I’m a Pregnant Teenager and I’m Thinking about Breastfeeding My Baby

Firstly, congratulations! Expecting a baby can be an intimidating and wonderful experience all at the same time! You might feel unsure about breastfeeding and a few other things too, and that’s understandable. A lot of mothers investigate whether breastfeeding is the best choice for them before they deliver! We’d like to discuss how breastfeeding is the natural choice for mothers.

Breastfeeding is part of the circle of fertility, pregnancy and birth, and it’s the next step in normal, healthy child rearing. It’s also the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to feed your new baby! Your baby is counting on you to make the best choices you can and nursing your baby is a big deal! Here are some general questions and answers about nursing your baby.

Q: Will breastfeeding keep me tied to the house?

No! Breastfeeding means no large bag full of bottles, formula, and water. It means a mom can travel easier, with less fuss and extra stuff to carry. Breastfeeding is less complicated than bottle feeding! If you are unsure about nursing in public you can look into buying an cheap nursing cover off a place like etsy, and you can practice at home to see how you feel. If you don’t like the idea of nursing in public at all, don’t worry about it, you can pump (or hand express) and offer breast milk by some other means when you are on outings. In many cases a mother can find a quiet area, away from people to nurse in. Whatever your level of comfort, there is a solution out there for you!

Q: I’m really worried breastfeeding will make my breasts sag!

Many girls and grown women worry about how they look. Lets talk about what happens to the breast during pregnancy and then after that we’ll talk about what happens during breastfeeding.

As a young child, even as a baby, there are milk ducts already in breast tissue; we are born with them! During pregnancy a girl develops more ducts, it’s called “canalization”. Milk ducts are the small vein like structures that allow milk to flow to the nipple for removal. You could imagine the ducts as straws, and imagine that a person has only maybe 10 before they get pregnant. By the end of pregnancy they would have a huge handful of straws. ( *Ducts are very small and the vision of them as straws is not accurate) This breast growth is part of the preparation to breastfeed! Lots of things in a mother’s body are happening while the baby is growing, and breast development is part of that changing time. A mom’s breast gets larger, and heavier/warmer feeling as pregnancy progresses just like a healthy pregnant woman of any age. After you wean (stop nursing) the amount of ducts goes back down to like before you breastfed.

The bulk of a mother’s breast change is going to occur during pregnancy, and whether you breastfeed or formula feed is not going to make any difference. Breastfeeding doesn’t cause sagging, but pregnancy can! Not much a mother can do about that! A research study done in 2008 by Rinker B. et all, said that, “Expectant mothers should be reassured that breastfeeding does not appear to have an adverse effect upon breast appearance.” You can read the abstract (summery) to the research here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19083576

Q: Can I drink or smoke cigarettes when I am breastfeeding?

Yes, but if you are going to drink, don’t breastfeed when you are drunk. (We’re assuming you are of legal age to drink or smoke in the state or providence you live in). Studies have found that light drinking, meaning one or two drinks a day is ok to do,  but do it after you nurse (so your baby doesn’t get milk that has high levels of alcohol in it). The good news is that alcohol is cleared from the blood and the breastmilk at almost the same time. If you are feeling mildly buzzed, but ok to walk, and think responsibly you are most likely fine to breastfeed as well.

Cigarette smoking is ok when you are breastfeeding, but you’ll need to do it as safely as you can. We have a whole article on smoking and breastfeeding on this website. A young mom may have heard that she can’t smoke and breastfeed together. It’s possible that the people talking to her haven’t read some the more current studies on it that say that it’s safer to smoke and breastfeed, than it is to smoke and formula feed!

If you are smoking it is not a good idea to sleep with your baby because that elevates the risk of Sudden Infant Death syndrome (SIDS). Make sure to wash your hands before your touch your baby after smoking, and try to limit any exposure to smoke through your own or someone else’s clothes.

If a mom can try and use smoking patches or quit, that’s the best solution. If quitting is not possible or she doesn’t want to, then she makes the best choices she can as a parent. This would mean that a mother breastfeed her baby before she smoked (not right after smoking when more of the nicotine would be in her body). If a mother is smoking marijuana it is important to remember that the drug will remain present in her baby for a long time, and that she may lose custody of the baby if CPS gets involved. It’s not worth the risk!

Q: Can I breastfeed if I want to use recreational drugs every once and while?

Abstaining from illegal drugs is the best choice when breastfeeding because street drugs are dangerous to an infant’s health. There are multiple medical sources such as, Medications and Mothers’s Milk by Dr. Hale that outline the seriousness of using while you are breastfeeding. Your baby doesn’t need to get high!

Q: How can I breastfeed if I’m still in school?

It sounds very difficult to manage a baby and school at the same time! Some people might tell a younger mom to leave her baby at home with a relative, but we think teen mom’s can make it work, and have their babies close to them at the same time. Start by talking to your school’s child education program, or see what is in place for people with children at your school. Is there a nursery? Who is in charge? If they are willing to let someone else place their child there, you can most likely place yours there too! A mother could go nurse her baby during a break between classes or at lunch! Consider talking to your instructors and see if you could arrive or leave early every once and while. Mothers can make it work! Breastfeeding is not an all or nothing condition, it can be flexible enough to let a mom get through school too!

