Now, I’ve nursed through several pregnancies and would like to share my experience to help you prepare for the experience of “eating for three” (or four if you’re expecting twins).
Your Milk May Change
Pregnancy can alter the taste and/or amount of your milk. As progesterone levels rise, the milk hormone prolactin is suppressed. Your nursing baby may be fussier than usual, may show signs of wanting to wean or his/her weight gain may slow or stop. If changes occur, they tend to happen after the first trimester. About 70% of women will see a decrease in supply. But that leaves 30% who will produce enough to exclusively feed their nursing baby as long as they wish, so don’t lose hope, but do watch your baby for signs that he/she is not getting enough. If that is the case, you can still continue to nurse even after the baby comes, but you’ll likely need to supplement in some way.
Be vigilant about nutrition (pregnancy and nursing both require extra caloric intake) and hydration. Answer your appetite, eat nourishing foods, and you should be fine. Consult your doctor or midwife about any supplements or vitamins that may be indicated for your particular situation.
When pregnant with Ingrid, I was advised to continue taking Vitamin D to benefit my nursing baby (Erik); I also became anemic halfway through the pregnancy and had to supplement with Floradix (a fantastic herbal iron formulation that had my levels up in less than 2 weeks).
Pregnancy hormones plus breastfeeding hormones can lead to quite a roller coaster, both physically and emotionally.
Some are beneficial. The soothing effect of nursing can help counteract the moodiness of pregnancy. Every nursing session affords some quiet time. You might become even closer to your child as you treasure the fleeting moments you are sharing before delivery day. Nursing and caring for a baby may take your mind off morning sickness, aches and pains, and pregnancy worries, at least for a little while. And the fact that you’re nourishing two babies at the same time really makes you feel like a super hero!
Some are not so great. If you find yourself experiencing discomfort and pain, feeling more tired and irritable, or just wishing your baby would self-wean, those are all normal and expected. I personally love Medela’s soothing gel pads. And be sure to reach out for help when feeling overwhelmed by the demands of nurturing two needy children at once.
Affects on Morning Sickness
There are no scientific studies I know to back this up, but some women do report that breastfeeding helps to lessen morning sickness a little bit. This has been my experience. Others experience waves of nausea while feeding their child. For some, this happens during letdown.
One particular challenge for me was my baby waking up to nurse in the night. Sleep was my one respite from all-day morning sickness, so this is something I really put my foot down on. As soon as my morning sickness started, I taught my babies to sleep all night to avoid nighttime feeding.
If you are one of those women that has to eat constantly in the early months to ward off the hunger/morning sickness cycle, then be prepared for the fact breastfeeding may compound this. Nursing is going to make you that much hungrier.
Affects on Your Growing Baby
Will lactation pose a risk to your pregnancy? It’s a natural question to ask.
While oxytocin is released in small amounts during feedings, it’s generally not enough to induce preterm labor. In fact, one study showed that nearly 93% of women didn’t feel any contractions at all. The uterus reacts differently to stimulation before it is “ripe” for labor. It’s response to the hormones released by nursing is muffled, to use Hilary Flower’s word. If you’re worried about your high-risk pregnancy or are prone to miscarriage, do discuss this with your prenatal care provider. If worrying about “what ifs” will cause a lot of anxiety for you, weaning may be the right choice.
But as of now, we don’t have any conclusive studies showing that becoming pregnant increases your risk of a miscarriage.
Have you nursed a baby during pregnancy? Did it change things for you?
This article was previously posted at All About Cloth Diapers and is being republished and updated with permission.