I thought I would write a more thorough blog post on this topic because it seems more concerns about my nursing during pregnancy have cropped up. Frankly, I’m quite amazed by the negativity towards breastfeeding I have experienced since I first decided I was going to breastfeed Gavin. Even after all this time, there are still doubts lingering in the minds of others (no matter how well-intentioned they may be).
The initial concern that was raised about my continued nursing while pregnant was that breastfeeding could lead to premature labour. I think I’ve already addressed this concern sufficiently in my last post on the risks of nursing during pregnancy.
Since then a few more concerns have arisen and I will list them here:
- Is your milk still safe for Gavin to take?
- What about your health?
- What about the baby’s development?
- If Gavin is nursing along with the baby, will the baby have enough milk?
These are the top concerns that I can remember.
Is the milk still safe for the toddler to drink?
Honestly, I find this question almost laughable. Here we are offering cow’s milk to our children and drinking it ourselves without a second thought about whether it is appropriate for us to drink it and yet we would question whether it is okay for a toddler to continue drinking breastmilk? If it isn’t appropriate for a toddler to continue drinking breastmilk, then it certainly isn’t appropriate for us to drink cow’s milk (or goat’s milk, or whatever milk it is from whichever animal that produces it).
What about Mum’s health? Can she continue to nurse and sustain the pregnancy?
While this may be a concern for a mother in a developing nation, it is rarely the case in developed nations. Unless a mother’s diet is severely undernourished, there is little likelihood of any risk to her health. If this were the case, there would be a concern regardless of whether the mother is still nursing her older child or not.
Some healthcare providers may recommend prenatal vitamins, however, more than one a day is unwise. It is best to speak to your O&G for advice.
Incidences where a mother may require additional supplements may be in the situation where the mother has special dietary requirements, e.g. dairy-free, vegans, anemic, unable to consume sufficient calories.
Hilary Flower states in “Adventures in Tandem Nursing” that it is not necessarily true that a mother’s body gives first to the foetus, then to the nursing child, and finally to her own reserves. We don’t really have any information on what happens in the event of nutrient shortage – we don’t know how the nutrients are divided between the placenta and human milk production. To assume that the foetus and the child comes first suggests that a mother’s own body’s stores will be depleted to support the foetus and the child to her own detriment when there is really no evidence of this in a mother who is well-nourished.
In short, as long as a mother eats well, listens to her body’s hunger and thirst signals, and observes that she is gaining the recommended pregnancy weight, she is unlikely to have any issues with her health while nursing during pregnancy.
What About the Baby’s Development?
Although there is currently no study on this topic, the general data collected from mothers who had continued nursing during their pregnancies suggests that babies’ development are not affected (unless a mother is severely undernourished – which would also be the case regardless of whether the mother is nursing or not). The survey of mothers breastfeeding during pregnancy recorded healthy birth weights.
Again, as long as the mother is eating enough calories from a varied diet and is gaining weight within the recommended weight range, it is believed she is capable of providing for herself, her nursing child and the foetus.
This next explanation isn’t exactly scientific but… Personally, I have a lot of faith in mother nature and I can’t imagine that she would design a feeding system that would jeopardise the success of procreation. To have done so would have been evolutionary suicide.
Is There Enough Milk for Both Toddler and Newborn?
Based on my personal experience with my first child, I would definitely say so. After my full milk came in, I would often be so engorged I would wake my son up just to get him to feed and relieve the pressure. And when he wouldn’t wake up, I would have to express some of the milk to relieve the pressure. I think I’ll be glad to be able to have an older child to nurse this time instead of having to fumble with the breast pump.
Generally, most nursing mothers find they have ample milk supply to provide for both baby and older child and that coordinating to ensure that the baby suckles first is usually unnecessary. If, however, you find that your milk supply is insufficient, then a little coordination might be required to ensure the baby suckles first. Sometimes you may even find that you might have to nurse the older child first or the milk pressure from a let down might be too high for the baby.
The only time when it is important to ensure the newborn gets first dibs is during the first few days when the milk is still colostrum. Because colostrum is rich in antibodies and serves to prepare the newborn’s gut for digestion, it is important the the baby gets an adequate supply of this limited substance.
You can find more information about Breastfeeding During Pregnancy at the following sites: