Honestly if you had told pregnant-with-V me that this would be a post I’d be writing in a few years I’d have laughed.
I was still trying to convince Husband that it was normal and extremely beneficial to continue breastfeeding past six months and I knew having children that close together was not what we were feeling called to.
And yet, here we are. Funny how life works out and the things you swore you’d never do as a parent suddenly seem like the obvious choice.
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Our breastfeeding journey was not easy. It seemed we had so many breastfeeding struggles there were days I was sure we wouldn’t even make it to two months, let alone two years. But it has brought so much bonding, snuggling, comfort and joy to our lives (not to mention the immune-boosting benefits!) and Husband, V and I are all so happy we stuck with it and are still nursing 2.5 years in.
But breastfeeding while pregnant brings a whole new list of issues. To start with, we struggled to get pregnant. We were “ready” for a second child right around V’s first birthday but thanks to lactational amenorrhea, we were unable to for another year.
I’d heard about the unique challenges that could come from breastfeeding while pregnant but it just sort of blurred together with all the other pregnancy woes and I didn’t give it much thought. Until suddenly my nipples hurt really bad whenever V latched. It felt like they were severely bruised and raw and was quite miserable. A few weeks later we got a positive pregnancy test.
I’m going to dive into my experience thus far nursing while pregnant in a round-up post featuring the stories of several other awesome mom bloggers but before getting to that I wanted to talk about some of the myths out there.
Please note: I am not a certified lactation consultant or medical professional. You should let your doctor or midwife know you are breastfeeding while pregnant and consult with them if you are concerned about miscarriage or any other related issues.
- Myth 1: It will increase your chances of miscarriage – There’s simply no evidence or research that supports this. Doctors will advise you to wean if you have a history of preterm labor or miscarriage but outside of that, there is no research that suggests it increases your risk of miscarriage.
- Myth 2: It will push you into early labor – Breastfeeding triggers a release of oxytocin and oxytocin=labor, right? Sort of. This is only the case (for the majority of women) when they are at term (partly why some early inductions with pitocin don’t work). The uterus during pregnancy has fewer oxytocin receptors. In fact, the number between the first and third trimesters is 12x as high and then that number doubles or triples leading up into labor.
- Myth 3: Your nursling will suck all the nutrients from your growing baby – While you do need to be mindful of the nutrient, calorie and protein demands of nursing and growing a baby, as long as you are maintaining a good prenatal diet and eating 500-800 extra calories per day, you should be able to maintain nutrient stores and sustain all three of you. In a majority of moms, their milk supply dries up or noticeably decreases by mid-pregnancy anyway.
- Myth 4: Your nursling will suck all your colostrum and not leave enough for baby – If you look at the supply-and-demand nature of milk production this myth is easy to bust. Mothers of multiples don’t have issues with colostrum production. That’s simply not how breasts work. In fact, many mothers who end up tandem nursing report help with the Day 3-4 engorgement with an older nursling helping out.
I’m almost halfway through this pregnancy but so far there have been 3 tips that have helped me the most trying to navigate breastfeeding while pregnant.
Set limits early
Breastfeeding while pregnant can be extremely painful. Start setting limits, whether that be fewer sessions or shorter durations, and find the happy medium where you are meeting your older child’s needs without driving yourself crazy.
Eat all the time
I have had a really hard time with this pregnancy and in hindsight I think a lot of it had to do with not eating enough. Chasing a toddler, running from one work meeting to the next, exhaustion and nausea are all great at making you forget it has already been four or five hours since you last ate. Not only are you supposed to be eating more often to feed your growing wombling but you are also supposed to eat more to help support your milk supply. Remember to keep healthy snacks like pieces of fruit or Larabars (or my newest addiction, RxBars) with you at all times if you are breastfeeding while pregnant. I’ve even started making myself eat something small before going into a meeting and as soon as I leave it. I’ve noticed if I don’t eat something every 2 hours or so I will start to feel nauseated and that often leads to headaches and lots of yuck. If I’m going into a long meeting I’ll either bring a non-messy snack and just hope my growing bump speaks for itself or I’ll make a smoothie ahead of time packed with protein and fats to help.
Talk with your older child and partner
I really struggled with feeling guilty when I night weaned V early on in my 2nd pregnancy. But breastfeeding while pregnant doesn’t have to be all or nothing and she’s old enough that she understands a lot We have had lots of discussions about why she can’t nurse as much and how my nipples are sore so I need more breaks. I also have no issues tandem nursing if that’s what V wants so we’ve talked a lot about that now that my milk supply has dried up. We talk about how she’s going to have to be the big sister and help her little brother or sister (she insists it’s a sister) learn how to nurse and that when the baby gets bigger and bigger and comes out of my belly then I will have more milk and she can nurse more again. These discussions with her, along with discussions with Husband about how he can help with bedtime or bad days when she would usually nurse for comfort but I can’t handle that anymore, have really helped ease the guilt and worry I have associated with not being able to nurse V as often as she wants.
Did you nurse while pregnant? What was your experience like? What were the best tips you found or myths you came up against?