Breastfeeding During the Unexpected Pregnancy and Pregnancy Loss
Breastfeeding is a wonderful and natural way to bond with your children. Your breast milk provides them with all of the nourishment that they need to survive and thrive under your care. While breastfeeding comes with a set of known challenges: getting your baby to latch properly, managing your milk supply, and pumping when it’s time to go back to work, breastfeeding may also bring about special challenges during unusual circumstances. When you’ve suddenly become pregnant while nursing, experience a miscarriage, or undergo a dilation and curettage procedure, you may be afraid that this will affect your nursing relationship. We know you’ve worked hard to establish a breastfeeding routine for you and your baby, so rest assured that most challenges are surmountable with patience and sometimes, a little pumping.
Breastfeeding During Pregnancy
In most cases, becoming pregnant is no reason to stop breastfeeding. While your baby may notice a change in the taste of your milk, this usually isn’t a problem for them. If your breasts are extra sensitive during your pregnancy, be extra careful to use proper latching techniques and to discourage your baby from biting.
If your nursing child is old enough to wean, they may do so around the fifth month of pregnancy. During this time, breast milk may change from the thick white milk your baby is familiar with to the oily colostrum newborns receive during their first few days of life. Younger babies may not notice the difference and continue nursing through these changes.
If you’d like to wean your breastfeeding baby while you’re pregnant, check out our article on weaning for some great tips and tricks. Weaning doesn’t have to be abrupt or traumatic and can even strengthen your bond with your child. The most important part of your breastfeeding relationship with your child is that it’s healthy and nurturing for you both.
Nursing During Pregnancy Loss
Having a miscarriage is an especially vulnerable time whether or not you’re already nursing one baby. It’s common for mothers to search for something that they did which may have caused the miscarriage, but know that breastfeeding is completely safe while pregnant. Miscarriage is common. Searching for the “why” often creates more emotional turmoil than letting go. If you experience a miscarriage, know that your breast milk won’t be affected during this time. Continue nursing as normal or pump and feed your baby expressed breast milk if you simply need time to yourself to recover. Ask your partner or friends and family for extra help during this time of loss and don’t pressure yourself to return to “normal” as soon as possible. While miscarriage can be traumatic for some, others my find that they bounce back to everyday life quickly and naturally. This is okay too.
Should you need to undergo a procedure known as a “dilation and curettage,” a D and C, or a “dilation and evacuation,” or D and E, breastfeeding may be affected. A D and C is performed in the first trimester when a pregnancy is terminated, as with a surgical abortion, or when a pregnancy is not viable, for example when there is no heart beat seen on an ultrasound. This procedure may be performed with local anesthesia, meaning the physician numbs the area around the cervix but does not put the mother to sleep. In this case, breastfeeding does not need to be postponed and can resume as soon as mom feels ready after her procedure. In some circumstances, mothers feel too emotionally taxed during the procedure and opt to be sedated. Depending on what medications are used, breastfeeding will need to be postponed until the sedating medications have left the body. Ask your OBGYN how long you must wait before nursing again. In most cases of conscious sedation, you’ll be able to nurse your baby as soon as you feel completely alert. With deep sedation, you may need to wait as long as twenty-four hours. Again, talk to your physician ahead of time so that you can pump as needed before your procedure.
Whether you’re pregnant and breastfeeding, miscarrying, or undergoing a surgical procedure, it’s likely that you’ve got a lot of questions. Talk to your physician about the healthiest option for you and your baby. For emotional support, get in touch with other moms and ask for non-judgmental support. Chatting with those who’ve been in your position before can be the best source of comfort during times of stress or uncertainty. Becoming pregnant or experiencing pregnancy loss doesn’t need to end your current breastfeeding relationship. If you’re committed to continuing, you’ve got all the reasons in the world to push through.