Breastfeeding during pregnancy 101: What you need to know
Are you pregnant and facing a dilemma of whether or not you should wean your breastfeeding older child? Fret not! In most cases, breastfeeding during pregnancy is completely safe. Here’s all you need to know about it.
After the initial few months of adjusting to breastfeeding, you finally get the hang of it. Everything is falling into place. Your baby and you have settled into a comfortable rhythm of bonding and even drifting off to sleep while nursing. Then you discover you are pregnant.
Especially if this is the first time you fall pregnant while nursing, you may find yourself with a host of questions.
Should you continue nursing? Do you have to wean your baby? Is it safe for your toddler to consume your milk? Would breastfeeding during pregnancy affect the growth of the baby you’re expecting?
If that’s not enough, everyone around you is likely to tell you that breastfeeding during pregnancy is a terrible idea.
Sadly, many mums end up abruptly weaning their older child due to the lack of information and myths surrounding breastfeeding during pregnancy. Often, they end up regretting their decision.
Well thankfully, in most cases, it is perfectly safe to continue breastfeeding during pregnancy!
Why it is safe
Breastfeeding during pregnancy poses no significant risks to any of the involved parties – the mum, the nursing child as well the child she’s expecting. Here is what you need to know about the most common concerns about breastfeeding during pregnancy.
Development of unborn baby
Contrary to popular belief, breastfeeding during pregnancy does not deprive the unborn baby of its nutrients. Of course, you must eat healthily and sufficiently.
Do take note that during your second and third trimester you need to consume approximately 350 – 450 additional calories a day. If you are breastfeeding during pregnancy, you need an additional 500 to 650 calories, depending on the age of your nursing child. That’s quite a bit to stomach!
Don’t forget to have sufficient protein and calcium intake. It is also mandatory for you to consume eight to twelve glasses of fluid on a daily basis.
If you are breastfeeding during pregnancy, you would inevitably have heard that breastfeeding causes contractions and premature labour.
The science behind this is that oxytocin, the hormone released during breastfeeding is also the hormone that stimulates labour. However, the amount of this hormone released when breastfeeding during pregnancy is a lot less than when you are breastfeeding when not pregnant.
The amount of oxytocin released is not sufficient to cause your cervix to prematurely dilate or to cause contractions. So you really don’t have to worry.
Rumour has it that breastfeeding during pregnancy may cause a miscarriage. There is no evidence suggesting a correlation between increased risk or chances of miscarriage and breastfeeding during pregnancy.
Miscarriages occur for many reasons and at times there is no clear explanation for it. Either way, breastfeeding during pregnancy is not a contributing factor in an otherwise healthy and uncomplicated pregnancy.
Milk compatibility for nursing child
Yes, it is true that your pregnancy hormones pass into your milk. But no it is not true that they make the milk unsafe for your nursing child. Only a very small amount of these hormones pass into your milk and they pose no harm to the child you are breastfeeding during pregnancy.
However, do not be alarmed if your child decides to wean on her own. Somewhere in the fourth or fifth month of your pregnancy, the taste of your milk starts to change. Your nursing child may find the taste repulsive.
As your pregnancy progresses, your milk supply will take a dip. This causes some children to wean themselves.
So mums, you can be rest assured that breastfeeding during pregnancy does not make your milk unsuitable for your nursing child.
When you might have to wean
In some cases, weaning might be a safer option for the mother and her unborn child. Some of these include:
Pregnancy complications / high-risk pregnancies
Being pregnant with twins or multiples
Bleeding, contractions or uterine pain
If the foetus is not growing well
If you have been advised to avoid sex while pregnant (oxytocin is also the hormone released when a female achieves orgasm)
Even if you do not have to wean for a medical reason, you might want to consider some other factors.
Unlike tandem nursing, when there is usually an abundance of milk, milk supply is destined to drop during pregnancy. Most mums will notice a significant reduction in their supply somewhere between 16 to 22 weeks. Some even notice the drop as soon as they discover they are pregnant.
The drop in supply is due to the pregnancy hormones that are preparing your body to reduce milk production and send signals to start making small amounts of colostrum.
The drop in supply can be countered by nursing your child more frequently. However, bear in mind that pregnancy in itself is incredibly exhausting. If you find that having to nurse more frequently is too draining, then don’t stretch yourself thin.
Whether your child is exclusively breastfed, or already on solids, it is important she gets enough milk. If you cannot match her demand, then it may be best to supplement.
Remember, it does not mean that you are any less of a mum if you do not continue breastfeeding during pregnancy. You have tried your best and that makes you wonderful!
While pregnancy is completely smooth sailing for some lucky mums, for many others it is at best, an uphill battle. Nausea, fatigue, headaches and mood swings among other things are no surprises to an expecting mum. If you are already going through a rocky road during your pregnancy, you might wish to think carefully about breastfeeding during pregnancy.
The last thing you need is to make your pregnancy an unpleasant experience. While breastmilk offers a multitude of benefits to your child, it is of utmost importance that you take the best care of yourself as well.
The hormones are at work again! During pregnancy, many women complain that their nipples feel extremely sore, or are extra sensitive. As such, it can be terribly uncomfortable, or even excruciatingly painful when your child nurses.
Angie, a Singaporean mum blogger (http://simplymommie.com) shares that from the fifth month of her pregnancy, breastfeeding was uncomfortable with the increased sensitivity and so she kept her nursing sessions short and sweet. She was also concerned about contractions and felt short nursing sessions were best.
While some mothers feel that it is best to wean, some push on. Should you decide to continue breastfeeding during pregnancy, you can remind yourself that the discomfort is only there when your baby is at the breast.
Jessica Tan, a work-from-home mum who breastfed her two-year old son throughout her second pregnancy shares, “Breastfeeding during pregnancy was a struggle with sensitive nipples and an aversion to being touched. I was lucky that my son wasn’t a twiddler otherwise I would have really wanted to quit.”
Again thanks to those notorious pregnancy hormones, some women feel sexually aroused when breastfeeding during pregnancy. This heightened sexual arousal is caused by the intense nipple stimulation.
This makes some mums feel guilty or wrong about the experience. There is no need to feel this way. These feelings have nothing to do with your child. They are a normal occurrence that is beyond your control.
Older child’s feelings
You might wish to seriously consider the nursing relationship you have with your older child. If you continue breastfeeding during pregnancy, the next question would be what happens when the newborn arrives.
Are you considering tandem breastfeeding? If not, then it might be a good idea to gradually start weaning your nursing child. Otherwise, she may feel hurt when you abruptly wean her upon the arrival of the baby. Plan what you want to do. Slowly start working on explaining things to your older child.
Bear in mind that sibling jealousy is inevitable. When the newborn arrives, the older child will be going through a period of adjustment and having to deal with sudden weaning may be too much for her to handle.
Having said that, do remember that your nursing relationship with your older child won’t last forever and you can’t bring back time that is lost.
Jessica’s decision to go on breastfeeding was largely because she knew that her breastfeeding days with her older child might come to an end anytime and upon the arrival of the new baby she might no longer have the chance to experience this special bond with her firstborn. She adds, “So I treasured the moments despite how uncomfortable it was at first. After awhile, you barely notice the physical aspect of it.”
There you go mums, all you need to know about breastfeeding during pregnancy. Do remember that it is a personal choice. So think carefully about what works best for you and your child!