Booby Traps Series: Did you experience any of these tandem nursing Booby Traps?

Lactancia_en_tandem_4Nursing in pregnancy and beyond can be, in the words of Hilary Flower, author of a book on the topic, “an adventure.”*

It’s also something that may draw the concern or disapproval of health care providers.  This in spite of the fact that the policy of the American Academy of Family Physicians, states that “breastfeeding during a subsequent pregnancy is not unusual.  If the pregnancy is normal and the mother is healthy, breastfeeding during pregnancy is the mother’s decision.”

Unfortunately, moms who do make the decision to tandem nurse may hear:

“It will bring on early labor.”  The uterine contractions that occur with breastfeeding are caused by the release of oxytocin – the same as occurs during sex.  As a result, Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple advises that “unless the couple has been asked to avoid sexual relations during a high-risk pregnancy, due to concerns about potential preterm labor, breastfeeding should not be contraindicated.”

Actress Kelly Rutherford tandem nursed her children!

Actress Kelly Rutherford tandem nursed her children!

In one study, 53 of 57 women who breastfed during pregnancy reported no breastfeeding-related contractions, and the four who did report contractions went on to deliver healthy, full term babies.  Another recent study, which noted the “widespread cultural vilification” of breastfeeding during pregnancy, found no differences in gestational age of babies born to moms who breastfeed during pregnancy.  Oh, and moms who are being judged for tandem nursing should take heart that Gossip Girl actress Kelly Rutherford spoke openly about tandem nursing and hopefully more celebrities will follow suit,  helping to pave the way for cultural normalization.  (Read Kelly’s empowering story here)

What about miscarriage?  Another recent study comparing low risk mothers who were breastfeeding during pregnancy and those who were not found no difference in the risk of miscarriage.

When I spoke with Hilary Flower (author of Adventures in Tandem Nursing) about this issue, she said that in researching her book she spoke with a leading miscarriage expert in Europe, who was “befuddled by even being asked about breastfeeding during pregnancy as a concern.”  Hilary also provides a biological explanation for why studies have not found an association between breastfeeding in pregnancy and early labor.

“It will cause your new baby to be too small at birth.”  Several studies (from the U.S., Guatemala, Peru, and Iran) have shown no differences in birth weight of babies born to moms who were nursing during pregnancy.

“It’ll be too hard on your body and you won’t be able to maintain your nutrition.”  While studies from developing countries in which mothers are often malnourished have shown that mothers who nurse during pregnancy had lower fat stores, this is not generally a problem in the U.S., where access to food and supplements (if necessary) is far better.  Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple states that ‘eat to hunger,” “drink to thirst,” and expect to be even hungrier than in a pregnancy with no breastfeeding, is generally sufficient advice.”

It’s also worth noting that older children tend not to be wholly dependent on breastfeeding for their caloric intake, since they’re very likely to be eating solid foods.  And they often don’t nurse through an entire pregnancy, as the decline in milk production during the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy leads some children to wean.

“Your newborn won’t get the colostrum.”

This concern arises from a misunderstanding about how lactation works.  Colostrum is not stored in a breast pantry and cannot “run out.”  Like mature milk, you make it on the spot.  So the more a baby nurses, the more colostrum you will produce.  Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple notes, “no matter how long or how often [the child] breastfeeds, colostrum will still be available after birth for the newborn.”

“It will deprive your newborn of enough milk.”

One study from Peru found that infants had lower weight gain and growth when their mothers had breastfed in pregnancy.  But this result is difficult to generalize to a developed country context.  There appear to be no studies of newborn milk intake and growth in a developed country, so it’s unclear that this is a problem.

Did you breastfeed during pregnancy?  Did you tandem nurse once your new baby was born?  Did you get good advice and care from your providers, or did you hear any of the above statements?

*While nursing multiples (twins, triplets and more) is also considered tandem nursing, we address Booby Traps related to multiples in a separate post.

Image credit:  Wikimedia Commons



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21 Responses to Booby Traps Series: Did you experience any of these tandem nursing Booby Traps?

