Congratulations, you’re pregnant again! But wait, you’re still breastfeeding your first baby.
You might be wondering, ‘Can I breastfeed while pregnant?’
The short answer is yes.
It’s perfectly safe for a pregnant women to continue to nurse her baby throughout her pregnancy.
What happens for you depends on your individual circumstances but, regardless, it helps to be fully informed.
Here is some helpful information to be aware of if you are 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
If you have been told you have a high risk pregnancy, or could be giving birth prematurely (e.g. a mother expecting multiples), it’s recommended you discuss your individual situation with your doctor. This is because the nipple stimulation from breastfeeding during pregnancy can cause mild uterine contractions.
If you experience uterine pain while you are pregnant, seek advice from your health care team.
As stated, for a healthy pregnancy, there is no evidence to suggest that breastfeeding while pregnant can cause any harm to an unborn baby or result in pregnancy loss.
#2. A drop in breast milk supply is common
Due to pregnancy hormones, many women notice that their breast milk supply decreases during pregnancy.
The decreased milk supply often occurs, despite continued or increased breastfeeding frequency. However, if a child does not breastfeed as frequently, this will reduce breast milk supply even more.
#3. Sore nipples are common during pregnancy
Nipple tenderness is often one of the first signs that you might be pregnant. Typically, this tenderness resolves after the first trimester, although some mothers experience soreness with breastfeeding throughout the pregnancy.
There is a significant difference in the degree of nipple tenderness experienced by women who breastfeed while pregnant.
This can be partly due to the age of their baby.
The mother of an older nursing child, who is also eating solid foods, might not be as bothered by sore nipples as an exclusive breastfeeding mother who has more frequent and longer nursing times.
The following tips can help minimize pregnancy-related nipple tenderness while breastfeeding:
- Adjust positioning and attachment so that you feel more comfortable
- If your child is old enough, you could negotiate shorter nursing times
- Distract yourself during breastfeeding, to help take your mind off the pain – for example, read a book, watch TV, listen to music or find other relaxation strategies.
#4. Some mothers experience nausea due to pregnancy hormones
Some mothers find that breastfeeding while pregnant can trigger a sensation of nausea, over and above regular morning sickness – especially when their breast milk lets down.
However, other pregnant mothers seem to suffer less morning sickness overall when they breastfeed. Indeed, some mothers report their morning sickness increased when they weaned.
It can be overwhelming to care for your child when you feel nauseous and tired. Eating enough healthy calories each day can help reduce nausea.
Try different breastfeeding positions; those where your baby is not resting on your tummy might be better. For example, you might like to try breastfeeding while lying down.
#5. The right time to stop breastfeeding is a personal decision
Pregnancy makes some mothers think about weaning their child, especially if the pregnancy has caused discomfort for them or their breastfeeding baby. Some mothers feel irritable at the thought of continuing breastfeeding during pregnancy.
These feelings vary greatly between mothers and are mainly due to hormonal changes.
It’s important that you take your own needs into account if you wish to stop breastfeeding. Only you know what is best for you and your baby.
For more information, you can read BellyBelly’s article Weaning From Breastfeeding – A Gentle Approach.
Some children wean gradually and naturally as the new pregnancy progresses, but might resume breastfeeding once the new baby is born.
Other children continue to breastfeed throughout pregnancy and then tandem feed with their sibling.
#6. You might end up tandem nursing both your new baby and an older child
‘Tandem feeding’ means breastfeeding two children at the same time.
Tandem nursing mothers might breastfeed the new baby and older baby together or at separate times.
Many mothers find that tandem nursing can help to:
- Minimize engorgement, as your older nursing child might initially breastfeed more effectively than your newborn baby
- Allow you to get more rest, because you can breastfeed both children while lying down
- Meet the needs of your new baby and older child at the same time
- Reduce the likelihood of your new baby and your older child becoming sick
- Provide emotional support for the older child.
#7. Your breast milk will become more like colostrum
When your new baby arrives, your milk production will adjust to meet the baby’s needs.
This means your breast milk will change and become more like colostrum.
The colostrum tastes saltier than breast milk and this might encourage your older baby to wean, at least for a while.
The change in taste, however, doesn’t seem to bother some children.
Many mothers notice that their child’s bowel motions become looser at this time because colostrum is a natural laxative; it helps the newborn to pass meconium. This will not harm your older child at all. You can continue breastfeeding for as long as you both choose.
Whether not to breastfeed during pregnancy and beyond is an individual decision, based on your own feelings and individual circumstances.
The above information might help to make your decision easier.