Breastfeeding while pregnant
It is hard to make decisions for your family when so often your questions are met with responses that invoke fear and worry. Breastfeeding your baby is one of the best gifts you can give to him or her, but things become a lot more complicated when you find out you are pregnant again. Asking friends and family for advice on the matter will be surely met with contrasting responses: either that it’s OK or that you’re going to do serious harm to yourself and your two children. It’s hard to find a middle ground and you may find that even some doctors advise you to stay on the safer side, by abandoning breastfeeding your first child as soon as possible. Be careful of sudden weaning as this can have detrimental affects on the weaned baby. It is important, if you are deciding to start weaning, that you do so in a relaxed and calm manner. Please take a look at our weaning guide for more information.
There are numerous reasons why you may want to extend breastfeeding your first child through the pregnancy of your second, especially if your first child is under a year old. As a mother you understand all the demands pregnancy will place on your body, so you are in a good position to judge whether you feel confident continuing breastfeeding. Remember that for many nipple sensitivity is a real concern while pregnant, particularly when in the first trimester. This could become a source of severe discomfort if you are regularly nursing a toddler. In addition, the demands on your body of juggling both nursing and providing for a fetus can put serious strain on your health. You are able to minimize such strain by ensuring you are drinking sufficient water (at least 10 glasses a day) and enough extra calories (500 plus is a good estimate). The best rule of thumb is to eat when you’re hungry and drink when you’re thirsty. If you get into the habit of having a glass of water with you every time you nurse, that will help prevent dehydration. See The Breastfeeding Diet page for more tips and advice on how to formulate a diet that provides well for you and your babies.
Mothers these days face many demands, extending past the family home to often include careers as well. It is important if you want to breastfeed while pregnant, that you take a look at your responsibilities and question whether you will have the time and energy to allow yourself to do this properly. Many friends and family who suggest against breastfeeding while pregnant are probably concerned about your health – either activity on its own is demanding on your body, let alone both of them combined. Remember, your body is a wonderful machine that will put your babies needs before you own, so if you are lacking in something it will affect you more than your children. Women who are at risk of going into early labor are advised against breastfeeding through pregnancy. This is because nipple stimulation causes the release of a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin can help stimulate labor, though it is very unlikely. However, for those women who have early labor as a serious threat to their pregnancy, it is of course best to minimize any risks and this includes terminating breastfeeding while pregnant. The best approach in this circumstance is to consult with your doctor. If you are not at risk of early labor then you should proceed with breastfeeding without serious concern.
It is important that you monitor your breastfeeding baby’s weight while you are pregnant, as milk production could be slowed down. If your baby is already eating solids, then the impact of decreased milk production will be minimized. If your baby is quite young and relies heavily on your breast milk, then it is very important that you monitor them closely. While pregnant, many hormones are released resulting in numerous chances in your body, this hormones influence the breast milk. Quite often nursing babies are put off by the chances in the taste or texture of breast milk and they may choose to wean themselves independently. Your breast milk will be particularly different just before birth of your second child and the few days following, do not be concerned if your baby starts to refuse the breast milk. Instead, make sure that you supplement their diet in another way. Toddlers may be quite vocal about the changes to your milk, so be prepared for that.
Many mothers have success with something called “tandem breastfeeding” which is when you breastfeed two babies at once. This could be due to continued breastfeeding throughout your pregnancy, or perhaps when your second child is born your first is tempted by breast milk again. Whichever way it comes about, it can be a wonderful way for you to encourage your two children to bond together. This is a very personal situation and of course depends on how the individual feels about it, but it is perfectly healthy. Make sure you monitor the second child’s weight growth to make sure that they are obtaining enough nutrients, but otherwise this is perfectly healthy. Often toddlers can be quite jealous or unsure of new siblings, and this is a wonderful way to bond as a new family together.
Relax! There is absolutely nothing wrong with breastfeeding through your pregnancy. Make sure that you are not at risk of entering into labor early, and then you are free to enjoy your journey into becoming a new mother again. Bare in mind that the changes in your body during pregnancy might cause your currently breastfeeding baby to self wean, earlier than otherwise. This is both normal and natural; so do not harbor feelings of failure or disappointment if this happens. Be sure to provide yourself with enough nutrients, water and rest to give both your babies the best starts in life.