August 22, 2023

Breastfeeding During Pregnancy: A Pediatrician's Journey!

With August celebrated as National Breastfeeding Month, I thought it fitting to dedicate this month's blog post to the topic of breastfeeding.

First and foremost, I want to emphasize that breastfeeding isn't the right choice for everyone. The method you select to nourish your baby is deeply personal, and everyone deserves to be heard and supported with their choice.

While I personally chose to breastfeed, the path was far from smooth. In the beginning, due to challenges like insufficient weight gain and a low milk supply, we supplemented with formula. I'm truly thankful for having that option. However, this post isn’t about my initial breastfeeding experience. Instead, I'd like to delve into a topic less frequently discussed - breastfeeding during pregnancy!

As many of you know, I'm nearing the end of my pregnancy and eagerly waiting to welcome our second child. Navigating breastfeeding during this time presented uncharted challenges and revelations. In this post, I shed light on this often-overlooked journey, hoping to offer comfort or insights to other mothers embarking on a similar path.

Let’s start from the beginning... When I discovered my pregnancy, my eldest was just a year old. We had hoped to grow our family, but I hadn't fully grasped how this might impact breastfeeding. Before the pregnancy revelation, I felt some pain during breastfeeding. I initially attributed this to my eldest teething or the occasional nip. But after the pregnancy confirmation, everything fell into place. Fortunately, the discomfort wasn’t disruptive and it faded within a few weeks. Yet, it sparked a cascade of questions, the most pressing of which was: would I have to stop breastfeeding?

In true 21st-century style, I went spelunking down the Google rabbit hole. Many sources alluded to the possibility of milk taking a hiatus around the 16th week due to hormonal changes. However, stories from other mothers hinted that this wasn't a universal experience. Bracing for such a turn, I scaled back on the daily feeds and added a few more ounces to our milk stash. Our routine changed from 4+ feeds a day to just 3. To my relief, the anticipated 16th week came and went, and my milk supply held steady. But by the 22nd week of pregnancy, a noticeable decline ensued. This period was emotionally challenging for both my daughter and me. She began to switch her requests from "Leche" (Milk) to "Teta" (Boob) and sometimes “Papa Leche” (Dad Milk) when she wanted milk in a cup from the stash, indicating she sensed the change in supply. She also intuitively adjusted, reducing her 3 feeds a day to just a single one at night, which seemed more for comfort than nourishment. These changes led to longer days, added stress, and collective tears as we navigated the many adjustments.

Then, as if by magic, week 28 brought a milky resurgence. Woo-hoo! I can’t even describe the happiness we all felt. But wait, this wasn't the same old milk... By week 32, it was clear the menu had changed to colostrum. We mostly stuck to our nightly feeding rendezvous, but with the milky comeback, she's been craftily sneaking in some extra sips during naptime.

Just when I thought we'd hit smooth sailing, week 33 threw in a curveball. I started feeling Braxton Hicks contractions, which occasionally amplify during breastfeeding sessions. My healthcare provider, taking into account my health specifics, has cleared me to continue to breastfeed. Nevertheless, I continue to make tweaks along the way based on what my body is feeling. Now at 35 weeks, the course of our breastfeeding story continues to unfold. We might have to wind down entirely or tread carefully until we welcome our newest family addition. Whichever way we end up going, this journey has been incredibly fulfilling, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Happy National Breastfeeding Month! To those who breastfeed or have breastfed, I hope the unwritten emotions resonate with you as you read this. And if you chose formula, combo feeding or a different path and are reading this, I appreciate you taking the time to hear my story.

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