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Staying Home

Nursing through Pregnancy and Beyond: Is it really possible?

From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 5, September-October 2007, pp. 230-233

"Staying Home" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Mother's Situation

I'm at home with my six-month-old baby, and just learned that I am pregnant again. We are excited, but also very overwhelmed. I was hoping to nurse my first child until she weaned herself, but I'm so tired and nursing her is uncomfortable -- I'm not sure how much longer I can continue. Is it possible to nurse through a pregnancy with such a young baby? After my second baby is born, is nursing both of them really an option?

Mother's Response

The discomfort you are feeling while nursing your oldest is normal and will probably subside as the pregnancy progresses. Many mothers have found it helpful to provide distractions while they are nursing, like a good book, a magazine (maybe NEW BEGINNINGS?) or a television program. Also, you can employ birthing and relaxation techniques such as slow, focused breathing and concentrating on relaxing the rest of your body when things get especially uncomfortable. The beginning of a pregnancy can be exhausting, so consider asking for help until you are feeling better. You are, after all, nourishing two lives besides your own!

Your older baby will continue to benefit from your milk until sometime around 20 weeks, when your milk production will drop. Please discuss this with your pediatrician, who can make suggestions about her nutritional needs at that point. Depending on her age and intake of solid foods, you may need to supplement your daughter's diet for a time. If, at that point, you are still interested in nursing your little girl, you could offer her the supplement in a cup to avoid late-onset nipple confusion, as well as avoiding having to wean her from the bottle later.

It is perfectly acceptable to continue to allow your daughter to nurse even after milk production drops. The comfort and closeness are still beneficial, as well as keeping the door open to continue nursing after the baby is born. Many mothers have found that breastfeeding becomes more comfortable after the first trimester of pregnancy, and you will be able to continue your nursing relationship with your daughter as long as you both like. Not only can you nurse during your pregnancy, you can continue to breastfeed your older daughter when the new baby arrives. Your body will adjust to make the proper amount of milk as needed, and both your babies will benefit from the perfect nutrition and immunities provided by your milk.

Read ADVENTURES IN TANDEM NURSING by Hilary Flower for an in-depth look at the life of a "tandem mama." I breastfed during both of my pregnancies after my first son was born. The first few weeks were uncomfortable, but it did get better. My oldest son weaned with encouragement at 22 months, before my second son was born. My second son did not wean before the birth of his sister, and I nursed them both for eight months after she was born. Although tandem nursing was very challenging at times, I think weaning my son when he still really desired nursing for the emotional attachment would have been much harder. I would not change my months of tandem nursing if I could go back. My oldest son, however, did not have the same level of need, and it worked best for him to wean before the birth of his brother.

You can decide what is best for your own family. If your heart is telling you that your daughter still needs to nurse, you can be assured that many other mothers have continued nursing after the birth of a sibling, and that your daughter will continue to benefit from it. You know your baby best, and you can be confident that following your instincts is the best way to parent.

Jessica Rau
Derby KS USA

Mother's Response

It must feel overwhelming to be pregnant again when your first is still so little. I know it did for me. My first was not quite nine months old when I discovered that I was pregnant again. Having two children so close together brings with it both rewards and challenges.

It is possible to continue nursing throughout a pregnancy. I certainly did and there were many days that I swore that it would be my last nursing day! But then I'd get through one more feeding and then one more and then a whole day and then the next. I did have such mixed emotions that I read HOW WEANING HAPPENS, thinking that I had reached the end of my rope and needed to wean for my own sanity. The mom wisdom and stories shared in that book convinced me that my child was much too young to wean, and I decided to persevere. Thank goodness I did, because my nipple soreness went away by the third trimester and I became a happy nursing mom again.

I didn't really decide to tandem nurse -- we just fell into it because my first baby hadn't weaned yet. By the time my second baby came along, I was only nursing a few times a day: wake up, nap, snack, and bedtime with the occasional nursing for comfort sessions.

I did find that after my new babe arrived, my toddler wanted to nurse more often. It took me several days to get good at getting them both latched on and me comfortable all at the same time, but then we were a happy nursing family. It helped to have support from my spouse and from friends through LLL who truly understood the whole gamut of emotions that nursing moms go through. My older baby self-weaned about a month later, much to my dismay! Some other things I learned along the way:

  • Nursing while pregnant was good for me! It made me slow down and rest when I might not have otherwise.
  • The minute you put your new babe to breast, your toddler will suddenly seem like a giant!
  • Nursing while in labor makes your contractions go wild and can really speed things up.
  • A beautiful bond develops between siblings who tandem nurse. Most importantly, I learned yet again to always listen to my heart when it comes to nursing and parenting my children.

Laura Fails
Wamego KS USA

Mother's Response

It is important to do what is right for you and for your family. Don't let guilt guide your decisions. I became pregnant with my second child when my son, Joshua, was nine months old. My doctor, however, disagreed with tandem nursing. She said it was "unnecessary" and could be harmful to the new baby. I had attended LLL meetings, so I knew that continuing to nurse was important for Joshua. I did my own research and found that tandem nursing is safe and often a very positive experience for both children.