  1. Eek565 says:

    I did nurse during my last pregnancy. But the Braxton Hicks contractions that I got while nursing became so uncomfortable that I weaned my son when I was 7 months pregnant with his sister. Now that I am pregnant again and 5 months along, I am still nursing my daughter with no complications. We’ll see how it goes!

  2. Liz says:

    My daughter is currently tandem nursing. This baby weighed a half a pound more at birth than his sister despite the fact that he was born at 39 weeks and his sister at 41. As far as weight gain is concerned: he’s gained 10 pounds in 4 and 1/2 months (more than doubling his birth weight). Her other child is still nursing at least 3 to 4 times a day, and she’s put on about 2 or 3 pounds since her brother was born as well. I think my daughter needs one of those “making milk is my superpower” t shirts. Seriously, I’ve known loads of tandem nursing moms (I didn’t tandem nurse, but I did nurse until about the 20th week of pregnancy), and I’ve never known even one who had any problem with the weight of their baby either at birth or later. Tandem nursing mothers more frequently complain of oversupply than any lack of milk.

  3. i am currently tandem nursing for the second time. We have 6 children. 3 and 4 nursed together and 5 and 6 are now nursing together.it really helps my older children bond with their new baby. especially now with the latest two being sisters
    the BH get worse with each pregnancy but my babies were still full term

  4. Andrea says:

    I did nurse both during pregnancy and after. My daughter did “wean” at about 4.5 due to lack of milk and the pain of nursing sensitive nipples, but then began again afterwards for a time. It got to be too much when they started fighting over which breast they got. My older daughter still likes to be close when her sister nurses, but they are calm now. I do have issues with my teeth due to pregnancy and nursing and I try hard to supplement appropriately.

  5. Felicia says:

    I currently triandem nurse while 13 weeks pregnant :) My 5 1/2 year old has slowed a lot with the pregnancy so far– 2 times a week down from once a day before pregnancy, but my 3 1/2 year old still nurses 2 times a day and my 1 1/2 year old 3 times a day!! Lots of false information out there, many of the health care workers have been very surprised by the outcomes of my pregnancies while nursing and tandem nursing through them!

  6. Mama says:

    I nursed through pregnancy and am now tandeming my 3.5yr old and 10 week old girls. None of the myths have applied to us – quite the opposite!

    I went to 40 wks +4 days and then was induced (due to high blood pressure and unbearable swelling – I’d had enough!). At about 39 weeks I would get braxton hicks when I nursed, but no more intense than the ones I’d get just walking around.

    My colostrum came in (it was awesome to see it go from clear to deep gold on about day 2) and there was plenty to go round.

    My milk came in quicker this time round and was more plentiful. I have an oversupply this time – never had that with first daughter. Both kids are getting plenty of milk!

    DD2 was born bigger and has gained weight much faster than DD1. DD1 sat on the 25th percentile, DD2 is tracking the 60th!

    I don’t think it has been ‘hard on my body’. I feel fine, all my health checks have been fine. I wasn’t low in iron or anything in all the blood tests I had during pregnancy.

    My (Australian – just in case you were wondering) Ob was awesome. He’s very experienced and laid back. I mentioned I was feeding my eldest about half way into the pregnancy. He barely looked up from his note-taking and pretty much laughed in my face when I asked if it would cause a problem. It was never brought up again as we both considered it a complete non-issue.

  7. Jessica A. says:

    I nursed throughout my last pregnancy and am currently tandem nursing my 2 1/2 year old and her 5 month old sister. At my first OB visit she told me I shouldn’t nurse because it causes uterine contractions. I did not have a high risk pregnancy and I never noticed a correlation between nursing and my BH contractions. My stepmother said her friend nursed during her pregnancy and the baby came out malnourished because of it. I produce plenty of milk, even donating some to two babies. :)

  8. Claire Rheinheimer says:

    I’m tandem nursing my 2 year old son and almost 4 week old daughter. My daughter did weigh over a pound less than her brother at 7 lbs 14 oz. Going into labor early was not a problem tho, as she was 13 days late and the only of my 4 children I went into labor on my own with, the other 3 were all induced, her brother at 16 days over. At 2 weeks she was gaining great and in the 95th percentile, and just keeps gaining. I definitely produced colostrum and my milk came in at day 2, I have plenty for both. I did have more Braxton hicks with this pregnancy, but it was with more activity, not nursing. My midwives didn’t once express any concern about nursing during pregnancy, in fact once labor started I nursed my son to get contractions to be more regular. I was still nursing him at 9 cm dilated in fact. My entire family thinks I’m crazy, and it has been rough with my son wanting to nurse very often now, but I’m definitely not ready to wean him completely. Just during the night. :)

