Did you know you don’t have to stop breastfeeding in pregnancy?
Many parents are told that they need to stop breastfeeding an older child once they become pregnant. Mostly, people are told that this is because it increases the risks of preterm labor and miscarriage. But what does research say? What anecdotal stories are out there to support this?
This is something that we are rarely exposed to. Can you think of a time when you have seen someone breastfeeding while pregnant? Most of us can barely recall ever seeing a nursing mother in public at all. I know I never saw another parent breastfeed before having my babies. We have a huge experience gap with this topic in our society.
Let me share my personal experience. First of all, I’d like to share that I have breastfed through three pregnancies and tandem nursed for years. I have had 3 out of 4 pregnancies extend beyond my due date. Also, I have had all very healthy, larger-than-average babies.
It’s a big commitment! However, I have found that it is worth it if you can continue. Those early days of sickness, sore nipples, fatigue, dry nursing, breast tenderness with rowdy toddlers, aversions, and the list goes on. Some parents find it easier than others, and you have to remember that breastfeeding is a relationship. It’s okay to set boundaries and set the terms of your relationship for your own well-being. Since our culture already makes it hard to be a breastfeeding parent, it makes total sense that a subsequent pregnancy feels like a natural end point for your nursing relationship. But, you don’t have to stop breastfeeding your older child until you feel ready.
So, what does the research say about nursing during pregnancy?
Firstly, one major concern often cited on the topic surrounds the risk of preterm labor. Sometimes, people say that the hormones released while breastfeeding (oxytocin) can create uterine contractions which can cause preterm labor. In one study of 320 women from Iran, researchers found no significant difference in the rate of full term versus preterm births and newborn birth weights when comparing breastfeeding mothers with those not breastfeeding.
Another study from California also looks into the issue of preterm labor and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding releases oxytocin through nipple stimulation, and oxytocin is what also tells the uterus to contract. This small study of 57 mothers revealed no adverse effects on pregnancy outcomes.
Secondly, many people offer their concern over the increased risk of miscarriage while nursing in pregnancy. Interestingly, one study of over 10,000 women found that there is no significant increase in the risk of miscarriage for mothers who breastfeed and feed complimentary foods during pregnancy. This study also found that the risk of miscarriage is increased to 35% for mothers who exclusively breastfeed their babies.
Of course, you can decide for yourself what works for you in your relationship with your sweet growing little one. Nursing during pregnancy and going on to tandem nurse is an option for most healthy parents. Your doula can help support you while nursing in pregnancy, and even provide you with resources to support tandem nursing (nursing two babies). If you want to learn more about breastfeeding during pregnancy and nursing more than one child, check out these resources for more information!