The Truth You Need: Can You Breastfeed While Pregnant?

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Pregnant Mother And Son At Home

Can I Breastfeed While Pregnant

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When my second child was around 15 months, I discovered I was pregnant with my third child, and my toddler was still actively breastfeeding while pregnant. I had to decide whether or not I wanted to breastfeed. My husband and I had a discussion, and we decided that my son wasn’t ready to wean, so I would try to continue to breastfeed throughout the pregnancy.

It was a journey I didn’t expect to experience, but it turned into a lovely six months of tandem breastfeeding two children. My second and third children have been best friends since the start, and it all started as they held hands breastfeeding together.

Are you debating whether you want to breastfeed while pregnant? Keep on reading to find out the truth, not what the rumors tell you!

Yes! I can personally tell you that, in most cases, breastfeeding while pregnant is safe. My OBGYN shared with me that she breastfed both of her children until they were three years, including a year of tandem nursing her boys. If my OBGYN breastfed while pregnant, that means you can as well! The only worry would be that breastfeeding while pregnant might cause mild uterine contractions. However, in most healthy pregnancies, these contractions aren’t a concern and won’t lead to preterm labor. Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which stimulates contractions. Breastfeeding releases such small amounts that it shouldn’t cause preterm labor. These contractions are harmless to the fetus.

Why You Need to Talk to Your Doctor?

Talking to your doctor is always the best choice if you have any concerns about the safety of breastfeeding while pregnant. Your doctor can let you know if it’s a cause of concern or if you don’t fit into the high-risk category that might require weaning.

Who Should Not Breastfeed While Pregnant?

While breastfeeding while pregnant is safe in most cases, there are a few situations in which weaning might be the best choice. 

Here are a few of those situations:

  • If you have a high-risk pregnancy
  • You’re at risk for preterm labor
  • If you are carrying multiples
  • Your doctor told you to avoid sex while pregnant
  • If you have bleeding or uterine pain

Can Breastfeeding While Pregnant Cause Miscarriages?

Many opinions conflict about whether or not breastfeeding while pregnant causes miscarriages. No research has ever proven that it causes an increased risk of miscarriages in women who continue breastfeeding throughout pregnancy.

Outdated advice told women to stop nursing when they became pregnant again. Doctors were concerned that breastfeeding could deprive the baby of the vital nutrients needed for growth or might stimulate uterine contractions.

Will Breastfeeding During Pregnancy Affect the Upcoming Baby?

It’s normal to be concerned that breastfeeding while pregnant might have effects on your unborn baby. No evidence supports that idea that continuing to breastfeed deprives our baby of nutrients that are necessary for growth.

In fact, a study in 2012 compared full-term delivery baby weights between pregnant women who breastfed during pregnancy and those who did not breastfeed. Birth weight was unaffected by breastfeeding.

What Challenges You Might Face Breastfeeding While Pregnant?

Breastfeeding while pregnant has benefits, but it also presents specific challenges during this time. You might still include nausea, but nausea might be triggered by letdown during breastfeeding.

Here are some ways that breastfeeding during pregnancy by affect the mother.

1. Your Milk Supply Might Change

When you’re breastfeeding, your supply starts to decrease around 4 or 5 months because it regulates to produce just what your baby needs. Around six months, your baby will begin to eat solid foods as well.

Pregnancy can alter your supply even further. Throughout pregnancy, my supply dropped by half or more. I was nursing a toddler who ate table foods and didn’t rely on breast milk for his sole nutrition. If I was nursing a younger infant who needed those calories, it might have meant that I needed to supplement.

When baby arrives, your milk will switch to colostrum, and it’s essential that you limit your older child’s feedings during this time. Your newborn needs as much of the colostrum as possible. For me, that was easy because I was in the hospital, but if you’re home, that might be trickier.

2. Add Extra Calories and Water

Breastfeeding requires that you add more nutrients to your diet, so if you decide to breastfeed while pregnant, you need to make sure you eat well for yourself, your nursing child, and your unborn child. You should consume around 500 additional calories each day if your child is eating other foods aside from breast milk. If your child is only relying on breast milk, then increase your calories to 650 per day.

As your pregnancy advances, you need to add an extra 350 calories during the second trimester and 450 extra calories in the third trimester.

Don’t forget to drink even more water. A pregnant woman needs to drink around 10 to 13 cups of water each day, but you need to add more if you’re breastfeeding. A lack of fluids can cause you to become dehydrated, which is dangerous during pregnancy. Also, it can cut your breast milk supply down. If you want to keep up your supply, make sure you’re drinking fluids often.

3. Pamper Your Breasts and Nipples

You might remember the incredibly sore nipples that you had during your first pregnancy. Don’t think that it will go away because you’re breastfeeding. Three-quarters of pregnant women will experience sore nipples during their pregnancy, and that might mean you have to find ways to alleviate that discomfort while still breastfeeding your toddler.

Since tenderness will be part of pregnancy, taking care of your breasts and nipples is essential. Use lanolin to help soothe your sore nipples and try hydrogel pads to get some relief.

4. Your Breast Milk Might Change

Your nursing child might notice a change in your breast milk. Some women have no idea that the taste and composition of their milk changes a bit when you’re on your period, and it will change when you’re pregnant as well. Breast milk continues to be nutritionally beneficial throughout pregnancy, but the content might change. Your nursing child might not like the new taste, causing him to wean on his or her own before the new baby is born.

5. Extra Tired

During pregnancy, it’s normal to need extra rest. Your body is growing a baby, and that takes a lot of energy, even if you’ve just sat around all day. Breastfeeding during pregnancy will mean that you’re even more tired, so getting extra rest will be necessary. Try taking naps with your toddler.

