'What happens if you breastfeed while pregnant?'
A Mum asked me this the other day. I didn’t know the answer.
I mean, I know lots of Mums who’ve tandem fed, sometimes even newborn twins and an older child so I knew it was possible.
But I didn’t have any advice. Statistics or info on milk supply dropping or what happens when colostrum comes in or anything.
Isn’t that weird? Should I know, shouldn’t it be part of midwifery training?
But since less than 1% of mothers breastfeed until their baby is a year old in the UK, I guess it doesn’t come up that much.
Maybe it was on the course and I forgot. But anyway, in true midwife style, I’ve been re-educating myself.
Here’s what I’ve learnt:
- It’s perfectly possible to breastfeeding during pregnancy, though some Mums may feel too tired – others will be fine
- The fetus will develop normally, no evidence to say breastfeeding takes nutrients away
- Breastfeeding in pregnancy isn’t associated with premature labour or birth, even though the oxytocin released can stimulate mild contractions. The effect of oxytocin is blocked by huge amounts of progesterone. If you women have any complications of the cervix or certain other medical conditions, it’s best to talk to an obstetrician to make sure
- But...Mums might find their milk supply drops during pregnancy, again because of progesterone
- Some women have painfully sore nipples because of the hormones
- Some women get morning sickness and though they will likely still be able to feed, it can be a bit much to continue when they're feeling awful
- Older children might start feeding again once they see milk when the new baby’s here
- The colostrum might mean the older child has looser stools (it has a laxative effect) but it’s safe and healthy for them
- But you have to be careful as older toddlers can be a bit kicky when dual feeding!
I have, of course, got this from ‘The Positive Breastfeeding Book’ which was released a few weeks ago.
Can I just say what an amazing book this is – it covers everything from skin to skin, to how best to support a transgender chestfeeding man, to feeding with a baby with a cleft palate, to expressing in the cinema.
I actually think it’s the first time I’ve read a text and gone ‘wow I’d really like to breastfeed’. It doesn’t sugar coat the hard first weeks, when it’s just feed, biscuit, feed, cup of tea, bit of a cry, Netflix, feed but the whole thing is just amazing, isn’t it?
Turns out each woman makes around 182,000 calories of milk over the first year. Blows my mind.
And it’s the perfect parenting tool for calming down little ones, it's not just a milk delivery system.
I recommend the Positive Breastfeeding Book particularly to student and newly qualified midwives, as the information is up to date, in depth and evidence based. It’s easy to read and the stories from mothers are also inspiring.
It’s targeted at parents, but really, the learning style is suitable for everyone.
The stories from families are varied and included throughout. From those who thought they’d never breastfeed but loved it, to those who were committed to feeding but had an incredibly tiny baby – like Rachel and her baby Taliesin who weighed just 560g at birth. I won’t spoil it, but there’s an incredible journey to hear.
The whole book reminded me of how little we hear about real breastfeeding.
It feels like a whole new level of feminism has woken up for me again – I think if men breastfed we’d see a lot more of it in public and in the media. There are stupendous breastfeeding achievements going on all the time, and this book helps celebrate them. Times are changing.
Needed, considering the UK has some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world.
I’d love to hear from you...have you read this book? Do you think it would have helped you with breastfeeding - or do you think it might help your clients?
Leave me a comment letting me know.
P.S. There's lots on social media right now about changes to the way student midwives are being trained.
Student midwives will no longer be'mentored' in the NHS - instead there will be 'practice supervisors' who will teach and 'practice assessors' who will sign off. Mentors used to do it all. This change is part of new NMC education guidelines.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Part of me feels there won't be much change, after all, as a student midwife you work with many people. But another part of me wonders whether the person working with a student is in the best position to make a decision?
Please do leave a comment with your thoughts on this one.