The past six years I have constantly been nursing and/or pregnant. Whew, that's tiring just writing that. When I found out I was pregnant when my toddlers were around 17 months old both times, I had the usual questions to ask my midwife: Is it okay to continue? When should I wean? What can I do to survive through the first trimester? It is exhausting. It is worth it – yes — but exhausting. Pregnancy takes a lot out of you on its own, but add in the extra toll of breastfeeding and it is a whole new level to cope with.
Here's what I learned having gone through two pregnancies while breastfeeding:
In the rare case you have an irritable uterus or at risk for pre-term labor, nursing may not be advised while pregnant. Talk with your healthcare provider to make sure everyone is on the same page. However, most moms can continue breastfeeding during pregnancy with no problems. I've nursed through the first trimester of two pregnancies and all was well for everyone. Your body knows how to direct nutrients to where it needs to go (baby first, then you, then milk) and how to protect the little one inside. The choice to continue breastfeeding should be up to you and your child. Don't let guilt for wanting to wean take over if you feel ready to move on, but also don't let pressure from family and friends to wean sway your decision if you aren't ready. You do what's best for you and your child! It is a personal decision only you can make.
I gotta tell you — it can be challenging in some moments. Sometimes things are, well, sensitive while pregnant if you know what I mean. Sometimes you'll want to give up because you are uncomfortable. And then there are those precious times when the nursing bond you have with your child makes it so worth it so you keep pressing on. It will get better, promise. Also know that things can change day to day, there may be a point your child just doesn't like the taste change that came with pregnancy and is suddenly ready to wean on their own. Go with the flow with what today offers.
If there ever is a fantastic excuse to nap it is now! Get the rest you need when you can. Trust me, I know how hard it is to have other little ones at home while trying to keep your eyes open during the day. However, take use of naps and quiet times as much as possible. Nap when your child naps. Heck, nap with your child! I have many fond memories of us snuggling together, nursing her to sleep, and treasuring the gift of nurturing all of us at once. My older kids would watch a movie or have quiet time in their room while we napped. Enforce it. You all need it.
We all know how hard it is to pass up that banana milkshake or pizza for breakfast cravings, especially with nausea taking over and you just want something that you can keep down. But try your best to eat good whole foods so your body has more of the nutrients it needs to share with all three of you. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy fats like avocado and coconut oil are all easy things to incorporate into each meal and snacks to help boost your energy! You need an additional 850 to 1,100 calories to nurse while pregnant, according to la leche league, so eat up and make the food you intake count towards health instead of empty calories when possible. What a gift it is that our body can provide for so many!
Pregnancy takes a lot of extra nutrients to build a good growing foundation for new baby. Nutrients to produce a rich milk is needed as well, so having a good quality prenatal vitamin is key to help supplement our diet. Of course, eating our vitamins within real whole foods is ideal, but we all know how hard that is to obtain, especially with our stomach rolling and threatening to betray the breakfast we ate. A quality prenatal vitamin can help to keep those nutrients in place to go towards what all three of you need to thrive. A food based prenatal vitamin is encouraged since it is made with concentrated whole foods instead of synthetics, which is harder for your body to digest and absorb. Talk to your healthcare provider about additional iron you may need as well, as anemia can cause extra exhaustion.
This time is fleeting. I know each day — each hour — may feel like a struggle to get through and that it lasts forever, but you will blink and it will be gone (remember how fast your last pregnancy went?!). Give yourself the grace to stop and enjoy it for what it is. It is okay to let the dishes slide for a day while you rest. It is a good thing to ask for help when you need it. It is perfectly acceptable to perhaps let a little extra TV time happen today. Do what you need to do to get through because you are already doing so much from the inside out. Don't beat yourself up with where you are right now in this season; soon it will get better and you'll have more energy to do more again.