Should You Wean Your Child When You Are Pregnant?

Now might be the time for you to decide if your older child is ready to wean. Many factors go into this decision such as the age of your older child, his personality, and nursing patterns. Because your supply might lessen during pregnancy, if your child is under a year old, you might have to consider supplementation.

If at any point, you start to feel resentment towards your older child or begin to dread nursing him, it’s time to consider weaning. Pregnancy and postpartum emotions can be challenging, and you don’t want to harbor any negative feelings towards your child.

How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Child?

Breastfeeding while pregnant can take a lot of out of you, so you need to take care of yourself. Take time to rest and to be by yourself if you need. Leave your child with your partner and go places by yourself. Self-care is important.

Make sure that you’re eating well. I do suggest that you night wean if you want to breastfeed while pregnant and after. Nursing two children at night is a daunting task, and your body needs all the rest it can get while you’re pregnant. Night weaning can be tricky, and its best done in a slow approach. The Jay Gordon method of night weaning is as gentle as it gets!

Tandem Nursing - Breastfeeding Two Children at Once

Breastfeeding throughout pregnancy leads to tandem nursing unless you wean before baby arrives. You might never have imagined nursing two children at once, but it can be a beautiful journey. Many moms who tandem breastfeed notice a smoother transition when a new baby arrives with less jealousy.

That was our experience with tandem nursing, and it was one of the reasons why our pediatrician encouraged giving it a try. Our toddler adjusted quickly to his new sibling.

Most women want to know what tandem nursing will look like and how they can make it happen. It can be daunting to nurse one child, adding in a second has to be even harder, right?

Tandem nursing does have challenges, but let’s talk about a few of the benefits of tandem breastfeeding first.

1. Your Milk Arrives Faster

For most women, your milk supply arrives around three to five days after the birth of your baby. However, those women who are tandem nursing find that their milk supply comes between 24 to 48 hours post birth. By the time I left the hospital with my third child at 48 hours post birth, my milk supply was in transition, and the baby was actively gaining weight already.

2. Toddlers Help With Engorgement

Those first few weeks after your milk supply arrives can be torturous. Engorgement is no fun, but tandem nursing helps to stop the engorgement. You have a baby and a toddler to nurse, both who are happy to empty your breasts often. Say bye-bye to engorgement pain!

3. Less of a Risk of Clogged Ducts

Toddlers are like little vacuums. They’re much more efficient at nursing than their newborn sibling who is still figuring out the nursing ropes. Clogged ducts are painful and frequent in the first four months after childbirth and breastfeeding because moms are engorged and might not be able to empty their breasts fully.

Toddlers are quite effective at removing clogged ducts. If I felt like I had a clogged duct developing, I would nurse my toddler on that side while massaging the clogged area. The clog never lasted long.

4. It Decreases Jealousy Between Siblings

Adding a new child to the mix is never an easy time, and the older siblings do struggle. With the birth of my third child, I noticed that even my oldest had a weird transition time.

Tandem nursing keeps your toddler actively involved with you, doing something they love. They get to share with their new sibling, and I found some of the sweetest interactions happening during nursing sessions. My son would cover the baby with a blanket and kiss her head. He loved to hold her hand while nursing, staring at her and touching her face. It developed into a loving relationship with infrequent fighting – for now.

5 Tips for Tandem Nursing You Should Know

If you want to tandem breastfeed, here are some practical tips I learned along the way.

1. Newborn Takes Priority

In the beginning, your newborn should take priority. Baby needs the colostrum and first shot at the milk. How you breastfeed will depend on your supply and if your baby needs both breasts to get full. For me, I nurse one breast at each session so that I could nurse my toddler on the opposite side.

However, another option is to nurse one at a time or to put your toddler on the breast after your switch sides. He will be able to drain more milk that your newborn left behind.

2. Expect Child to Nurse More

Nursing with a sibling is a novelty, and the baby is sharing his precious milk. Most mothers who tandem nurse notice that their toddler suddenly wants to nurse more than ever before. For the first week or two, my son wanted to nurse almost every time I nursed my newborn.

Don’t worry; it’s not permanent. It’s just a new change, and the newness will wear off. Eventually, he will get back to bigger, more important tasks like eating all the snacks in the house and destroying his toys.

A word of warning: when your toddler starts to drink more breast milk, expect his poops to change as well. Nothing is wrong! It just changes the composition of his poop until his digestive system adjusts or he reduces nursing one again.

3. Assigns Breasts Only if Contagious

You don’t have to worry about regulating your children to a specific breast. I never cleaned off my breasts or anything. It works out fine. However, if one of your children is sick, it’s best to keep each baby to a specific breast so that you don’t risk exposing the new baby to illness. That’s the only time you need to worry.

4. Revisit Your Decision

The decision to tandem nurse isn’t permanent. If you decide that it’s not working for you, you can start to decrease how much you allow your toddler to nurse. Try the “don’t offer, don’t deny” method and offer plenty of fun distractions. If he asks, you let him nurse, but don’t bring the offer to him. Try nursing the baby in places he might not notice, so long as he is supervised still!

5. It’s Okay to Set Limits

Last, it’s okay to set some limits. I didn’t nurse my toddler out of the house unless we were at a relative’s home. Nursing was for at home for him because it was for comfort. You can have whatever limits or a lack of boundaries; it’s up to you.

Give It a Try

I never pictured myself breastfeeding while pregnant or tandem nursing, but I did it. It’s an experience I don’t regret trying, and it led to some of the best memories. Remember that breastfeeding while pregnant is safe so long as you aren’t high-risk. It doesn’t increase the risk of miscarriage!

Have you ever breastfeed while pregnant? Let us know in the comments.

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