Breastfeeding While Pregnant: 5 Problems & Solutions

nursingMany mamas are intimidated by the idea of getting pregnant while they're still nursing. Whether it be out of fear of decreased milk supply or having breastfeeding cause uterine contractions, a lot of women shy away from tackling both at once. But they needn't.

Breastfeeding throughout pregnancy is perfectly safe for everyone involved -- you, your baby, and your baby-to-be. But it isn't always a walk in the park. Sometimes issues arise and you've got to be ready to deal with them.

Here's how.


Issue #1: My milk supply is going down! "Most moms will notice a decrease in milk production at around 16-22 weeks, though some will notice as early as the first month," says California-based lactation consultant, Teglene Ryan. "The hormones in pregnancy do suppress milk production and signals mom’s body to begin making small amounts of colostrum." What to do: Nursing more often can help if you feel that your supply is going down, "but if baby is under a year, supplementation may be in order," notes Ryan. The important thing is that your child is getting enough to eat and gaining weight. If babies are nursing between 3-4 times a day and gaining weight, supplementation shouldn't be necessary. But for children who aren't nursing as much, or don't seem to be gaining weight, increasing solids or supplementing with donated milk or formula should be considered. Some adjustments may be in order, but many women are able to nurse throughout their pregnancies, even if milk supply goes down. Some nursing pregnant mothers have credited careful attention to nutrition, or using herbal supplements to increasing milk supply during pregnancy. And milk typically always returns toward the end of the pregnancy and is completely regenerated at delivery.

Issue #2: My milk seems to taste differently during pregnancy to my child. If your normally breast-happy baby doesn't seem to be as into nursing as she normally is, it could be because of the new taste of your milk. "Mom’s body will start making small amounts of colostrum, usually around 16-22 weeks," notes Ryan. "This changes the taste and composition of mature milk. Some babies do not like the taste and will refuse to nurse, others are not bothered by the change and will continue to nurse through the pregnancy." What to do: Since it's hormonally caused, there is nothing women can do to change the taste of their milk during pregnancy. Women will start to make mature milk shortly after delivery, though, just as they did in their first pregnancies. After a new baby is born, it's not unusual for children, even if they're weaned, to want to taste the milk or ask to nurse again. If moms would like to continue nursing their older child, it shouldn't be a problem at all, but if they'd prefer not to, they can offer milk in a cup or a spoon.
Issue # 3: Ouch! My nipples are sore!  Not everyone experiences this, but "it can happen at any point in the pregnancy and last a short time or a long time," says Ryan. What to do: "Mom can sometimes get her baby to latch in a way that is more comfortable for her," suggests Ryan. "Some moms may choose to limit time at the breast, or even wean, if it is very uncomfortable for them." La Leche League recommends moms try breathing techniques from childbirth classes to help cope with the increased sensitivity. Also, if the child is old enough, Mom can ask him or her to nurse more gently or for shorter periods of time.
Issue #4: I'm worried that nursing while pregnant will cause uterine contractions or premature labor. Some moms are advised to wean during pregnancy because of the effects oxytocin can have on the uterus. Research has shown that repeated, ongoing nipple stimulation through the use of a breast pump can bring on labor in a woman who is at term. What to do: Talk to your doctor, and know that research has shown that continued breastfeeding should not pose a problem for women with normal pregnancies. "With all of the current research, no one has ever been able to find any connection between nursing during pregnancy and miscarriage or pre-term labor," says Ryan. "A mom who continues to nurse through pregnancy is not at any increased risk of preterm labor. Usually the only time mom may need to stop nursing is if she is told to avoid any activities that will cause a release of oxytocin, such as sex."
Issue #5: Now that I'm pregnant, I'm ready to wean. Many women, be it because of the desire not to nurse two children, or because they're uncomfortable, decide to wean their children once they become pregnant. Don't worry, you can proceed as you would if you weren't pregnant -- and no, you're not in for a crazy hormone storm! What to do: If you're nursing a toddler when you get pregnant and decide to wean, it's best to proceed gradually. The approach of "don't offer, don't refuse" has worked for many mothers. If you can anticipate when your child will likely be hungry and want to nurse, offer a snack instead. Be sure to give lots of extra attention and hugs to your little one, and try to avoid sitting in the spot where you normally nurse. And remember, many children will wind up stop asking to nurse as much during pregnancy due to the changes in Mom's milk, so it may not wind up being your decision after all.

Have you delayed trying to get pregnant because you're still nursing?


Image via Corbis

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