A Mummy Tales reader recently asked me this question:
“Hi Maryanne, I am 7 weeks pregnant and I wanted to know if it’s okay for me to continue to breastfeed while I’m pregnant. I am currently still breastfeeding my 17 month old daughter. Are there any risks for me and/or my growing baby if I continue to breastfeed? Is it safe?”
Truly, this expectant mum is not alone in her worries, for I’ve come to learn that many other moms worry about breastfeeding during pregnancy. Breastfeeding (even exclusive breastfeeding) does not provide a 100% guarantee that a woman will not conceive, and some women do actually get pregnant while still breastfeeding, throwing some of them into panic. They wonder if they should immediately stop breastfeeding or not. It doesn’t help much when lots of family, friends, colleagues and sometimes even strangers start expressing their concerns about the health and well being of the woman and her unborn baby if she continues breastfeeding. They offer all sorts of opinions, and many a time end up confusing her and only causing her more worry and panic.
So back to the Mummy Tales reader’s question, I asked around and got different views and wasn’t sure on a definite authentic answer, so I decided to seek a professional opinion. I talked to three different doctors about it, and below are their responses:
“It is okay to breastfeed during pregnancy. With time, the milk gradually becomes scanty and concentrated, and baby eventually stops. So it is harmless to both.“ – Dr. Wachira Murage, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist at Savannah Healthcare.
“Breast feeding occurs after the release of a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone makes the glands in the breast to contract and squeeze out the breast milk through the nipple. This hormone oxytocin is also involved during child birth where it causes the womb (uterus) to contract. However, the womb can only react to this hormone after about the 8th to 9 month or if the mother is predisposed to getting early labour (preterm labour). Therefore, it is generally safe to breast feed until the third trimester.
Another concern is that breastfeeding takes up alot of energy from the mother. With a baby in the womb also requiring nutrients, the mother needs to increase her diet so that she can be able to cater for both babies as well as herself. If not then she will suffer first as the baby in the womb gets first priority. So she needs nutritional guidance as well as follow up in the Antenatal Clinic.“ – Dr. Torooti Kinagwi Mwirigi, Medical Consultant.
“She should stop so that her body makes *colostrum for the unborn baby. Both breastfeeding and pregnancy require very good nutrition for the mother and if that doesn’t happen, her health can deteriorate.“ – Dr. Francis Nyamiobo, Maternity Child Heath (MCH) Clinic – Nairobi.
*Colostrum is the thick, yellowish milk a pregnant woman’s body produces, and what she continues to produce in the first few days following the birth of her baby. Colostrum is rich in antibodies that give immunity to the newborn, and is also high in concentrated nutrition for the newborn, making it the ideal first food for the baby.
So there you have it. An answer from three different doctors. Hope that helps! Also read the comments below from fellow mums about the issue.
Photo: Let’s Talk Breastfeeding, Kenya.