By Jackie, Contributing Writer
More and more women are choosing to allow their children to self-wean instead of declaring on some arbitrary date that their children will be finished. Nursing into toddlerhood and beyond is not only a natural thing to do (natural weaning happens between 2 and 4 years on average), but it is also backed by science. Most medical agencies actually suggest breastfeeding for two years or longer!
A toddler can benefit greatly by continuing to breastfeed. Breastmilk still provides many of their nutritional needs as well as immune factors to help protect them from sickness.
A big hurdle I had to overcome while being pregnant and continuing to nurse my toddler was the people around me. Many people — in an effort to try and ensure I was being careful — questioned if I should wean my toddler since I was now pregnant. I had to make sure I was prepared to answer their questions and assure them that it was safe and that my midwife supported my decision as well. Because I was confident that this was the best thing for me and my children, they too were able to relax and trust that this was just fine.
3 Facts You Need to Know About Breastfeeding While Pregnant
#1: It’s Safe
For most women, breastfeeding while pregnant is perfectly safe. I personally know many women who have done so, and I myself have done so safely as well.
When breastfeeding, your body will release oxytocin and this can cause small uterine contractions. This is not a cause for concern. The amount of oxytocin released is not enough to cause the cervix to open or labor to begin until it is ready. For many women, until the baby is ready to be born, nothing will kick start labor.
It is important to let your midwife know if you are continuing to nurse while pregnant because if there are certain risk factors — for example, if you are at risk for early labor and you have been told to abstain from sex — then you should be cautious and discontinue breastfeeding as well.
If you want more information about the safety of breastfeeding while pregnant, check here.
#2: You Need to Eat More
According to Le Leche League International, “Depending on how old your nursing child is, you may need an additional 650 calories a day if he is under six months, or about 500 if he is now eating other foods. This is on top of the additional 350 (second trimester) and 450 (third trimester) calories you need during pregnancy.”
It is important while breastfeeding or pregnant to give your body what it needs to ensure it can function properly to grow a baby, produce milk for a child, and take care of you! It is very important to not only eat enough but to eat the right things. Things like iron, calcium, B12, and other supplements may need to be added if you are not getting enough through your diet.
#3: Your Baby Will Still Get Colostrum
The body is such a fascinating thing that we rarely take time to really appreciate. Yes, your newborn will get colostrum even if you are nursing a toddler. In the latter half of your pregnancy, your milk will change to colostrum and will continue to be colostrum during the first few days of your newborn’s life.
You might not even notice the change, but your toddler may let you know. My milk supply lowered when it changed, but my toddler still wanted to nurse. Sometimes, a toddler will self-wean at this point if they do not care for the taste or if they do not like working so hard for milk.
Do you have other questions about breastfeeding while pregnant?
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