lucy Geny recalls, “My milk supply dropped during my pregnancy, and my baby started to eat and drink other things to make up for it. I wasn’t sensitive until about 9 weeks. Latch-on could be quite painful for the first 15-20 seconds, then it was fine.”
Trends in Prenatal Care
With just one in five infants breastfeeding at twenty weeks of age in the United States, it’s no wonder US physicians are not familiar with the subject of breastfeeding during pregnancy. Little to no medical training takes place specific to breastfeeding during pregnancy and often doctors rely on their own personal opinions and beliefs, both positive and negative.
Midwives, on the other hand, tend to have more direct experience with breastfeeding and are supportive of breastfeeding in general. Midwives are trained to understand that there are almost no circumstances where breastfeeding is harmful to pregnancy, or pregnancy to breastfeeding.
“There is no need to hastily wean the first infant from the breast, which is often ordered by the physician,” write Ruth and Robert Lawrence, MD’s in their book, Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession. “It is possible to lactate throughout pregnancy and then to have two infants at the breast postpartum. Physically, there is no need to wean. However, some mothers may choose to gently wean their older baby if they are experiencing discomfort during nursing, or feel they are no longer enjoying the breastfeeding relationship.”
Making Informed Decisions
Ashley Montegu, world-renowned anthropologist and author, has said, “We learn to be human at our mother’s breast.” We, as nursing mothers, need to ensure that we do not wean our children because of misinformation or a public that is more comfortable with the image of a bikini clad women than a breastfeeding child.
Like so many issues we face as parents, we need to find what works for us and search our heart about how we want to raise our children, despite the many pressures we often feel from what is considered the cultural “norm.”
Breastfeeding during pregnancy can be a last opportunity to sit alone with your child before he or she needs to share the demands of a newborn in the home. Children who find themselves in this situation are not old enough to fully understand what changes lie ahead as your tummy grows with their new sibling. What these children do understand is that at this moment you are there for them, letting them nurse, letting your love flow unconditionally into them.