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Breastfeeding in Pregnancy, Labour and Beyond

This is an information piece in published in Birth Journeys,  by Leonie MacDonald

Often mothers who become pregnant wonder whether they can continue to breastfeed their baby or toddler throughout pregnancy. In most cases, it is perfectly safe and even beneficial.

During pregnancy, your milk supply may remain unchanged, diminish, or change to colostrum, especially towards the end of pregnancy. Colostrum is the first milk a newborn baby drinks. It is a clear yellowish liquid, very rich in vitamins and antibodies. It will do no harm to your breastfeeding child, although it may have a laxative effect and they may dislike the saltier flavour. Your supply of colostrum will not be used up by breastfeeding during pregnancy.

Your baby or toddler may wish to continue breastfeeding for comfort regardless of your milk supply. There are also immunological benefits of breastfeeding that continue even if your breastfeeder is not feeding very often or receiving much milk.

You may, however, experience sore nipples ranging from tolerable to very painful. Limiting the length of feeds or spacing feeds out can make this pain more manageable for some mothers. Heat or cool packs held to the breast before feeding can reduce the discomfort. Heat packs can also encourage the flow of milk. Sometimes the pain is only present at the start of the feed and then disappears.

Breastfeeding during labour is also possible and safe. Stimulating the nipples (through breastfeeding or through manual stimulation) can increase oxytocin and strengthen your contractions. It can be used to move your labour along in a natural way.

Some mothers will decide to tandem feed after birth. This means breastfeeding a baby and their sibling. The two do not have to be at the breast at the same time – any combination can work.

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