Nursing While Pregnant

Nursing While PregnantI’m sleeping! Baby has a schedule! Breastfeeding is natural and seamless! And BAM–I’m pregnant.

This is a situation many moms find themselves in. When celebrating this exciting news, so many questions about our current nursling arise. How we choose to modify our breastfeeding relationship once pregnant is a deeply personal decision. For me, I was committed to extended breastfeeding and baby-led weaning. I treasured my nursing relationship with my then 18-month-old, and I had no plans of making him adjust because I got pregnant. I knew that it isn’t always possible to nurse through pregnancy, but I was going to give it my best shot. That’s all we can do as mothers.

In the beginning breastfeeding didn’t feel any different, but it wasn’t too long before nursing was uncomfortable. The second trimester was by far the most challenging. During this trimester, my milk production was severely low, if not absent. Dry nursing–nursing with very little supply–and the lovely pregnancy hormones that make our nipples tender, was challenging for me. The third trimester, while better, still had its challenges. I would feel touched-out, and nursing made my skin crawl. I had to make some changes to our nursing relationship if I was going to continue through pregnancy and beyond, so here is what we did.

Limit frequency

The first change was frequency. We had already gradually reduced our nursing sessions, but now that I was experiencing the painful side of nursing while pregnant I needed a schedule. We settled on morning, nap, and bedtime. This helped me mentally prepare, but I would be lying if I said that we had a positive breastfeeding relationship at this time. It hurt; it felt like he was biting. Sometimes I would holler out “You’re biting,” or “OK, if you are biting we are done.” My poor son would get upset and cry. It took me a while to realize he wasn’t biting. It wasn’t about what he was doing, but the fact that my body was undergoing massive changes.

No Blaming

I had to stop blaming him for any pain I had. This was hard. Sometimes I would nurse with my teeth clenched tight, unable to look at him and enjoy this time together that I used to treasure. I had to consciously make an effort to lock eyes with him, smile, and stroke his hair, everything I used to do so naturally. Instead of crying out and blaming him when the pain seemed unbearable, I started a count down. “5…4…3…2…1, OK, no more Milkies!” This way he knew it was almost time to “put the milkies away.”

Time Limit

As time went on, more changes were necessary to preserve any sort of nursing relationship. In conjunction with my countdown, I also put a 5-minute time limit on our nursing sessions. This helped me make sure I was giving him enough time to touch base and get his cuddles in before ending the nursing session. Nursing wasn’t about food at this point; it was about the physical bond and connection we shared. At the end of each 5-minute period I would count down and make sure he knew we could snuggle.

These three changes, a long with my own determination, were integral in helping me continue nursing while pregnant. At first, all of these changes were hard for my son. But I was consistent with all of them, and he learned quickly that this was our new routine. Every time I thought about just weaning him, we would have a wonderful nursing session, he would stroke my cheek, or sign and say, “Milkies, please.”

Some nursing sessions were easier than others, but we did what was best for us. No matter what everyone is telling you as a mom, you have to do what is best for you and your family. No two people experience nursing the same. There is no right or wrong when determining something like when to wean or when to carry on. The important thing is to do what works and supports a happy mom and a happy baby.

Casey Mix-McNulty, RN, BSN is a full-time mom to an imaginative little boy and a feisty little girl.   She is also a pediatric nurse aspiring towards becoming an IBCLC.

Tags: baby led weaning, Breastfeeding, breastfeeding while pregnant, dry nursing, family planning, full term breastfeeding, full term nursing, nursing, nursing a toddler, nursing limits, nursing while pregnant, pregnancy, tandem nursing, touched out

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