Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and the Ouchies in Between

Friday, March 27, 2015

When I gave birth to our first, I made a conscious decision to breastfeed through the his first 2 years. This meant soldiering on despite all the woes that accompanied nursing - sore & chaffed nipples, engorgement, plugged ducts & all the other joys. We've been rewarded with a generally healthy child who's never been confined in a hospital, never had any serious illnesses (only the occasional cough & colds that never last too long), & who's kept his weight in check. I thought I might deliberately want to wean him after his second year, but he started to lessen the nursing on his own anyway that it seemed acceptable to just wait it out until he completely self-weans. Cue baby number 2 on the way, and I'm faced with the question: do I have to force him to say goodbye to the boobies now?

The answer: NO. Like I always say, breastfeeding is a personal decision, and whether you decide to do it or not is completely up to you - it doesn't make you a better or worse parent based on this alone. However, I will also always encourage & advocate it to any mom-to-be who asks. Given this, I have been asked quite a lot since I shared the news of my bun on the oven, if nursing my first-born isn't doing any harm or pose anything negative when the younger one comes out. Please note that I am not an expert in the topic, these are only the most important facts that I have come across in consulting with my doctors, as well as researching books and online articles, that I adhere to in my personal choice; I am merely sharing them to address some of the concerns I have received and for to help put at ease the hesitations any moms in a similar situation might have.


1) Breastfeeding while pregnant will use up the nutrition meant for your developing baby.

FALSE. Breastfeeding full time can use up 300-500 calories a day. As long as you're consuming the required amount of quality calories, your body should be able to keep up with dedicating what it needs to for your pregnancy to progress healthily. Also note that you need a minimum EXTRA 300 calories though when you're carrying.

2) Your toddler might consume all the colostrum & none will be left for your newborn.

FALSE. Colostrum, the first form of milk which is packed with natural antibodies, starts to be produced near the end of the pregnancy (around 4-8 months on the average). They say that it is around this time that some toddlers decide to wean completely because of the change in milk taste, but I will yet have to find out for myself. If they continue to nurse though, your body will continue to produce the colostrum until after you give birth, since it is ONLY AFTER you have delivered that the progesterone & estrogen levels will decrease significant enough to signal your body to prepare the transition into mature milk. If anything, it is only in those few days after delivering that you might want to prioritize nursing your newborn since the colostrum production will be limited by then. Again, no need to worry about your older nursling "using up" the colostrum before then.

3) Breastfeeding will cause preterm labor.

FALSE. As long as you don't have a high-risk pregnancy, nursing shouldn't put you at risk of this. This misconception stems from the idea that stimulating the breasts can cause your uterus to contract. This is caused by the hormone oxytocin, which is released when you breastfeed, and which is also responsible for triggering uterine contractions. However, oxytocin levels do not increase significantly enough until your 37th week.

To be completely honest, the pain of nursing a toddler with a complete set of teeth (yep, all until the first molars) is for me, the most painful minutes next to childbirth & healing from a major surgery. Seriously, if I'd rank them, it would be 1) childbirth 2) major surgery (I had an operation done on my ovary a few years back) 3) toddler latching on to already-sore preggy nippies 4) huge tattoo - hahaha! Not to scare you, but that gives a context of how far from easy it is to keep on it during pregnancy, and I'm not even sure if it will go away as the trimesters progress. At this point for me, it looks like it will take a lot of commitment and patience and I can only hope for the best.



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