Is it for me? Tips about making your decision about Breastfeeding during Pregnancy and Tandem Nursing (Published on Kellymom.com)
Expect changes. Pregnancy has a tendency to lead to weaning, especially if nursing becomes painful or your milk supplies dwindle. Children have also been known to abruptly self-wean at the birth of the baby–or to turn around and un-wean when the milk comes in and begin nursing again like newborns. Then again, through it all, some nurslings don’t skip a beat.
When considering the safety of overlapping breastfeeding with your pregnancy, a breastfeeding-friendly midwife or obstetrician can make a huge difference. We still lack sufficient medical research to make definitive guidelines, although the research we do have is encouraging for well-nourished mothers. The American Academy of Family Physicians asserts that breastfeeding during a healthy pregnancy is a personal decision for the mother–indeed, that weaning before two years of age can increase a child’s risk of illness. Remember to ask yourself: Does this overlap feel harmonious within my body?
Have realistic expectations. Breastfeeding your older child can offer many gifts after a new baby joins the family, but tandem nursing can at times be stressful or difficult. Some of the variables that make the biggest difference–for instance, whether or not simultaneous nursing will work well for you–are hard to predict in advance. Above all, trust in your fundamental relationship with the older child, and not tandem nursing per se, to get you both through the shifts in your relationship.
Hold your nursling close as you dream about your next baby, and never doubt for a moment that you have what it takes to make the best choices for each of you as you go along.
Like most aspects of mothering small children, tandem nursing is an adventure. Here are some tips:
Find some other tandem mamas. Hearing about a range of experiences can help you decide if tandem nursing might be for you, and a support network of tandem mamas will serve you well as you go along. One place to start is your La Leche League group. You can find local groups internationally at www.lalecheleague.org. You can also find tandem-nursing moms on the www.mothering.com message boards.
Take stock of your self-care resources: Do you have access to the nutrition, rest, and support you will need to make breastmilk, grow a baby, and enjoy your pregnancy? Breastfeeding your older child can help you make the most of couch-bound mothering–a much-needed energy-saver if you’re battling pregnancy fatigue or caring for a newborn–but good self-care is essential.
Are you ready to try to conceive your second child, but still enjoying a breastfeeding relationship with your firstborn? Or perhaps you are breastfeeding your child over a kicking baby belly? If so you are not alone—far from it. In a study of 179 mothers who had breastfed for at least six months, 61% had also breastfed during a subsequent pregnancy.1 Of these, 38% went on to nurse both newborn and toddler postpartum, an arrangement known as “tandem nursing.”
If you are eager to avoid unnecessary weaning, you have good reason. Human milk provides important nutritional and immunological boosts for as long as a child nurses. Indeed, weaning before the age of two has been found to raise a child’s risk of illness.2 American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a minimum of one year of breastfeeding, and the World Health Organization calls for two years or more. Moreover, continued breastfeeding can be helpful to your toddler’s adjustment to a new baby. Besides, what better way to rest your tired pregnant body while caring for an active baby or toddler?
In contemplating the healthiness of an overlap you will want to consider how breastfeeding is fitting in with your needs for rest, adequate pregnancy weight gain, and your overall sense of well-being. You will do well to take into account that breastfeeding can be painful or agitating for many mothers for some or all of pregnancy, leading some mothers to push for weaning. The milk tends to dwindle by mid-pregnancy, some children self-wean in response, while others don’t seem to care.
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