Dinner for Two: Nursing through Pregnancy and Tandem Nursing
How do nursing toddlers typically react to these changes? “Every child is different, and there’s no predicting the response,” says Norma Jane Bumgarner, author of Mothering Your Nursing Toddler. Some toddlers may wean on their own, while some may nurse more than ever. Sometimes toddlers who wean during pregnancy decide to start breastfeeding again after the baby is born.
Bumgarner advises women to stay flexible. “Don’t decide that you’re going to tandem nurse, because that’s a decision you don’t get to make by yourself,” she says. “Just decide that you’re open to tandem nursing if the opportunity arises.”
Can Nursing Affect Your Pregnancy?
Will nursing have an impact on your pregnancy symptoms? Maybe. “For every pregnancy woe, it seems there is a breastfeeding-during-pregnancy equivalent that can crop up,” says Flower. However, it’s important to keep in mind some women experience no problems at all—and many women will experience problems whether they continue to nurse or not.
Nipple soreness is a common pregnancy complaint, and nursing can aggravate this. “I had horrendously sore nipples during the first trimester, to the point that I’d be wincing for about 15 seconds every time my daughter latched on,” says Danielsson. She found that using lanolin cream after each nursing session helped.
Nausea can worsen as well, and in some women it is even brought on by nursing. Conversely, others report less overall morning sickness during pregnancies where they nursed. “This has not been verified statistically, but it’s intriguing; it was true for me,” says Flower.
What about pregnancy mood swings? Some mothers must cope with waves of irritation while breastfeeding. “I did notice a slight reluctance on my part at times to want to feed my daughter, and it was odd since in my heart and mind I was very pro-tandem feeding,” says Alison Ashwell, of southern France, who nursed her oldest during her second pregnancy. “I came to the conclusion later that it was hormonal, as I spoke to other women in the same situation and they mentioned similar feelings.”
Is it Safe?
Preterm labor—and whether breastfeeding triggers it—is a common worry. It’s well known that nursing stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin. Among other things, oxytocin causes uterine contractions. In fact, nipple stimulation is often used in women at term to help speed up labor.
But according to Flower, research on the uterus strongly suggests that nursing during a healthy pregnancy is quite safe. Before term (around 38 weeks), several hormones block oxytocin from reaching the oxytocin receptors on the uterus. In addition, the receptors themselves are sparse (they will increase almost 300 fold once labor starts). Finally, the oxytocin receptors are “down-regulated” during most of pregnancy. This means that special proteins that help the oxytocin receptors respond strongly to oxytocin are largely missing. “The pregnant uterus is well protected from the effects of oxytocin, layer after layer of protection, until it’s time for labor to commence,” says Flower.
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