Having two babies not too far apart is not very rare. And a pertinent question such a mother is bound to have is “is it still possible to breastfeed my son/daughter while I am pregnant with my next baby?” According to experts, the answer is yes. A woman’s body will carry on making milk while she is pregnant with another child. And she will be able to continue breastfeeding after the new baby is born too. This phenomenon is called tandem feeding.
When a woman is breastfeeding, her body releases a hormone called oxytocin, which makes the milk let down. Oxytocin is also important in labour, and it used to be feared that oxytocin could set off contractions if one is breastfeeding during pregnancy. However, the uterus will not react to oxytocin until the end of pregnancy, after 37 weeks. So a healthy woman who is eating well should not have a problem if she breastfeeds during pregnancy.
Having said that, there are certain conditions when it will be better and safer for a mother to wean her baby before the next one is born. For instance, if she has gone into premature labour before, or she has experienced a miscarriage or have had some bleeding.
During the fourth and fifth months of one’s pregnancy, the breastmilk changes back to colostrum. Colostrum is the rich, nourishing pre-milk full of antibodies which is needed by a new baby in the first few days after birth.
The older child, who is being breastfed by his/her pregnant mother, will notice the difference because the taste of the milk will change, and the quantity will also reduce. They might self-wean because they do not like the change.
According to the La LecheLeague (www.llli.org), a mother who is well nourished and in general good health, should have no difficulty providing for both the unborn baby and the nursing child if the latter is more than one year old. If the child is younger, then a close watch should be kept on the child’s weight gain, and if necessary additional solid food should be given to the child.
According to tandem feeding mother Christina Sonas, “the hardest part of breastfeeding while pregnant is remembering that you are actually eating for three--- and more importantly drinking water for three!” Sonas says that she drank 12 to 14 cups of water a day, and that helped keep the milk supply up.
It was believed for long that breastfeeding during pregnancy was unhealthy as it takes away essential nutrients from the mother’s body and the developing foetus does not get the required amount of nutrients. However, it has now been proved by scientific studies that breastfeeding another child during pregnancy does not cause any potential risk to the healthy growth and development of the unborn baby.
The benefits of breast feeding and extended breast feeding are well documented. Wherever possible, they should be continued for as long a period as practical for the mother.
But what a tandem feeding mother should always remember is that she should keep herself fit and healthy, have nutritious and balanced meals, take adequate rest and get enough sleep so that she does not exhaust herself and drain her energy level.
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