Pregnant Nursing, Tandem Nursing

Congratulations! You’re pregnant again!
But your firstborn hasn’t stopped nursing.
Is it safe to continue? What can you expect? 
First of all, unless you’ve had restrictions put on sex, it’s safe. Here’s why: You produce oxytocin every time you nurse, or have an orgasm, or even have dinner with friends. And of course oxytocin makes your uterus contract… during labor. Until the hours just before labor begins, your uterus is largely “deaf” to oxytocin, no matter how much it receives. That’s why abortions aren’t performed by giving a woman Pitocin (artificial oxytocin). It just plain doesn’t work. And that’s why we see so many “failed inductions”. The uterus is not about to force the baby out before it’s time, and it simply fails to hear the shout of the Pitocin IV. The vast, vast majority of “failed inductions” simply mean someone wanted the baby out before the baby was ready, and the uterus did its job properlyOnce labor is about to start, however, the number of oxytocin receptors (“ears”) on the uterus skyrockets. Now the mother’s own oxytocin joins the hormonal dance that triggers labor. Now if she nurses or has an orgasm, it might be the event that actually starts labor. But not before.Will nursing your older child steal nutrients from your unborn child? It’s the rare mother who doesn’t find her milk supply declining once the new pregnancy starts. Your new baby is well protected. Your body will draw from your own stores if there’s a shortfall to be made up, but the first thing that happens is a drop to almost no milk at all.

Some toddlers object to the loss of both amount and sweetness, and stop nursing before their younger sibling is born. Others come to enjoy the no-milk nursing. But most mothers find their bodies changing in a surprising way: they no longer enjoy nursing the older child. They may feel nipple tenderness, or outright pain, or they may feel an “antsiness” that makes them want to push the nursling off their laps.

Some mothers choose to wean in the face of all this, others choose to continue. Some toddlers wean, others choose to continue. Every family is different. If the toddler nurses until the baby is born, he may wean because he doesn’t like all the milk… or he may quietly develop a double chin! There will be plenty for two if he opts to continue (or to resume after having stopped). Mothers may even find they use the toddler to help with any engorgement.

If you find yourself tandem nursing, you may find that your children enjoy sharing “nummies”, patting and stroking each other if they nurse together and developing a lovely, loving relationship. You may also find the book “Adventures in Tandem Nursing” by Hilary Flower really helpful. Bottom line: every experience is different, and there’s no wrong way to proceed, as long as you follow your heart.

©2015 Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC

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