Sunday, November 8, 2009

Breastfeeding while Pregnant

As people find out that I'm expecting Baby #2, one of the first questions I'm inevitably asked is if I've stopped breastfeeding Babycakes. The answer is No, I haven't, and I don't plan to stop nursing him any time soon, new baby or not.

We've been blessed with a great breastfeeding experience, and I know that our relationship is strong because of it. I've made no secret of the fact that my first birth experience literally broke my heart, and breastfeeding helped me heal tremendously in so many ways. Knowing that I alone could provide nourishment to my child was a huge comfort in those early days, especially when I felt like a failure in so many other ways. While I did supplement with formula in the hospital, my husband and I refused to use it once we arrived home, and with his support, we breastfed Babycakes round the clock to rid his body of jaundice and help him gain weight. Our efforts worked, and we've enjoyed an amazing time since then.

I do realize that my experience is extremely personal and somewhat rare, and I sympathize with other mothers who have struggled to breastfeed. It's definitely a private journey, and this is simply my experience.

My plan from Babycake's birth has been to allow him to self-wean when he is ready, and that is still my hope, despite my pregnancy. He still nurses frequently, including before meals, after naps, before bed, and sometimes during the night, and I haven't experienced any issues with supply.

It's normal for breast milk to change back to colostrum at some point during pregnancy, and many nurslings will wean once this occurs, due to the change in taste. I'm preparing myself for this possibility, but I'm also hoping that Babycakes will be one of those children who doesn't mind the different taste and continues to nurse while his sibling grows within me. Even among babies who wean themselves while their mothers are pregnant, many will return to nursing once the new child arrives and the mother's milk returns. So, it's quite possible that this could happen to us.

Another concern many people raise is the issue of uterine contractions caused by nursing. While it's true that they can occur, the research I've done shows that these contractions are really quite similar to Braxton-Hicks, harmless "practice" contractions, which I experienced during my first pregnancy. There's a great article here if you are interested in the more scientific aspects of this.

I definitely hope to keep nursing Babycakes as long as he lets me, and I'm prepared to tandem nurse both of my children. While this is fairly common, it's not something that's often seen or discussed in our society, since it's outside of the norm in some ways. I'm not saying I'll breastfeed both my newborn and my toddler simultaneously at the mall, but I can definitely see myself nursing both in the privacy of our home. I love the idea of Babycakes bonding with his little brother or sister in this way.

So, that's my take on breastfeeding while pregnant and tandem nursing. It's all still a work in progress and I'm learning as I go.