My husband and I decided to conceive our third child while I was still breastfeeding our second daughter. She was ten months old and had been born a preemie so I was not prepared to wean her from the breast yet but still wanted to complete our family with another child. My obstetrician gave me the go ahead to conceive again and we were anxious to start our journey toward another pregnancy but I had some reservations about the safety of breastfeeding while pregnant. I was especially concerned about breastfeeding sending me into early labor. I had no wish to have another baby born early after our recent experience with premature birth.
I discovered that being pregnant doesn’t mean you have to stop breastfeeding your child while doing some research at our local library. Previously doctors believed it actually took nutrients away from the developing baby inside you, if you continued to breastfeed while pregnant. Although this is not true, there are still individuals even health care professionals today that will still argue about this very issue. Only you can decide if you should stop breastfeeding your toddler or not, no one can make this decision for you. Don’t let someone else push their insecurities or misconceptions on you. Do your own research; ask breastfeeding consultants, lactation experts or anyone that has breastfed while pregnant to discover if they had any problems with the pregnancy that could be directly linked to the fact that they had breastfed during the pregnancy.
Valid Reasons for Stopping
I did discover some valid reasons for stopping while conducting my research. If you are feeling constantly drained of energy, as a result of the demands of caring for a toddler while pregnant or if your toddler starts the nasty habit of biting you may want to start weaning your child because pregnancy will make your nipples super sensitive and this biting will be an added discomfort. I heard from several women that milk can just dry up, if you are breastfeeding while pregnant. This may be your body’s way of telling you that the demands of growing a new human and the demands of producing milk is too much and it has decided that milk production is not as important as meeting the needs of a developing fetus.
Other women I spoke with experienced mastitis during the time that they were breastfeeding a toddler while in the early stages of pregnancy. Mastitis is an infection in the breast when the breast tissue becomes engorged and infected. Mastitis can occur when a woman is not pregnant. It is possible to treat the condition and then continue to breastfeed but one woman I spoke to made the decision to take this as a sign to wean her son. She said it was karma. I’m not sure karma had anything to do with it; I think she was just ready to concentrate on her pregnancy and giving her son a cup was easier on her. The demands on your body during pregnancy can be tiring and no one could blame her for stopping.
Whatever you decide, make sure that you are completely at peace with your decision before you attempt to wean your toddler. It is not good to waffle back and forth and send mixed signals to your toddler. It is also never good to just refuse your toddler the breast, without preparing your toddler for the change. Your toddler will wonder why he/she is no longer able to receive the comfort of the breast. Never underestimate the chance that a toddler might feel as if they had done something wrong or he/she may associate the loss of the breast to the coming of the new baby if you have made it a point to explain to your toddler that you are having another baby. One mom told me that her daughter decided to wean herself because the milk tasted yucky. This led me to believe that the pregnancy may prepare the breasts for the colostrum (first milk) and the toddler being used to the milk they were receiving won’t like this and just stop on her/his own. If this happens you won’t have any reason to agonize over the decision because it will be made for you by your toddler.
I did choose to continue to breastfeed while pregnant. My toddler decided on her own to wean at the age of thirteen months. I had been giving her a supplement cup of juice at snack time and she just one day decided that she preferred the cup over the breast. I was a little disappointed at the loss of our “bonding time” but soon discovered that we could continue to have our snuggle time with a good book too.
How to Wean?
There are two ways to wean, cold turkey or a slow weaning process.
You can choose to do it cold turkey, especially if there is an event that helps such as the child spending time at Grandparents for the weekend. Weaning your toddler using the cold turkey method can be difficult on your body. Your breasts will become engorged when the supply/demand cycle is suddenly disrupted. It may be best to wean your toddler slowly on both of you.
To wean your toddler slowly start by eliminating one breastfeeding a day. You may want to start with the first morning breastfeeding session by substituting a cup of juice in place of breastfeeding. Buy a special cup that your toddler can look forward to using.
Continuing to breastfeed
If you plan on continuing to breastfeed during part or most of the pregnancy, talk with the healthcare provider that is caring for your pregnancy as well as your toddler’s pediatrician about your decision. You may be pleasantly surprised by the support you receive. Be prepared though for one or more members of your healthcare team to disagree with your decision or to try to persuade you to change your mind. It is important to listen carefully to any expressed concerns and find out if there is a health reason for the disapproval or if the individual is simply expressing his or her own belief regarding breastfeeding while pregnant.
Seek out Support
Whatever you decide to do it is a good idea to seek out support from those who are willing and able to lend a listening ear, offer advice if they have had experience with this issue or those whom you can count on to not judge you for what you have decided to do.
Being pregnant is challenging enough physically, emotionally and mentally but going through the pregnancy while caring for the needs of a nursing toddler can be stressful. Knowing you have people you can count on to support your decision to continue to breastfeed while pregnant can give you the confidence you need to see it through.
Don’t be surprised if family, friends or complete strangers want to say something about it if they discover that you are still breastfeeding while pregnant. You may find yourself on the receiving end of all kinds of unsolicited advice on how to wean even if you have no intention of doing so. Practice your response so that it will come out in a firm but polite way. Be confident that you know what is best for your children and for your own wellbeing. Breastfeeding a toddler while pregnant is a personal decision. You have every right to do what is comfortable and right for you.