We did have to deal with sore nipples and a tired Mommy; however, nursing provided us all with the chance to slow down. I had to work through guilt of going against my doctor's advice, and eventually guilt when I stopped nursing Joshua. You see, after two months of nursing while I was pregnant, Joshua began to notice a change in the milk. He decided that he didn't like it, and began to wean himself. I found myself encouraging the process because of the sore nipples I was experiencing. So, at three months pregnant when Joshua had completely stopped nursing, I had to let go of a new sense of guilt. I feared that by allowing myself to become pregnant again, I had robbed my son of something very valuable to him both emotionally and physically. However, I discovered that parenting by guilt was not helping me. I decided that I would have to let go of my ideal "supermom" self, and parent my children based on their personalities, our needs as a family, and what worked for us.

Janet Littlejohn
Langley BC Canada

Mother's Response

It's best to remember that pregnancy lasts nine months. One reason for this is so we can get our bearings and prepare ourselves for the upcoming changes. Having nursed through four pregnancies, I completely understand how tired you feel. The best information I can give you is this: your body requires 2,000 calories to maintain your current weight, 300 additional calories to support the baby in utero, and at least 500 calories to produce an adequate milk supply for your nursling. That totals 2,800 calories needed by your body each and every day. That seems like a lot of food, but it's not more than you need. Making sure that you drink plenty of water and feed your body high quality food, in as close to its natural state as possible, will help take away the fatigue you are feeling. Striving to eat at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables every day, eating lean proteins (plant and/or animal), partaking of high quality dairy products, and drinking plenty of water will give your body all it needs to support you and your little ones. To figure out how much water you need, divide your weight by two, and that's how many ounces of water you need when not pregnant or nursing. Add about half a gallon and that should be enough, but pay attention to your body as it will tell you if that's enough or not.

Enjoy the time you have your little one and take advantage of the wonderful hormones coursing through your body as you nurse. They will help you relax and find peace with this exciting event. There are only a small percentage of nurslings who continue to nurse after a pregnancy. Most don't like the taste of the colostrum that you will begin producing during the third trimester. Your little one might surprise you and continue on well after her younger sibling arrives. I've had one experience there -- it's my current experience -- nursing a 16-month-old and his three-year-old sister. Nursing two can sometimes take imagination, and it's different for each nursing situation. It is definitely an option for you, and LLL can help. Remember, you're not alone.

Angie Taylor
Valley Center KS USA

Mother's Response

I found out I was pregnant with my second child when my son was 15 months old. I also wanted to let him wean himself, especially since he was a premie. I continued to nurse through pregnancy, but made sure to supplement with nutritious foods, since my milk supply was down. I did find my nipples to be tender, even painful, but I "toughed it out." It was definitely worth it! The sore nipples hurt worse at the beginning of a feeding and then would be fine a few minutes later. I was glad that I did not wean because the soreness didn't last the whole pregnancy, and he was so happy to continue nursing (and still does). I was happy, too, that my son was still nursing when I was engorged after the birth of my daughter. His nursing helped relieve the engorgement until my supply balanced out.

Tandem nursing is something that I will always cherish. There is no other feeling like it, and not many moms experience this unique opportunity. My two children are very close. I watch my children share my milk. My daughter often says, "This side is for brother," when I ask her to switch sides. I have witnessed this sharing in other areas of their lives, too. I feel blessed to be a "tandem mom," and I know that Ryan and Malea know how lucky they are. Women have two breasts, and not everyone has twins! My suggestion is to give tandem nursing a try. You may be surprised at the rewards it gives.

Shari Flakus
Lawrence KS USA

Mother's Response

I also became pregnant when I had a six-month-old baby. I was also nervous about nursing throughout pregnancy. I learned that all of the nutrients that my unborn baby needs are met first by my body, second comes the nutrients needed for my nursing baby, and last my body provides itself nutrients. So, the unborn baby is protected. I found the key is to drink a lot of water. I would consume at least 150 ounces a day. Also eat a lot of good, nutritious food. I never thought that I would get sick of eating in my life, but I sure did when consuming the sheer volume of food needed to be pregnant and to nurse. Make sure to sleep whenever the baby sleeps or at least sit down and put your feet up. I watched a lot of movies as I just wanted to zone out. My baby slept a lot during the day at this age.

I found tandem nursing to be the best possible gift that I could have been given. I have never seen any jealousy between my two nurslings. My oldest never disliked the arrival of her brother -- she loved him! I attribute this mainly to her ability to nurse whenever she needed after he was born. I would nurse them both on the couch with a nursing pillow, each in the football hold. It ended up that the two of them took about the same number of naps so I had a lot of time to rest with them both nursing. It was quite a blessing!

I was able to nurse my first until she weaned herself at 33 months. They tandem nursed for 18 months. I treasure those times when we all were able to spend time together resting and regrouping. My second also nursed until he weaned himself at 33 months, ceasing nursing two weeks before his younger sister was born. It was such a peaceful process, well worth the time and self-sacrifice needed from a mom to give all to her children, that they may grow with peace and love.

Tania Berg
Westminster CO USA

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