How to breastfeed through pregnancy

Breastfeeding through pregnancy | Mum's Grapevine

Bub on board and one on the breast? There’s no need to ditch nursing because you’re pregnant if you know how to keep a happy balance.

There are ways to comfortably nourish two kiddos at once even though your body is going through changes, your nipples are sore and your little one is fussing at the breast. From changing feeding positions to conquering nipple aversion, with a few simple tweaks breastfeeding will continue to be a joy.

Mum’s Grapevine expert lactation consultant, Lynne-McKensey Hall has all the tricks and tips to make sure your beautiful breastfeeding journey continues.

I congratulate any mother who is breastfeeding or trying to maintain breastfeeding while pregnant. Back in the ‘olden days’ (last century- I love saying that!) when I had our children, we were told we had to stop breastfeeding to get pregnant and, if you were pregnant you had to stop ASAP. Why? Where was the research? There was none!

I think though the concerns were that we might miscarry if we did get pregnant while breastfeeding. It’s interesting to note that many mothers become pregnant while breastfeeding which is why to this day I can never suggest anyone depend on breastfeeding to prevent pregnancy. I felt I was feeding our son 24/7 which is pretty well what you have to do to protect yourself from pregnancy. I can’t and don’t recommend breastfeeding as a contraceptive when I wouldn’t trust it myself (in spite of what my colleagues might say).

Women who become pregnant while breastfeeding generally do so when times between feeds lengthen. This changes hormone levels, which is not a bad thing if you are happy to be pregnant. At the same time some mothers will notice their period returning, others not.

Breastfeeding through pregnancy

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The nipples can become quite sensitive where they never were before and some feel nipple aversion when the baby comes near them. The length of time it takes for your nipples to settle down varies between mothers. Your baby may also become fussy or refuse the breast as the milk changes in taste as the hormone levels change either as a period starts or in very early pregnancy. Imagine, your breastfeeding baby can know you’re pregnant before you do!

So how do you manage the changes in your body and breasts as you continue to feed your baby?

Nipple aversion

Everyone is different and it’s certainly ok if you feel some nipple aversion for however long it lasts. It’s a bit like the early weeks in your first pregnancy when your nipples became tender and you didn’t want them touched.

As you become ‘expert’ with your breastfeeding, I notice older babies almost always breastfeeding on their backs with their heads turned into the breast to feed. This is absolutely not a problem while it’s comfortable for you and your baby is feeding well.

I would suggest though:

  • Turning your baby into your chest more so there is no gap between baby’s cheek and your breast.
  • Drawing the baby towards you and into the breast can help reduce sensitivity on the nipples.
  • Reduce opportunities for the baby to pull off and be distracted – cute when they want a chat, painful when your nipples hurt!
  • Lean back ASAP if you have a fast flow – you want to minimise any chance of your baby pulling back or ‘crunching’ down on the nipple to manage the fast flow.
  • Feeding in a quiet place to help you manage the feed more easily until your nipples feel better.

Do what suits you. If you want to reduce some of the breastfeeds do so. If you want to continue on you may find it helpful to:

  • Warm or cool your nipples before a feed – whatever helps to desensitise them.
  • Give your baby solids before a breastfeed to ‘reduce’ hunger so the feeding might feel ‘gentler’ on the nipples.
  • Breastfeed your baby before being fully awake for a ‘gentler’ feed.
  • Express with a pump for a few minutes before a breastfeed might ‘condition’ the nipples and reduce the initial sensitivity of your baby on your nipples.

Look after mumma

A Mother's Beauty mother feeding toddler in grass

Last but most importantly, look after you! Your body can manage breastfeeding and pregnancy but you do need to care for yourself perhaps a little then you did in your first pregnancy.

  • If you have stopped, start on your pregnancy vitamins again.
  • Rest! rest! rest! don’t be a superwoman and if it means breastfeeding and resting or sleeping with your baby ‘safely’ especially through the day – do it.
  • Increase your good carbs and proteins and reduce fast sugars and ‘quick fix’ high energy foods -they’ll only make you feel more tired.
  • I’m quite sure you’ll be getting enough exercise looking after your baby but do try and get some fresh air in your day

Give yourself some ‘me time’ to relax and get to know your new baby. While the one in your arms is important so is the new one growing inside. Give yourself some quiet time to enjoy your pregnancy and don’t feel guilty with however that works for you and, whatever changes you do or don’t make to breastfeeding your baby during this pregnancy. Good luck!

Lynne-McKensey Hall is an internationally certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) working as Lactation Consultant and Endorsed Midwife in Sydney. She specialises in antenatal breastfeeding and birth classes and ongoing breastfeeding support. She consults via Better Beginnings in-home, in her clinic and via Skype or FaceTime anywhere in Australia or overseas.

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