Having four children in the space of five-and-a-half years wasn’t something I had planned, when I considered the possibility of getting pregnant. Many of us decide we want more than one baby, and more often than not, those babies choose to come along when they feel like it, not when you plan for it! And it’s sometimes the case that a mother becomes pregnant again while still breastfeeding a child. This happened to me not once, but twice: for my second and fourth pregnancies, I was still breastfeeding the older sibling when I became pregnant.
I did do some research into this, when I found out I was having another baby. I wondered how my body would cope, nourishing two babies at once, and if the milk was OK for my baby, and was there any risk to my pregnancy… questions I’m sure you’re familiar with, if you’ve looked into this yourself! If you’re pregnant with multiples, or your pregnancy is high risk, you might want to talk to your doctor or health care provider to alleviate any worries you might have1. However, as long as you’re generally in good health, your body will be able to deal with both growing a baby on the inside, as well as feeding one on the outside2! That takes care of the medical concerns. What about the practicalities of breastfeeding while pregnant?
Here are some ideas which helped me to cope with breastfeeding during pregnancy:
Choose your moments: I was lucky enough to only ever have several weeks of nausea in my first trimester with all four pregnancies, but I definitely felt the worse for wear in the pregnancies when I was also breastfeeding. I’m certain that the fact that I was still getting up in the night to tend to a baby contributed to this, because when I was more tired, the nausea seemed worse. So I changed the feed times to those times of day when I knew I would feel a bit better—mid-morning (after I’d managed to get over the early morning ick) and afternoon or early evening. I also dropped the late night feed, because that was when I was at my sickest! In both cases, the babies adjusted to this easily.
Good food is best. But otherwise, eat or drink whatever you can. I did my best to eat well during my pregnancies, not just for the baby’s sake, but also for mine. I felt a lot better, if I could eat fresh fruit and veggies, rather than junk, and I felt a level of responsibility to make sure I was providing the best for both babies. But I’ll admit that when I was having a hard time just getting through the day, I relied on my old anti-pregnancy-nausea faithfuls: crackers, fruit tingles, and ginger beer. After all, I needed to feel well enough to care for the baby and later, the other older children. Once the nausea had subsided, I was able to go back to a healthier diet.
Rest, rest, rest. I know, it’s hard when you have (an)other child(ren) but I pulled out every trick in my parenting book to make sure there was time during the day that I could rest. In my second pregnancy, I napped whenever my baby did. With my fourth pregnancy, I set my children up with quiet games while I rested nearby, or watched children’s television with them, during which I could nod off if I needed to. When it was time to breastfeed, I found it was particularly beneficial to be in a quiet place, alone with the baby. For some reason, having noise about while I was feeding really grated on me—plus it was also nice to have a few still moments with my baby, and cherish that time, knowing that in a few short months there would be another to require my attention.
Accept help. It takes a village to raise a child, remember?! Especially with my fourth pregnancy, I felt exhausted and very nauseous. So I asked for help. A close friend dropped by with meals. I bought healthy convenience snack food—something I’m usually so careful to avoid—because it meant I could just hand out something at morning or afternoon tea, without having to prepare anything. I did everything I could to make things easier on myself. If—like me—you’re the kind of person who finds it hard to accept help from others, then look at it this way: when your children are older, you can always pay it forward and help out another mother!
Remember, do what works for you. Some mothers choose to tandem feed their babies for many months after the newborn arrives, but I decided that I wanted to wean all of my babies at about 12 months. This worked well for our family, as it gave me one-on-one attention with each baby as a newborn. In the same vein, if you find that you can’t continue to breastfeed for as long as you wanted during the pregnancy, don’t feel guilty! Just enjoy this time of babyhood and pregnancy, whether you’re breastfeeding or not.