Q: What will my friends think?

They might never have seen a mother nurse her baby, and they might be uncertain about it. How do you think your friends will feel? If you have a bestfriend that is interested in learning about it, talk to her/him about it! You might even take them to a class with you at the hospital ( if they offer one) so you don’t have to go alone, or consider contacting a non-profit organization such as Breastfeeding USA , La Leche League or a local breastfeeding coalition for more information. Many non-profits hold free breastfeeding support groups, and mothers of any age, ethnicity or religion are welcome! Breastfeeding is something only you can do for your baby!

Q: Do breastfeeding girls lose weight faster than formula feeding mothers?

In most cases the answer is yes! Breastfeeding a baby means that your body is busy making a special milk for your baby, and that means you use more calories during the day. There is energy contained in the milk itself, this energy comes from nutrients in your body! A Study done in 1993 has shown that ladies who breastfeed lose weight substantially faster than mothers who feed formula. A breastfeeding mother uses about an extra 400 calories a day!

There is a difference in teen mothers and fully grown mothers in this situation: because teen mothers are also building their own muscle and bone while pregnant and breastfeeding, radical diets and calorie reduction diets after you deliver are not recommend since it can effect the amount of milk you make. You can read about that here if you want to. Don’t force your body to choose between making milk and growing your body! Eat enough for you both, and the weight will still come off- even something like drinking water instead of soda will help the baby weight disappear. A healthy weight loss for a breastfeeding mother is no more than one pound a week. Easy does it!

Q: Can my body make enough milk, I’m pretty young.

That’s an understandable question for a girl to ask. Generally barring any medical complications, if your body is able to sustain a pregnancy, your body can make milk as well. Once your pregnancy is farther along you’ll probably notice that your bras are not fitting the way they used to. That’s a good sign that your body is getting ready to make milk. Once you deliver your baby, your first milk is already there in the form of colostrum. Colostrum is going to be the tiny gold droplets of milk that you see the first few days after you give birth (it won’t be white until a few days after you have your baby). There isn’t much at first, but your baby is very small and your body is doing what it is supposed to do. Everyone starts out with a small amount of milk that increases in amount slowly as your baby nurses more.

Q: How long do I have to breastfeed for?

That’s up to you, you’re the parent! If you aren’t sure about it, think about giving it a try for a few days or weeks to see how it goes. If your baby likes it, you can nurse as long as you want to! The current guidelines in the USA are that a mother breastfeeds her baby with no offering of solids until her baby is 6 months old, then she breastfeeds and offers solids as needed for the next 6 months. That’s a total of 1 year, but larger worldwide organizations say that the smallest amount of time is two years of nursing. Really, it all depends on what works for you and your baby. In some Nations, like the Shoshoni they nursed their babies for about 2 years without offering solids or anything else until the baby could eat regular adult food. According to a study done about 25 years ago by Schaefer (1973) indigenous Canadian people nursed their babies to age 3-4 years old. Many clans feel that a mother offers her baby the collective knowledge of her people through her milk. Some indigenous people believe that you are not truly native if you have not been breastfed.

Q: Why is it so important to breastfeed, isn’t formula feeding almost the same?

Formula feeding is not the same as breastfeeding! Formula contains a bunch of nutrients blended together, but it is missing all of the living parts of your milk, such as your immune system antibodies and other protective things! Your milk works to protect and nourish your baby in a way that formula will never mange to do. Formula is a bad tasting (try it you’ll see for yourself) substandard product compared to what you are able to make! There is a recent study that came out that talks about the lower test scores of children that are formula fed. Your body is amazing!

Q: Will my baby sleep more if I formula feed?

I’m sorry, in most cases the answer is no. Most newborns spend a lot of time asleep -but not at night like we’d appreciate. When they are young they have their sleep schedules opposite of their parents, it takes a month or so before you’ll see less night waking. Most newborn babies sleep during the day and are easier to wake at night. It’s a protective feature since their bodies need lots of love and care when they are young. You can be assured that getting up to warm a bottle at 3 am is way harder than sitting up to breastfeed your baby. There is a lot less time mixing, measuring, warming and washing supplies when you breastfeed! Breastfeeding mothers often report that they fall back to sleep easier and faster when they night nurse.

Q: Do other teenage mothers nurse too?

They do, it happens all the time! Our foremothers often had babies starting at a very young age, maybe even younger than you and our people were all breastfed! A teenage mother is just as effective as a mother of any other age, she may have more energy and better health too! When you are thinking about breastfeeding, imagine that you can make changes here and there to how you make it work for you and your baby, and your boyfriend/partner or family. The important detail here is that your baby expects to be breastfed, he or she will be born looking for the breast right after birth, and it will be a deep and emotional connection for your baby! It will be more than just eating, it will be the center of the world snuggling with the most important person on earth; Mommy.

You can do it!

*Native Mothering recommends that you consult with your health care provider before attempting to take any medications or drugs while breastfeeding. This article is meant to share information and ideas, and is not meant to be used for diagnosing or treating any medical condition. This article is not meant to replace medical advice.

(C) Serena Meyer–All Rights Reserved


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One Response to I’m a Pregnant Teenager and I’m Thinking about Breastfeeding My Baby

  1. Pingback: Help for all Native Mothers! | creebreastfeeding

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