Breastfeeding During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?
Natalie just found out she’s pregnant, and she’s excited but worried. You see, she’s still breastfeeding 14-month-old Tala, and she’s not ready to wean. She is concerned about the effect of breastfeeding on her pregnancy and her unborn child.
Although Tala breastfeeds no more than a young child, Natalie knows that she is still important to Tala’s immunity, nutrition and comfort above all else. A few minutes on the breast is an easy way to ‘pick me up’ (literally) for tala when you’re emotionally down or down. It’s also a great sedative as it cuts their molars.
Natalie planned to breastfeed Tala for at least two years as recommended by the World Health Organization, knowing that it was not simply a recommendation for women in disadvantaged settings: a study of infants aged 12 to 23 months. (Davey 2001) The authors conclude, “Breast milk continues to provide significant amounts of important nutrients, particularly proteins, fats, and most vitamins, after the first year of life.”
How does breastfeeding affect your unborn child?
For mothers like Natalie, concerns about breastfeeding during pregnancy tend to focus on whether their current baby or toddler will deprive their unborn child of nutrients from breastfeeding. This could be another concern if you become pregnant while breastfeeding a young child – as was the case with Jackie. Jackie’s baby, Luke, is only six months old and has just begun to savor family foods, so breast milk is still an important part of Luke’s diet.
Whatever your baby’s current age or how far they are breastfed, your unborn baby gets all the nutrients he needs first. But due to hormones, your milk supply is likely to decrease during pregnancy. If you are breastfeeding a young baby while pregnant, you may find that with increased frequent feeding and healthy feeding, you can maintain an adequate supply of milk.
If your milk supply is too low, you may need to take a supplement. With your toddler, you will need to offer more foods and drinks to make up for less breast milk. Although you may be advised to increase your supply of herbs, it is not safe. For example, fenugreek, an herb often suggested to increase milk production, is a uterine stimulant so should be avoided during pregnancy. However, you can eat foods that have a natural spoiling effect, such as oats, and grass-free lactation cookies.
Women often ask me, “If I breastfeed until delivery, will my newborn be deprived of colostrum?” Again, you can rest in peace: your body knows how to nurture your newborn. The postpartum hormone will secrete colostrum, giving your baby his first immune boost. Even during pregnancy you can produce colostrum as well as mature milk.
How can it affect your pregnancy
Another concern for women who breastfeed during pregnancy is whether breastfeeding can lead to miscarriage or premature birth. In short: there is no need to worry.
Nipple stimulation releases oxytocin and signals your breasts to release milk, and this can make uterine tissues contract (this reduces postpartum bleeding). But there is no evidence that it threatens pregnancy. This is because, during pregnancy, less oxytocin is released in response to nipple stimulation. Also, the “oxytocin receptor sites,” the cells of the uterus that sense hormones and cause contractions, decrease in number by 38 weeks — they build up slowly after that time, and then labor begins. This is accompanied by a lot of growth. This means that as long as your pregnancy is close or near term, your uterus is in a protective position to support your unborn baby.
Of course, if you have a high-risk pregnancy or are concerned about the effect of breastfeeding on your pregnancy, it is important to discuss this with your health care providers.
How can it affect you
Breastfeeding during pregnancy means that you are raising two babies, which places additional demands on your body in terms of nutrients and energy. It is important to take extra care of yourself at this time.
Some women report morning sickness getting worse, although it is not a problem for others. Along with changing hormones, nausea can be caused by hunger, thirst and fatigue, so try to eat small amounts more frequently, reduce your thirst, and get as much rest as possible.
The natural tenderness of the nipple can make breastfeeding painful in the early weeks, so pay attention to how you bond with your baby or toddler.
When breastfeeding your baby, it is normal to feel disgusted, especially if breastfeeding is painful. With a toddler, you can breastfeed your child by telling him, “We’re going to count to ten, so get a glass of water / We’re going to play ball / Go to the park” – that is, you make a turn.
Weaning or not weaning
Many women breastfeed during pregnancy, while others wean early; Still others breastfeed both babies together. It’s a personal choice that depends on your health, energy, and resources, as well as how breastfeeding works for you and your baby.
During my pregnancy, my baby was feeding less and less. My pregnancy hormones affected my supply so one day she smiled and said, “No more milk.” The same girl asked to breastfeed with the newborn, but she was breastfed, and took a gulp of milk with a strong “betrayal”. She rubbed her face and said, “UK! Baby maybe.”
While pregnant with another baby, my baby decided “baby can be on that side”. The side that continued to suckle began to produce mature milk, and the side that stopped feeding began to produce colostrum – completely independently of each other. I continued breastfeeding during pregnancy and then weaned my daughters.
Of course, this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I won’t pretend it was easy. Although there were lovely moments when they were holding each other’s hands as they are, when I was completely overwhelmed, as if I had been suffocated by two little puppies. For my daughters though, breastfeeding together was a wonderful bonding time. It helped put an end to the siblings’ resentment, and even as adults, they are the best of friends.
Whatever you choose – do not wean – remember the mantra, “Slowly with love.” You don’t need to make decisions urgently, and it would be easier for you and your child if there was no pressure about ending this precious relationship.