So, you’re pregnant again. But, wait, you’re also still breastfeeding! Is it safe to be breastfeeding while pregnant?
“Should you still be doing that?”
“Won’t it cause harm to your unborn baby?”
Do any of these questions sound familiar to you? Or, perhaps people haven’t asked any of these questions but you’re just curious yourself.
The short answer is that a mother can continue breastfeeding while pregnant. What happens for you depends on your individual circumstances but regardless, it’s helps to be fully informed.
There are several things you may not be aware of to do with breastfeeding during pregnancy.
Breastfeeding while pregnant
Here are 7 things you need to know about breastfeeding while pregnant:
#1: There Is NO Evidence That Breastfeeding During Pregnancy Is Unsafe
There is no evidence, at least for healthy mothers with no history of pre-term labour or miscarriage, that breastfeeding while pregnant is unsafe for mothers or their unborn babies, or that it induces pre-term labour. It’s suggested however, that a mother discuss her own situation with her doctor.
If a woman is breastfeeding during pregnancy and does miscarry, it’s unlikely to be due to the breastfeeding.
#2: A Supply Drop Is Common
Due to hormones associated with pregnancy, many mother’s notice that their breastmilk supply decreases during pregnancy. The decrease in breastmilk supply often occurs despite continued or increased breastfeeding frequency. However, if a child does not breastfeed as frequently, this will reduce supply even more.
#3: Nipple Tenderness Is Common During Pregnancy
Nipple tenderness is often one of the first signs that you may be pregnant. Typically this resolves after the first trimester, although some mothers experience soreness with breastfeeding throughout pregnancy.
The following tips can help minimise pregnancy related nipple tenderness while breastfeeding:
- Adjust positioning and attachment so that it feels more comfortable
- If your child is old enough, you could shorten breastfeeding sessions
- Distract yourself during breastfeeding to help take your mind off the pain (e.g. reading a book, watching TV, listening to music or other relaxation strategies)
#4: Some Mothers Experience Nausea
Some mothers find that breastfeeding while pregnant can trigger a sensation of nausea over and above regular morning sickness, especially at let-down.
However, other mothers seem to suffer less morning sickness over all when they breastfeed. Indeed, some mothers report that their morning sickness increased when they weaned.
It can be overwhelming to care for your child when you feel nauseas and tired. Eating a healthy snack when you feel like you can eat and finding more comfortable breastfeeding positions can help reduce nausea. Trying breastfeeding positions where your baby is not resting on your tummy can help. For example, you may like to try breastfeeding lying down.
#5: The Right Time To Wean Is Individual
For some mothers, pregnancy makes them think about weaning their child, especially if it makes breastfeeding an uncomfortable experience. Some mothers feel irritable in relation to their child continuing to breastfeed. These feelings vary greatly between mothers and are mainly due to hormonal changes. It’s important that you take your own needs into account with breastfeeding decisions.
Some children wean gradually and naturally as the new pregnancy progresses, but may resume once the new baby is born.
Other children continue to breastfeed throughout pregnancy and then tandem feed with their sibling.
#6: You May End Up Tandem Feeding
‘Tandem feeding’ describes concurrent breastfeeding of siblings who are not twins. The children may feed together or at separate times.
Many mothers find that tandem feeding can help to:
- Minimise engorgement
- Get more rest because you can breastfeed both children while lying down
- Meet your older child’s and your baby’s needs at the same time
- Reduce the likelihood of your baby and your older child becoming sick
- Provide emotional support for the older child
#7: It’s Likely Your Breastmilk Will Become More Like Colostrum
When breastfeeding while pregnant, it’s likely your breastmilk will change later in pregnancy to become more like colostrum. Nonetheless, some mothers who continue breastfeeding during pregnancy decide to restrict their child to one breast in late pregnancy to ensure at least the other breast reverts to making colostrum.
The taste of colostrum is saltier than breastmilk and this may encourage some children to wean, at least for a while. For other children, the taste change doesn’t seem to bother them. Many mothers notice that their child’s bowel motions become looser at this time because colostrum is a natural laxative (to help the newborn to pass meconium). This will not harm your child at all.
Mothers Stories Of Breastfeeding During Pregnancy
Here are some quotes from mothers who have breastfed during pregnancy:
“My first child was around 2 when I fell pregnant with my second child. By about 12 weeks I couldn’t hand express even a drop. My first child’s bowel motions over the next few months became more runny, presumably due to the colostrum-like milk she was obviously able to remove, that I couldn’t hand express.”
“My son was about 2.5 when I fell pregnant with my daughter and he was able to tell me about how my supply was reducing and the taste was changing. When I hand expressed a little (just to have a look) it certainly looked like colostrum by around 20 weeks. Didn’t stop my boy. He loved it but weaned soon after my milk came in after my daughter’s birth.”
“What happened for me was that my supply took a dip in the second trimester and then I suddenly was making colostrum in some milk ducts and mature milk in others. It was pretty strange to be able to express both in the same breast (some of the holes had the sticky yellow colostrum, and then some holes put out the white mature milk). My supply started coming back the closer it was to delivery.”
“I am nursing my 35 month old and am now 29 weeks pregnant. For me, I saw no difference in my milk or supply until about 16 weeks, then I pretty much dried up until about 20 weeks. At 20 weeks, I started producing colostrum and have been doing so ever since. My biggest problem has been the increased pain that I feel while nursing; however, I’m pretty happy that I’m already making lots of colostrum to feed the new baby. My 35 month old has not been bothered by any of the changes, either, though I know some nurslings are.”
“I’m currently 34 weeks pregnant and my 3 year old is nursing. I lost my milk around 19 weeks (thought she would wean, but nope) and my colostrum just came in at about 32 weeks.”
“I breastfed my second child while pregnant with number 3. I then tandem nursed for one year. Why would I want to take away such a comfort while changing her world by adding to the family? A huge bonus when your milk comes in is that you have someone with a bigger appetite to help relieve your engorgement. This was my favorite benefit to tandem nursing an infant and a toddler.”
“I am seven months pregnant my 19 month old who still nurses. My milk supply dropped a little over a month ago and then switched to colostrum. My little girl hasn’t minded at all. I plan on tandem nursing.”
The decision to breastfeed during pregnancy and beyond is an individual decision based on your individual circumstances. Hopefully the above information has helped make your decisions easier.