Lactation During Pregnancy - Lactation Questions

The Best for Baby

It's no secret that the very best food for a newborn comes directly from the mother. Breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life is the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Academy suggests breastfeeding exclusively, without solids or supplements, for six months and then to continue on throughout the first year of life. During this period, it is highly unlikely another pregnancy will occur.  But, the concept of long-term nursing and natural weaning is embraced by women, more mothers are finding themselves pregnant and nursing.

Lactation During Pregnancy

Of course, the natural lactation questions revolve around the potential for harm to the unborn baby. There is no evidence to suggest that lactation during pregnancy is harmful to the developing baby in a normal pregnancy. If there is a history of premature birth, preterm labor, or multiples, then a concern does arise. Oxytocin, the hormone that is released during lactation is also the trigger for contractions. According to research, the uterus doesn't respond to the release of oxytocin until around 24 weeks gestation, so nursing until 20 weeks is still considered safe. There is no need for stopping lactation suddenly because of pregnancy. If you are concerned, direct your pregnancy questions to a breastfeeding clinic or to your doctor.

There are some considerations when it comes to lactation during pregnancy. The mother should consider her physical and emotional health, the nursing child's age and the child's need to nurse. If everything is going along smoothly, then nursing during pregnancy is a personal parenting decision. Nursing during pregnancy does not cause miscarriage, as some may think. Spontaneous miscarriage occurs in 16 to 30 percent of all pregnancies, which means that it can happen while nursing. It is not related to nursing and hopefully the mother will not burden herself with guilt thinking that nursing caused a miscarriage.

Increasing Lactation

Some women question how they can increase lactation, especially if their milk supply seems to be dwindling and they want to continue to nurse their baby. There are many ways to increase lactation - from herbal teas and nursing itself, to breast pumps and prescription medications. In order to ensure an abundant supply of milk, it is important to breastfeed between 8 to 12 times a day. Also, the baby should be offered both breasts at every feeding. Wait until the baby is finished nursing on one side and then switch to the other side to ensure the baby is receiving both foremilk and hindmilk. Avoid soothers and artificial nipples. If comfort is needed, put the baby to the breast. Pumping is a good way to increase milk, especially if the baby lacks interest or is unable to nurse for a period of time. Expressing milk using a breast pump 8 to 12 times a day increases the milk supply. Mother's Milk Tea and Fenugreek capsules are both natural ways to stimulate lactation and if, all else fails, there are medications which, when taken while stimulating the breasts, raise the level of prolactin which, in turn, increases milk supply.

Stopping Lactation

Conversely, if there is a need to stop lactation suddenly there will be physiological changes that can be painful. However, there are ways of stopping lactation that gradually reduce the milk supply while minimizing some of the effects of lactation cessation. By extending the period of time between expressing milk and taking out as little as possible each time, the milk supply will gradually decrease. Cutting down on salt means the body won't retain fluids, and taking Vitamin B6 helps to relieve engorgement. To obtain help with nursing, whether to increase or decrease milk supply or if there are other problems, the Le Leche League is an excellent resource center established especially for breastfeeding.

Lactation Without Pregnancy

Is it possible to experience lactation without pregnancy? Yes, it is. Wet nurses were, at one time, the saving grace for women who were unable to breastfeed their babies. These women maintained a milk supply to nurse babies without being pregnant themselves. Induced lactation is the result of breast stimulation and in some cases drugs are used along with stimulation to induce lactation. It is possible to induce lactation by just sucking on the nipples alone, but it takes a long time. Temporary use of milk-inducing drugs and herbs are less physically demanding ways to induce lactation. Once established, lactation will respond to demand.

Medical literature indicates accounts of male lactation, however, such incidents tend to be rare. There are more reports of men lactating in recent times and, while it is an oddity, it is possible. Men, as well as women, are able to lactate, but male lactation is usually the result of a hormonal imbalance.

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