I'm a breastfeeding counselor with a side hobby in educating parents and caregivers in proper car seat use. I have four sons, one born by c-section and three born by VBAC. I blog about my life with four kids, pregnancy and birth, breastfeeding, and car seats.
Today's Question: What are Some Other Concerns about Nursing through Pregnancy?
Now that we've addressed the efficacy of breastfeeding as contraceptive and of some of the safety concerns related to breastfeeding and pregnancy, let's look at some of the other issues some women have with nursing during pregnancy.
1. Sore breasts/nipples
Pregnancy can cause your breasts to be tender and your nipples to be sore whether you're breastfeeding or not. Many women report that nursing becomes very painful during pregnancy because of extremely sensitive nipples or nipple/breast tenderness. Not everyone will experience this, just as not everyone will experience other hormonal side effects of pregnancy. Some women find the pain bearable while others decide to wean or cut back on nursing because the pain is intolerable. Sometimes this pain can be helped a bit by ensuring that your toddler's latch is as good as possible. Toddlers can tend to become lazy about latching properly, and often we as mothers don't worry too much about correcting them because it no longer bothers us. However, a bad latch can make already existing nipple pain that much worse. If you suddenly notice sore nipples even if you've been nursing pain-free through your pregnancy so far, check for thrush. The hormonal disruptions of pregnancy can make some women more prone to yeast infections. It may also be that the nipple soreness is hormonal but is beginning later in the pregnancy. My nipples did not become appreciably sore until the second trimester.
If you experience morning sickness, it can be that much harder to deal with a baby or toddler climbing you and demanding your attention. For some women, the act of nursing also increases the nausea. If your morning sickness generally goes away after the first trimester, you may find that you can stick it out knowing it will probably get better in a few weeks. Also, make sure you are sufficiently hydrated. I've found that dehydration can make the nausea much worse, and breastfeeding can add to the dehydration, especially in summer.
3. Physical discomfort
Pregnancy can cause pain in your lower back, ribs, and hips, and your growing belly may make it difficult to find a comfortable position in which to nurse. Fortunately, toddlers can be very creative about how and where they nurse, so your child may solve this problem for you! Experiment with different positions and try nursing in different places to find a tolerable and workable position.
4. Feeling "touched out"
The hormones of pregnancy make some women not want to be touched intimately, especially if they are also feeling ill from morning sickness or experiencing other bodily discomfort. The demands of a nursing toddler can compound these feelings of simply not wanting to be touched. Some women talk about how nursing makes their skin crawl. I found that occasionally I get "restless legs" while nursing. Unfortunately, there's not much to be done about this "touched out"-ness, except to try to find time for yourself if you can to settle your nerves.
If you lose your milk or find you need to wean because of the pain or discomfort, you may feel guilty that you were not able to nurse your child as long as you'd hoped to. I had planned to nurse my third son until he was two, but my milk dried up about two months ago, when he was only 19 or 20 months old. I still allow him to "dry nurse" (nurse even though there's no milk) once a day for his nap for two reasons. One is so that he is not deprived of that closeness, and the other is so that he doesn't forget how to nurse, so that I can make the decision later whether to allow him to continue nursing after his brother is born. (This is called tandem nursing and will be addressed in the next section of this article.) Remember that even if you do have to wean completely before you had planned, you still gave your child as much as you could, you still love your child, and there are many other ways that you will continue to express that love. Remember, also, that when you begin nursing your new baby, you will find new ways to connect with your older child, and, if you want, you can even share some expressed breastmilk with your older child.