Breastfeeding During Pregnancy

Breastfeeding is a beautiful experience between you and your child, but you may be wondering what to do if you find yourself pregnant. Although breastfeeding can be used as a form of birth control, it only works if:

  • your infant is less than six months old,
  • your periods have not returned and
  • you are breastfeeding upon demand, six to ten times a day.

This is estimated to be 98-99% effective in preventing pregnancy. If you are not trying for another baby, you are advised to use alternative forms of contraception, especially since it is difficult to maintain such a rigorous breastfeeding schedule.

Breastfeeding is generally considered safe for pregnant women. However, if you have a history of preterm labour or miscarriage, or are experiencing uterine pain or bleeding in your current pregnancy, your healthcare provider might advise you to wean.

Here are some common issues faced by moms who breastfeed while pregnant:

  • Nipple tenderness and breast soreness – Almost 75% of mothers experience pain or discomfort in their nipples due to hormonal changes, which can make breastfeeding uncomfortable. Try adjusting your body position by lying down to feed, or distracting yourself from the pain by watching TV or listening to music.
  • Decreased milk supply – Your milk production will likely decrease as your pregnancy progresses. This may cause your nursing child to wean naturally. Try to continue breastfeeding for as long as possible, as it provides excellent nutritional and immunological benefits to your child. Frequent, complete emptying of the breast also reduces your chances of getting inflamed breasts, which is a condition called mastitis.
  • Maternal fatigue – If you’re worried that breastfeeding might increase your pregnancy-induced fatigue, rest assured as there is nothing physically draining about breastfeeding. In fact, it gives you a chance to sit or lie down and is a perfect chance to rest.
  • Uterine contractions – Breastfeeding can stimulate mild uterine contractions. These are not dangerous to your unborn baby if you are having an uncomplicated pregnancy. The contractions occur due to the oxytocin hormone released during breastfeeding, but the amount is usually not significant enough to cause the cervix to open before its appropriate time. So in most cases, they will not lead to a miscarriage or preterm labour.
  • Change in milk taste – Pregnancy hormones reduces the lactose content of your breast milk, while sodium content increases; this makes your milk taste saltier. Your breastfeeding child may not like it and wean on his or her own, but some children don’t mind the change in taste.
  • Weaning – Your nursing child may wean before their sibling is born due to the reasons mentioned above, or because your child’s feeding position gradually becomes more uncomfortable because of your enlarging stomach.

Tandem Feeding

Once the baby is born, you are encouraged to continue breastfeeding both children. This allows both your children to reap the benefits of breastfeeding, and is called tandem feeding. You can opt to either feed both children simultaneously, or one at a time at different times.

In general, it is safe for you to breastfeed during pregnancy, but it’s important to eat healthily and drink enough fluids to ensure that your unborn child won’t be deprived of nutrients.

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