Sunday, 30 October 2011

Breastfeeding during Pregnancy - the first trimester

Lots of people think I am mad for continuing to breastfeed whilst pregnant...

Sometimes I am inclined to agree with them, other times I feel they are the mad ones for even suggesting weaning at a time when my daughter's world is changing in a way she cannot even understand. 

As I write this I am 32 weeks pregnant, I have kept a reflective journal on my feelings of breastfeeding whilst pregnant so I can provide a really honest experience of how it felt for me. I cannot speak for others, this is purely my account of the journey, as honest as I can possibly be...

Can women breastfeed when pregnant?

I have been pregnant three times this year, two unfortunately ended in miscarriage. After the second miscarriage I was told by the consultant that it is probably the breastfeeding causing me to miscarry as they could find no other reason. He urged me to either wean my daughter or use some form of contraception until she had been weaned to avoid another miscarriage. I went home and cried, I felt it was my fault and resentful towards my daughter but actually when I googled I found out that there is no proof to state that breastfeeding when pregnant causes miscarriage. Hillary Flower wrote this interesting piece on nursing during pregnancy A New Look at the Safety of Breastfeeding During Pregnancy she also wrote a fantastic book called The Adventures in Tandem Nursing Published by the Le Leche League. The book is completely non-biased and gives lots of accounts of mothers feeding stories; pregnancy and beyond.

I decided that taking all of that into consideration that I would wait at least 6 months before trying to conceive again, after all by then my daughter would be 19 months and most probably be on less feeds...


That was until about 4 weeks later when was feeding my daughter and I had some real tenderness in my nipples. I couldn't be pregnant as I had been careful yet this felt very similar to the last time - only the feeling was stronger! I was crying when my daughter latched on! I looked in her mouth and could see no sign of thrush although my breasts ached much like when I had thrush before. A few days went past and I starting feeling sick, then very tired so decided it was time to pee on a stick...

I prepared my self for disappointment and peed into the pot (I had the dip stick pregnancy tests you can buy in bulk from Ebay as they are apparently more sensitive than shop bought ones and much cheaper!). I watched the wee soak up the stick and immediately there were two red lines

You see I knew that I was but I just could not believe it so I did about another 5 tests to make sure, then went and bought a Clear Blue Digital which said I was about 4/5 weeks pregnant and I did a First Response test just to make sure...(ok, ok I got a little obsessed...)

To wean or not to wean?

So a couple of weeks passed, I had a bleed, I had numerous scans and tests but for some reason this baby decided to stay firmly implanted in the safety of my womb.

I was asked if I was still breastfeeding, I honestly replied that I was and was constantly told to prepare myself for another miscarriage as my body was obviously not capable of nurturing a fetus and a toddler, the two previous miscarriages were proof of that.

However, I would look at my beautiful daughter feeding, even though I was in pain and she seemed to want to feed more I just could not bring myself to stop
Breastfeeding was so incredibly important to my daughter, it was her comfort, her food, her drink, her time with me, her way to get to sleep, her skin to skin and one of the most important things to her. So I decided to carry on, despite the advice (which I was learning more and more was not backed up by credible research) and let nature take its course.

The pain eased off...

By about 8 weeks I was either not noticing the pain or it had more or less gone, my milk supply seemed a little lower but I could still express and my daughter seemed happy with the situation. I managed to stop worrying about miscarriage but I was still peeing on sticks most mornings to check I was still pregnant.

Hardly any nausea

I was a little concerned, I felt tired but hardly any sickness, I actually felt really well, much better than when I had been pregnant with my daughter. The absence of pregnancy symptoms did alarm me somewhat but I have since learned this is a common theme amongst pregnant women who are still feeding. I decided to just carry on about my business and cross off the days until my next scan at 12 weeks. I decided I could finally breathe once I got there and knew all was ok.

By about 10 weeks I had noticed my supply had diminished a lot and my daughter was not happy about this, there was still milk but not as much as there had been. I was not in any pain these days but I did notice she started eating far more, I take it that was to make up for the lack of milk. She also started drinking more water from her cup and actually cut a couple of feeds out.

Other than the worry of miscarriage I had a relatively uneventful first trimester and was very pleased at 12 weeks to see this


An informed choice???

I am going to start this post by apologising - I am sorry but this will not sit nicely with everyone but at the end of the day I am sure many will relate to this...

I have noticed that on forums and Facebook pages there are a few subjects that are guaranteed to fuel fights. The main culprits in my experience are:

  • Formula feeding
  • Breastfeeding in public
  • Spanking/smacking
  • Sleep training
  • Vaccines
The above categories seem to divide mums into groups, cause arguments and basically upset many involved. (There are far more parenting subjects that do this but this but I think these tend to be the most controversial)

I myself have been involved in these arguments, I try to offer practical advice and links to research to prove my point and never get personal. However, I am often attacked personally just for being armed with information. Information I have had to seek out myself and make an informed choice about - why? because Mums are not given the facts by Health Care Professionals for a start and live in a society full of misinformation and restricted information for fear of offending others.

Let's start with formula feeding...

When pregnant we have it drummed into us that we should breastfeed. We are handed an Off to the best start leaflet and told that it is the best way to feed our babies.

