Month three Q&A
Q:Our firstborn is nine months old and I recently found out that I’m pregnant again. I’m still breastfeeding and I wonder what influence this will have on my pregnancy, and what influence my pregnancy will have on my breastfeeding. Can I carry on? And will I be able to feed them both after the birth?
A:Lisanne answers: The term “tandem feeding” is used when a mother feeds her older child and her new baby. It’s not a new phenomenon or fashion – mothers have been doing it for aeons. The WHO recommends that all children are breastfed until the age of two or longer. Therefore, tandem feeding is a good idea when your age gap is small. It can be an enriching experience for you all. You might have mixed feelings about whether you should carry on breastfeeding when you find out you are pregnant. Friends or family could even put pressure on you to stop. Sometimes health workers might even recommend that you stop too, giving as reason the fact that stimulation of the breast can lead to contractions in the uterus. This happens because sucking stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin. This has lead to a fear of spontaneous abortion. Contractions of the uterus are, however, normal during pregnancy. They happen during sex too, an activity which most couples continue with throughout. Fortunately, support for breastfeeding during pregnancy is growing. Experts agree that if your pregnancy is proceeding as normal, and your unborn baby is healthy, you can carry on breastfeeding safely. After birth, some mothers are worried that the older child will finish the new baby’s milk. The first colostrum is of course meant for the new baby and it is therefore a good idea to prepare your older child for this. Explain that the first milk that is made after baby’s birth is a special milk for the new baby. Explain that your older child also got it, and that it is very good for him, and that the new baby will also need it. With most babies in South Africa being born in hospital, you will most likely be separated from your older child for a while, which should give you the chance to nurse your new baby alone at first. You could also express and give your older child breastmilk from a cup so that he gets used to getting his milk in this way. Mothers also often worry that they won’t be able to produce enough milk for a new baby and an older child at the same time. Breastmilk production is, however, a result of supply and demand. Both children’s suckling will send a message to the brain to ensure that the right amount of milk is produced. Your own nutritional needs increase when you are pregnant and breastfeeding. Make sure that you eat well. You can continue taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Chat to a dietician if you think your diet might not be optimal.
Lisanne du Plessis Breastfeeding consultant