Amongst the eleventy-billion myths out there that prevent women from having a full breastfeeding experience, one of the common misunderstandings is that in order to get or stay pregnant, you have to quit breastfeeding.
One woman reported taking her 9-month-old to the doctor's office when she got her positive pregnancy test results for baby #2. She nursed the 9-month-old while waiting, and the nurse walked in and said, "You ARE pregnant, congratulations! Let me get you some formula samples since you need to stop nursing right now."
Fortunately, this mom knew better, but not everyone does. Especially if it's a nurse or doctor telling you to stop, it can come off as very authoritative -- however, most doctors don't have any training on breastfeeding. Not even pediatricians.
So, according to the people who actually do have education in breastfeeding, here's what you need to know about nursing while pregnant.
There is an idea that you have to wean to get pregnant, which is just simply not true. While breastfeeding can delay the return of your cycle, it is not birth control. Put quite simply, if you are bleeding, you are ovulating. You can use techniques to monitor your body to learn when you're ovulating to aid in conception as well, often called Natural Family Planning.
There is also the common belief that nursing can cause miscarriages, since it can contract the uterus. You know what else contracts the uterus? SEX. Unless you have a medical condition that forbids you from having sex for evidence-based fear of early labor through contractions from stimulation, you shouldn't even entertain the thought of needing to stop nursing for the same reason. As La Leche League puts it:
"Currently, no specific medical guidelines exist that define in which situations it may be risky to continue breastfeeding during pregnancy, and prenatal caregivers vary widely in their recommendations."
When your milk starts to change and your hormones do too, sometimes you can have a drop in supply in the second trimester, but this isn't a sign you should wean. I heard of a woman saying that she weaned because her milk was changing for the baby and it was no longer good for her toddler. That couldn't be further from the truth either. Your supply can drop a little, so if your baby is still mainly breastfed, you may need to provide a little more solids, but your milk's changes are nothing but beneficial for your older child -- certainly not harmful. You know how colostrum is referred to as "Liquid Gold"? Yeah, those benefits are good for anyone, including older children.
Sometimes as your milk changes, though, the flavor change can be off-putting to your current nursling. Sometimes toddlers will want to nurse less because of this, and on very rare occasions, will quit nursing entirely, though it's not very common and often once the baby is born, the older child will resume nursing as well.
One of the biggest complaints about nursing while pregnant is the pain. As we all know, your nipples and breasts can get incredibly sore, and even with boobs that are already lactating, this is still true. If your child is older, you can try to limit the number or length of nursing sessions to help deal with the pain, though be careful not to damage your supply while doing so. Older toddlers can be asked even to nurse more gently, and you can try to encourage nursing on the less sore breast (if such a thing exists!). Last but not least, as one mom put it, it's a good time to practice your breathing and visualization techniques you plan on using during your birth to deal with any pain.
When I was pregnant with my second child and nursing my 1-year-old, there were some days and nights that I wanted to wean so badly. My nipples ached, and I just felt like if he sucked one more time I might have a breakdown. But that was only sometimes, and the rest of the time went really well. It was made completely worth it when my daughter was born and my two children nursed together for the first time, one on each breast.
My son was able to welcome the new baby into the world by sharing something most precious to him, and it created an amazing bond between them. They both know how to share wonderfully because they shared their comfort and food source for 18 months. Now that I'm pregnant with number 3, and know what to expect while pregnant and nursing, I'm excited to be able to give my daughter the same sharing experience that my son was given.
Know that there can be a struggle, but it's so worth it, and you're definitely not alone.
Have you nursed while you were pregnant?
Image via MelanieLouise/CafeMom