Yet how many Mum's and Mum's-to-be are actually aware that many of the reasons breastfeeding is so much better than formula feeding is due to the fact that the cow's milk protein can actually be attributing factors to:
Not to mention the fact that many babies have allergies to cows milk protein causing green frothy poo or constipation and rashes. There is also some links to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerated Colitis and Crones Disease...scary stuff huh? And if you are thinking that Soy formula is ok then please think again. These few snippets of information may be new to you or you may know of them already, I may have just really pissed you off. You may be feeling guilty as you have a history of one of the above in your family yet formula fed knowing no better. The above list does not even touch on what breastfeeding protects against...I will stop here as this is not an anti formula blog piece and I fully empathise with women who cannot breastfeed whether that be due to a medical reason or lack or support - its all valid.

Sleep training, spoiling babies and brain development...

Many women battle with their babies to get them into a 3 or 4 hourly feeding routine and sleeping 12 hours a night. To do this they often distract baby between feeds using a walk with a pram to try and get baby to sleep or give them some water and then ignore them crying for periods of time at night. This practice is endorsed by many famous authors offering sleep advice.

Yet the first 12 months of a baby's life is crucial in brain development. Being held, their needs consistently met and on demand feeds are all part of the process. This explains it well.

So when we do not meet a child needs, leave them to cry and avoid spoiling them we are actually teaching them not to trust us. That we are not there for them consistently. That sometimes they may go hungry and feel unloved. This then wires their brain for life and their stress response in situations.

Dr Sears explains it like this:
  ''Babies who are "trained" not to express their needs may appear to be docile, compliant, or "good" babies. Yet these babies could be depressed babies who are shutting down the expression of their needs, and they may become children who don't ever speak up to get their needs met and eventually become the highest-need adults.''
You can read his full article here which explains why it is important to 'spoil' your baby - not ignore them!! 

Who wins out of these mothering rifts?

I hadn't really thought much about the answer to this question until now...this really got me thinking...the only people benefiting from information being withheld is the companies that make money from it; Formula Milk Companies, Baby Sleep Train Authors and Pharmaceutical Companies that sell drugs to control conditions such as Diabetes, Asthma and Reflux. Oh and not to mention the Government who have all the tax from the profits of these companies. Coincidental? I personally think not...

Then of course there is Postnatal Depression (PND)

A very serious condition affecting around 10-15% of mothers. Many people do not state the facts in case of offending these women. I have also seen mothers with PND become really upset and use that as an excuse for others to stop giving information. A little while ago this comment was posted on a Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding debate on Facebook

''Thanks to all the bitchy breastfeeding Mothers I now feel awful. I have bad postnatal depression and do not need to be told that I am an even worse mother than I feel just because I chose to formula feed my baby so I could still have a social life. A night out with my mates relieves my PND a great deal. I hope you are all happy to know now that you have made a depressed mother feel even worse than she feels already. I hate the Breastfeedin bullies - no one wants to see you feed in public, you do it for attention to make others feel bad. I hope one day you feel like a bad mum when your baby grows up needing to eat everytime.''
 This was posted in response to another mother asking why breastfeeding was so great and a breastfeeding mother posting a link to the risks of formula feeding. Up until this point the debate had been quite respectful...because of this onslaught the whole thread turned nasty, Mothers were saying that the lady should not be going out, other Mothers were giving her a virtual 'hi-five' and the page administrator decided to delete the whole thread and ban members who were offensive.

The sad thing about it is that how many Mothers actually are told that breastfeeding/baby wearing/co-sleeping (safely)/natural birth and other traditionally 'attachment parenting' methods have been shown to reduce PND due to strengthening the bond between child and mother and also setting of feel good hormones in both? Should we really deny people the facts that 85% (if not more) of mothers could benefit from for fear of offending?


Children learn from what happens if their role model and care giver physically punishes them whenever they do something wrong? Ok, they may 'behave' but are they not given the message that its ok to hit people who do not do as we say? 

The NSPCC recognise that smacking is not a good idea. There are numerous studies to show that children who are smacked are likely to be more aggressive, more likely to be secretive towards parents and actually do not behave 'better' unless in sight of their parents (so they behave out of fear not from learning it is wrong. This great piece by Jan Hunt explains the top 10 reasons why you shouldn't hit your children.

So if this is the case why do so many people blame bad behaviour on the absence of the 'cane' in school and the 'PC police' making parents who decide to smack their children feel like child abusers? Again I would say this is because people are not being told the full picture...

Then there is the Vaccine debate...

I personally am at a loss with this...there is so much conflicting information out there regarding vaccinations. I can see both sides of the argument but possibly as research is hard to find when you are just told the benefits from the NHS. The place to have a look to get a really good understanding of the subject is Arnica where they present the research against vaccines - then pair that up with the research for...its definitely something I need to research further and I do not feel I have the right to comment either way until I am in possession of all the pros and cons that I can find. Yet it seems many people make up their mind and attack others choices without being informed, purely because of the way the media showcase parents of unvaccinated children.

So should us mothers really be attacking one another for our choices when we are let down by society for the lack of informed choice?? I think not...