Breastfeeding During Pregnancy – Common Discomforts and How to Help (Part 2)

August 4th, 2011 by Dionna | 10 Comments
Posted in Breastfeeding/Lactivism, Compassionate Advocacy, Feed with Love and Respect, natural parenting, Pregnancy and Birth

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This post is part two of a two part series. Part one covers general discomforts and other concerns, bad latch, and poor nursing habits; part two is on pregnant breastfeeding agitation.

Nursing during my first trimester

If you were lucky enough to escape some of the physical discomforts of breastfeeding during pregnancy, you may still have experienced some of the psychological discomforts. If you’re currently struggling with an aversion to nursing your child, or even sexual arousal during a nursing session, read on for some helpful hints on how to manage these very natural feelings.

Pregnancy Breastfeeding Agitation

Nursing aversion. The heebie jeebies. The creepy crawlies. Nearly a third of nursing pregnant women find that breastfeeding can bring on completely new feelings of psychological discomfort they’ve never experienced before. It does not stem so much from pain as it seems to be hormonally driven, because even “after the breast pain abates[,] the desire to break away lingers.”1

The time that these feelings start during pregnancy “differs from woman to woman, but mid-pregnancy seems to be a common time of onset.”2 The feelings may lessen after the new baby arrives, or they may continue at times during tandem nursing. And regardless of the intensity of your agitation, know that it “is not a reflection of the mother’s relationship with the child or even her true feelings about breastfeeding!”3 It may be a mixture of hormones (many animals – and people – wean during pregnancy, it could be our body’s chemical way of preparing for a new baby) and your own body’s awareness that you need some more “mama time” to help you reconnect with yourself.

Other women are horrified to find that their bodies react in a sexual way to breastfeeding – something that may never have happened previously. “This may be caused by a crossing of the hormonal wires; oxytocin causes the let-down reflex that releases milk, but it is also one of the main hormones involved in female orgasm. And since it seems more likely to develop in the context of pregnancy or tandem nursing – and is not usually triggered by the newborn’s nursing – this sexual arousal may have a similar cause as breastfeeding agitation.”4 If you have experienced this, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone, “and it does not mean you have inappropriate feelings for your child.”5 Following are some tricks that may help with both these feelings and nursing agitation that may occur during and after pregnancy.

  • Use Relaxation Techniques: Try to breathe deeply, to meditate, to relax your body and mind during a breastfeeding session. This may help decrease any agitation you are feeling and give your mind the space it needs while your child nurses.
  • Think About Something Else: Grab a good book, put headphones in, nurse at the computer – give your brain something else to do besides thinking about your agitation.
  • Institute a Ten Count: Similar to when mothers are helping their nurslings develop more comfortable nursing manners, don’t be afraid to place some limits on nursing sessions for awhile. Allow her to nurse to the count of ten on one side, switch to the other side for another ten count, and then the nursing session is over. This gives you a light at the end of the tunnel, and it offers the child a concrete and simple time limit.
  • Be Aware of Triggers: Do your feelings of agitation or arousal occur more when your nursling touches the other breast? When you nurse in a certain position? When you haven’t had enough time to yourself? Take note of when these feelings are the strongest and take steps to change. Sometimes even being proactive can help you feel better.
  • Talk It Out: Find a trusted friend (preferably one who has nursed during pregnancy or at least nursed an older child) and tell her what you are going through. You may find that sharing your concerns helps to release some of your tension. Also feel free to explain to your child (in age appropriate terms) that nursing is not as comfortable for you right now, and you need his help to feel comfortable during nursing sessions.
  • Let It Be: Hilary Flower says it best: “You may also choose to simply abandon any negativity about these normal and harmless feelings, and let your feelings be what they are.”6 We are not slaves to our emotions – choose to acknowledge the feeling and let it go, remembering that it is not inappropriate, it is just “part of being a woman.”7
  • Remember Your Motivation: Why are you nursing through pregnancy? Is your nursling still young? Many mothers want to nurse for at least two years, and pregnancy may interfere with that desire. Is natural child led weaning important to you? It certainly is to me, which is why I went into a period of mourning when I lost my breastmilk. (By the way, my nursling is still nursing, even though he isn’t getting any milk, so dry nursing does not automatically equate to weaning!) Be clear about why continuing to nurse is important to you. If it’s not, then maybe it’s time to reweigh your decision to continue breastfeeding. But if you are still sure that breastfeeding your current child is a priority, then find little ways to remember why and reward yourself. Flowers suggests getting a backrub from your partner, taping quotes around the house, asking friends for pep talks – anything to help keep you on your desired path.8

Whether your nursling is six months or three years old, pregnancy does not need to signal the end of breastfeeding. “As long as you and your child are enjoying breastfeeding, your child is benefiting from breastfeeding.”9 This is true even if you experience some minor hiccups along the way during pregnancy.

