This is part 1 of a 2 part series on breastfeeding while pregnant. Today you’ll hear from guest blogger Carrie Willard about her experience and expertise with breastfeeding during pregnancy. Check back next week to hear from Katy about her experience.
At the moment, I’m 23 weeks pregnant. My 21 month old daughter is also still breastfeeding several times a day. This isn’t the first time I’ve nursed through a pregnancy, and it wasn’t an accident that snuck up on me. I quite intended to continue breastfeeding my toddler while pregnant with her younger sibling. This is the fourth time I’ve done so. Why would a mom choose to breastfeeding during a pregnancy? What are some of the common difficulties and how can they be overcome? What if the toddler doesn’t wean by the time the new baby arrives? These are some of the common questions that surround this topic.
For starters, nursing a toddler has many benefits.
Those benefits continue even if the mother becomes pregnant with a new baby. Some of these benefits are: the ability to calm a toddler when life is getting frustrating for him or her, naptime and bedtime made easier, and of course the health and immunity benefits of breastmilk are important for the ever more mobile toddler.
In addition, there are a few unique benefits for the newly pregnant mom.
Many of us experience what could be referred to as “bone crushing” fatigue in our first trimester. Add morning sickness to the mix and it’s no picnic enduring those first weeks. Some moms feel that nursing is a godsend, since at least for those times, their toddler will slow down and relax for a bit. No worries about the little one getting into trouble while you get a little afternoon shut eye. Some women say that breastfeeding helps mitigate their experience of nausea. I’m not sure about that, but I did find that being able to put my feet up several times a day while parenting an active toddler was definitely a plus, as well as the peace of mind that came from continuing to provide a toddler with mom’s milk during a period of illness.
That doesn’t mean that nursing through a pregnancy is always a picnic.
For many, sore nipples are severe during the first trimester of pregnancy, and sometimes later. I certainly experienced this, however I noticed that my nipples were sore whether the baby nursed or not. Even my shirt rubbing against me or the stream of water in the shower hurt. Incidentally my nipples often felt LESS painful after a nursing session.
Careful attention to latch and positioning are paramount at this time.
Toddlers (and let’s face it, us moms too!) often get lax about these two important issues once breastfeeding is “old hat”. Toddlers tend to want to watch everything that’s going on instead of getting down to business. Don’t allow your toddler to lie on his or her back, insist they get “tummy to tummy”, and take a wide mouthful of nipple instead of latching on to the end and “sliding” up. Some moms find that using a moisturizer like olive oil or purified lanolin really help soreness. The good news is that soreness will likely pass.
In the meantime it is perfectly copasetic to tell your toddler that you are sore, and that you need to limit the time or frequency of nursing.
Toddlers are usually accepting of “other mothering” in the form of snacks or drinks, rocking, playing, reading stories, etc. You can also try distraction, avoiding your regular nursing spot or changing your routine. My “morning” sickness was severe at night, so my husband began rocking our little one to sleep. She was quite accepting of this arrangement and my husband now looks forward to this special time with her.
Having no room left in your lap and nursing-induced contractions are common issues late in pregnancy. I never felt that the latter was a problem. “Practice” contractions are likely harmless (unless you’re having a high risk pregnancy, in which case you would probably have already weaned). They can get tiring however, so some of the aforementioned techniques may be in order.
What if your toddler doesn’t wean before your new baby is born?
Toddlers differ in their response to the inevitable changes in mom’s milk supply. It’s common for the milk to slow down considerably at some point in the pregnancy. Some toddlers wean in response to this change,but some don’t. For many nursing isn’t about the milk so much as the comfort that comes from sucking and being close to mom. Some babies will notice and comment on the change if they’re highly verbal or sensitive.
If your little one continues to nurse until their new sibling arrives, you may find yourself in the small but proud camp of women who are “tandem nursing”, meaning they are nursing two babies who are siblings but not twins! That’s a topic for another blog post.