As your baby is still young and breastfed you may plan another pregnancy or find out you’re expecting again. Either way, the reasonable question about breastfeeding will occur.
Can you continue to breastfeed while pregnant? This is one of the most common concerns for mothers. Here’s all you need to know.
Do You Have to Wean?
There’s no need to wean just because you’re pregnant. Studies show that it is safe to continue breastfeeding while pregnant without causing any harm to your breastfed baby.
The only reason why moms would want to opt for weaning is the physical discomfort they may get during the nursing session. The nipples become more sensitive and the let down may be felt as too intense and painful.
However, if you are worried about going to a preterm labor, I will get things straight right away – you won’t!
Is Breastfeeding While Pregnant Safe?
Breastfeeding does help a slow labor process to progress due to the hormone oxytocin that is released while nursing. This hormone is also known to induce labor. However, the amount of oxytocin released within a breastfeeding session is too little to make your cervix open before it is actually ready.
The same works for sex. Because during the intercorse , your body produces oxytocin as well. And we all know that sex is considered safe withing the whole period of pregnancy (if your doctor doesn’t say otherwise!) and that the advice of having regular sex to induce labor when you’re close to the due date or overdue is actually not helping, too.
So, breastfeeding is considered safe even during the last couple of months of pregnancy.
However, when you find out you’re expecting again, it is important to talk to your doctor about your health condition.
There are some situations that need extra attention and care, for example, if you’re having twins or you’re at the risk of a miscarriage / preterm labor. In this case, your health care provider should assess the possible risks and help you make the right decision about whether to breastfeed or not.
Why Weaning May Be Recommended
Your doctor may advise you to stop breastfeeding if:
You have a high-risk pregnancy
You have had a history of miscarriage
Your baby was born premature
You have vaginal bleeding
You’re carrying more than one baby
You are not gaining a healthy amount of weight
How Breastfeeding Affects the Child You Are Carrying
It is a known fact that breast milk contains all the nutrients to meet your child’s needs. Breast milk composition changes according to different stages of your baby’s development. Breastfeeding is a risk factor for a mom to develop some nutrient deficiencies if she doesn’t pay attention to her diet and/or take vitamins.
Having said that, pregnancy is another high-demanding process that requires a lot of resources from a woman’s body. When pregnancy and breastfeeding are in tandem, you should be extra careful to ensure your body gets everything it needs to support these processes.
There are some things you should keep in mind:
- Your body requires certain nutrients to support breast milk production and healthy fetus development, so make sure your diet is healthy and well-balanced. Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods. Don’t forget that you need roughly around 500-600 extra calories. Drink enough fluid and get plenty of rest.
- It is quite common that pregnancy and breastfeeding may affect your ferritin storage and cause anemia. Another health problem women may encounter postpartum is thyroid issues. Make sure to order a regular blood test to monitor your levels. In this case, you would want to view CBC, ferritin, transferrin, TSH, free T4 & T3, Anti-TPO.
- If you follow a diet, like vegetarian or vegan or some food protocols, like fodmap/paleo/autoimmune or elimination diet, talk to a nutritionist to ensure you get all the required nutrients and eat enough calories.
- Don’t skip regular prenatal check-ups. Your doctor will tell you if you gain enough weight.
How a New Pregnancy Affects Your Breastfeeding Child
It’s important to note that pregnancy will cause changes to your breast milk, making it less fatty. This will not cause problems if your breastfed baby is over one year old. Their body is already used to getting nutrients from solid foods.
However, if your baby is too young, you take into consideration the changes of your breast milk composition to make sure your growing baby will get all required nutrients for healthy development.
Milk supply and colostrum
Basically, while your pregnancy is progressing, breast milk will transform from the matured milk rich in nutrients and fat back to colostrum.
A few things to cover about colostrum:
- It’s rich in antibodies and nutrients, so your breastfed baby will only benefit from it.
- Colostrum has less lactose (milk sugar) which means that it will taste less sweet. More to that, it also has a richer sodium content, which makes it saltier. The changes in taste of the milk may affect your baby’s desire to breastfeed and they would want to wean naturally. You can use it as a bonus because by the end of the pregnancy your nipples may get extra sensitive which will make breastfeeding hardly manageable and unenjoyable.
- Colostrum has laxative properties. It helps your newborn to have their first bowel movement. Thus, your older breastfed child may have episodes of loose stool.
A few things to know about milk supply:
- During pregnancy milk production is likely to drop significantly (this usually happens around the fifth month)
- Because of the decrease in milk production, the flow of milk can be slower as well. Your child may be a little frustrated, may nurse less or wean completely.
- The production of breast milk decreases during pregnancy due to hormones. Frequent feeding and/or pumping will not help you to increase milk supply (as it would, if you weren’t expecting).
- If your baby is under one year old, see a pediatrician to track his/her weight gain and talk about implementing other strategies of feeding, if necessary.
How a New Pregnancy Affects Breastfeeding Moms
Breastfeeding during pregnancy is usually not without a challenge.
These are the most common problems moms encounter with:
- Breastfeeding while pregnant may exacerbate your exhaustion/irritability within the first trimester.
- It may also make your nipples painful and sore.
- The letdown can be felt much more intense and bring discomfort as well.
- Nursing may worsen the symptoms of morning sickness.
Coping strategies when you are not enjoying breastfeeding during pregnancy
- It’s okay to not like it – just admitting this fact makes things easier.
- It is also okay to wean if you feel too much discomfort (even if your baby is under 12 months old).
- Here are some great tips on how to cope with breast pain while breastfeeding.
- Try different nursing positions.
- Ensure a deep latch.
- Wear a supportive bra.
- Keep your child away from distractions while nursing to eliminate the pulling of the nipples.
- Breastfeed while lying down so that you can take a nap and restore your energy.
- Offer your child some snacks to cut down on breastfeeding sessions.
- Limit the time of one breastfeeding session to what is comfortable (and bearable!) for you.
- Opt for a balanced diet and never skip a meal. Try to eat protein and healthy fats every meal to balance your blood sugar.