Did you breastfeed during a pregnancy? Did you experience any pain or agitation? If so, how did you cope with it? Share your wisdom in the comments!

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I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!

You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.

(Visit NPN for the code to place on your blog.)

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Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with your health care provider. If you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition or are taking any medication, please consult your physician. Nothing you read here should be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis or courses of treatment.

  1. Adventures in Tandem Nursing at 47.
  2. Adventures in Tandem Nursing at 46.
  3. Adventures in Tandem Nursing at 48.
  4. Adventures in Tandem Nursing at 49.
  5. Adventures in Tandem Nursing at 49.
  6. Adventures in Tandem Nursing at 49.
  7. Adventures in Tandem Nursing at 49 (quoting Diane Bengson, How Weaning Happens).
  8. Adventures in Tandem Nursing at 51-52.
  9. Adventures in Tandem Nursing at 5.

10 Responses to:
"Breastfeeding During Pregnancy – Common Discomforts and How to Help (Part 2)"

  1. Melissa   vibreantwanderer

    I’ll really thankful for your insights and suggestions on this and I look forward to learning from you in your tandem nursing journey as well. I already feel like I’m armed with information for my second pregnancy, and we’re not even officially “trying” yet!

  2. Amy   anktangle

    Thank you again! This is the aspect of nursing while pregnant that I’m most concerned about. I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom.

  3. Dionna   CodeNameMama

    Thanks ladies! It helped me so much to do some research on this when I got pregnant, I knew pain and discomfort were possibilities – it helped to know what I could try (and that not all attempts would work)!

  4. I have a friend whose nipples hurt so bad during her second pregnancy she couldn’t stand it. While I probably would’ve found a way to “stand it” – maybe – at least her 18mo (at the time) DS was ready to wean.

  5. Anastasia   MotherhoodDblog

    I wish I would have had some of these tips when I was pregnant with #2 and nursing #1. I really wanted to let Piper self wean, but the emotions I experienced during my 3 & 4 month of pregnancy led to me to wean her. I always regretted it, but I just couldn’t find any resources to help with the hard times! It’s wonderful for you to put these tips out there so maybe other mothers can benefit from it =)

  6. Erica

    I am currently 38wks pregnant and my 2yr 8mos old son is still nursing and loving it…me..not so much. since about mid pregnancy my nipples have been SO sensitive I even hate the feel of my bra on my skin. I know my son still needs his comfort though he hasn’t been receiving any milk for months. He has always had his nursing to comfort him to sleep or anytime he needs to be extra close to me, so I’ve dealt with the aggitation as best as I can. I find that if I hold the breast he is nusing on firmly in my hand, I can lessen the tingly, creepy feeling a bit. I do have to pull him off sometimes b/c I just can’t stand it, but most times I can distract him or he pops off himself and goes about his business. I can say it is worse when I’m tired, or cranky myself, the feelings seem to intensify. I’m hoping it lessens when the new baby comes b/c I dont see my son giving up nursing any time soon but the creepy, crawly feeling of “violation” I’ve been experiencing is surely unwelcome! Anyway, this is a great post and definitely comforting to read. Thank you.

  7. Lisa Baker   organicbabyatl

    Love this–thank you so much for sharing. I had heard that discomfort is common when breastfeeding while pregnant or tandem nursing, but I think this is the first time I’ve really heard about the extend of the potential aversive reactions. Which is really encouraging as I’m still breastfeeding at 20 weeks pregnant!

    It’s interesting though…my nursling is older (3.5 years–have I really been breastfeeding this long?!?), and so far the aversive feelings haven’t been that bad. And I wonder whether it has to do with the fact that I’ve already worked through multiple periods when I felt aversions to breastfeeding. When she turned two it was really bad for a while, but I set some limits and worked through it and after a while it didn’t bother me anymore. The pregnancy aversion actually hasn’t been as bad as the earlier ones. Which is funny, because I have a lot more physical reasons to dislike it now (starting with the fact that my milk dried up months ago). I do think the emotional aspects are a lot harder to work through than the physical ones!

  8. Claire   lactatinggirl

    Great post! I’m happy that people are actually talking about this! When I feel the heebeegeebees while nursing Peanut I feel like I’m doing something wrong or must be a horrible mother. It’s very comforting to know I’m not the only woman who feels that way.

  9. This is great information! Fortunately I haven’t yet experienced funny feelings (or even much pain, as mentioned in part one). Crossing my fingers that that continues to go well. I’m only around 12 weeks pregnant and nursing my nearly 7 month old. I’m most worried about my milk supply decreasing too much. It’s so important to me, and I fear having to supplement with formula :-(.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Genna – any chance you could find someone to donate breastmilk? I would definitely look into that position if Kieran was younger than a year. Congrats on your pregnancy, and I hope your supply keeps up!!

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