I'm curious about this. I wonder if nursing moms average shorter gestations than non nursing moms. I know there's probably no data on this, and anecdotes about gestation legnth don't say much, but I'm still curious about other's thoughts on this.
Strictly anecdotal of course, but I had 4 pregnancies and although I nursed in 3, only one did I nurse all the way through, and he was born at 42 weeks. The others, all 37. No inductions. The last 2 were c/s for a high risk reason, but I did go into labor with all 4 naturally.
He was born 13 days early, the earliest of my four.
The placenta was kind of messy and I always thought that was the reason.
The last two weeks before I went into labor, I could not get enough food to eat. I drank a protein drink with raw milk, raw egg, brewer's yeast, veal bone meal, kelp every hour and still I was famished.
I exercised throughout the pregnancy. I pulled a muscle (piriformas and psoas) early in that pregnancy also, and I always thought that the fact that the lactation hormones were still in my system, my body and bones still had alot of "give" in them; so I thought the "sprain" pain may have been from those looser ligaments.
From my experience, no. I didn't nurse with my first, obviously, lol, and I was 4 days overdue (induction, poor choice). With my second, I was nursing my first, and he was 6 days overdue. With my third, my second weaned in June and I was due 11-27. I had my third on his due-date
So upon reading all the responses so far it really seems to be just the opposite of what I was first thinking.
Let me tell you my initial line of reasoning and the thoughts I've had since reading this thread.
So, we know that breast stimulation works as a form of induction. I agree that it generally only works when the baby/mother are ready for labor. My thought was if a woman is getting breast stimulation daily she is essentially giving a small shot at induction daily so she would theoretically go into labor *as soon as* she was ready.
BUT the anecdotal resposes indicate that this is probably not the case SO
I started thinking about how when I induced lactation just a little a few years ago my cycles immediately spaced out to be incredibly far apart and that in tracking my fertility and reading TCOYF I learned that my body was having several "false starts" to ovulation by making some estrogen, but not enough to reach the threshold necessary to actually ovulate.
Maybe there's a similar threshold with labor and nursing women have a higher level of oxytocin to reach for it to be effective. (I wonder how pit inductions go in nursing moms. . .)
THEN I thought a little more and I remembered that, duh, there are other hormones involved in the start of labor. Estrogen levels rise days before labor starts. In the presence of prolactin more estrogen is needed to do it's job--It would be NO WONDER for nursing women to have LONGER gestations than average if anything. Nursing might delay labor in a similar way that it prevents ovulation.
Talk about a 180!
I'd really like to see the effect of nursing on gestation legnth studied.
I believe there is actually a study that shows that women that nurse through pregnancy actually deliver later than women that don't. The theory is that they have decreased sensitivity to oxytocin, if I remember correctly.