  9. Katie says:

    Wow! Reading this makes me have peace of mind. I am Breastfeeding my 2.5 yr old and had a miscarriage recently. I wasn’t sure of the cause (this wasn’t my first) but I felt like it was bc I was still nursing. It’s good to know that there was no relationship between the 2. :)

  10. KrissyFair says:

    Nursed right through my second pregnancy and tandem nursed for 11 months after that.

    Not only did I not lack colostrum, I made gallons of it. Oversupply was the only ‘negative’ side-effect I had from tandem nursing. But even that had a positive end because I was able to donate 60-odd ounces of colostrum/newborn milk to a brand new baby whose mama couldn’t make any of her own!

  11. sarah says:

    I tandem nursed for over a year and I credit it for giving me enough milk while my youngest was in the hospital for a month. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

  12. I tandem nursed for 2 years. I gave my older son milk while pregnant and let him nurse with his baby sister who was bigger than him in birth and now (at 2 years age diffeence) she is already his weight!

  13. Jessica Fox says:

    At my first prenatal appointment I had lost 11 pounds due to severe morning sickness and they blamed me still breastfeeding for it. So I adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and never mentioned it again since they never asked. I went on to gain 30 pounds by the end of the pregnancy and have a full term 8lb 11oz healthy baby. I am still tandem nursing almost a year later.

  14. Dale says:

    I breastfed my first throughout my entire pregnancy and had no problems whatsoever with the baby or my milk production and went on to nurse him for two years as I had done his older brother.

  15. Jen Thomason says:

    I am currently tandem nursing my 22 month old and my 3 month old. My 3 month old was the smallest of all my four babies and I was nursing while pregnant. However, he was born at 37 weeks after a nursing session that spurred strong contractions. It is difficult to discern whether he was small from being early or small from nursing while pregnant. It certainly is plausible that tandem nursing is related to it though. I wouldn’t have changed a thing though.

  16. Victoria says:

    I am 40 weeks 5 days now, and have noticed no issues. If this baby comes out smaller it will be because I haven’t eaten enough, not from nursing. I haven’t had milk in months but am still nursing my 27 month old. Thanks for this post; it is extremely timely for me!!

  17. Andrea says:

    I’m currently nursing my 5 month old and almost 3 year old. Nursed throughout the pregnancy with no issues at all. I love that my middle child and youngest have a bond with nursing and they tend to hold hands if they are nursing at the same time. No contractions. No early labor. Heathy baby born at 39w4d. Wonderful birth experience for me. 2nd no drug delivery and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Don’t listen to all the negativity! Do what you think it best, Mamas! :)

  18. Michaela says:

    I nursed my daughter (now 22 months) through my subsequent pregnancy and am currently tandem nursing he’d and her two week old brother. My milk supply dropped later in the pregnancy, but she continued to breastfeed at nap time and bed time, and I did not lose milk production entirely. As a result, my newborn took the breast without any issues whatsoever, because he didn’t have to work to make my milk come in. He was 8lbs 12oz when he was born, my biggest out of 3, and he never lost any weight after delivery. He was up to 9lbs at his one week checkup, and is now over 10lbs at two weeks old. He was born the day before his due date, and measured large for gestational age. So nursing during my pregnancy has only benefited us both, as I managed to avoid having sore nipples again too, because they didn’t get a break from breastfeeding.

  19. Norma says:

    I tandem nursed 3.5 year old and my newborn, also through that pregnancy although I was “high risk” at 44. The doctors make you feel criminal because you are older! “and you are sure you want to continue with this pregnancy”, at each appt.! But the baby came late, not early, almost 8 pounds, and a toddler really comes in handy for engorgement! Lol

  20. Pingback: Tandem nursing? Here are some great resources. | Motherlove Herbal Company Breastfeeding Blog and Podcasts

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