Can you breastfeed during pregnancy? Women have been getting pregnant and breastfeeding while pregnant for a long time. There are a few risks but most women can do it without any issues.
I consulted the La Leche League to see what the current recommendations are for breastfeeding during pregnancy and they confirmed it is perfectly safe.
Things to consider and common concerns
It is important to eat reasonably well. You will most likely need additional calories for breastfeeding in addition to your extra pregnancy calories. One doctor told me that I needed 600 extra calories a day while breastfeeding and pregnant!
But don't worry if you are suffering from nausea and having trouble eating much. Your body will use your nutrients for your unborn baby first and hopefully you can eat more once you feel better.
Some women may find breastfeeding during pregnancy exhausting or difficult while dealing with nausea and pregnancy fatigue. It may just feel like too much to continue breastfeeding while going through pregnancy discomforts.
Some women may experience nipple pain or breast tenderness in early pregnancy which can make breastfeeding uncomfortable.
Milk supply does usually start to decrease and by four to five months of pregnancy some women's milk may disappear all together. If your baby is under a year old you will need to watch weight gain and supplement if needed.
Some babies do wean once the milk supply goes down. In some cases the taste of the milk can change leading to weaning as well.
Other babies and toddlers are happy to nurse throughout your pregnancy and go on to tandem nurse.
When it may be a risk
Most of the concern related to breastfeeding during pregnancy centers on the fact that breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin which causes uterine contractions.
The amount of oxytocin released during nursing is not enough to cause the cervix to open before it it ready. It is not enough to cause a miscarriage or premature labor.
For healthy women with a low risk pregnancy there is no reason to wean unless you want to. If you have a history of miscarriage, premature labor, or any pelvic issues then consult with your doctor and make sure breastfeeding during pregnancy is safe for you.
My personal experience. Bad advice?
I was still breastfeeding my daughter when I got pregnant again. So not only can you breastfeed while pregnant, you definitely can get pregnant again while breastfeeding.
While I was excited to get pregnant, I was not ready to wean. I had done a little research and knew it was considered safe in most cases but the internet is full of conflicting information so I still felt a little nervous.
I decided to run it by my OB/GYN to make myself feel better. I was very surprised when I got a call back from the nurse saying that the doctor she spoke to said breastfeeding while pregnant can cause miscarriage and I need to wean immediately. I was really upset and traumatized to get this info. I felt sick and worried the whole evening after getting this call.
Almost everything I had read said breastfeeding while pregnant is fine so I was pretty confused. I could not just wean my daughter abruptly. She was past a year old but she refused to drink cow's milk and still relied on nursing for comfort in a big way. I was not opposed to weaning if needed but I did not want to do anything abrupt.
I didn't sleep at all that night and was really upset. My OB's practice has four doctors so I decided to call back the next day and ask for a second opinion. The nurse spoke to another doctor who said it was okay to continue breastfeeding and definitely not to wean yet.
While I felt much better after getting that confirmation it was still disturbing that the same office could dole out such differing advice. It caused me to feel nervous when I hadn't been before but I decided not to wean and everything turned out fine.
Once I had my first prenatal appointment I spoke with another doctor who also confirmed it was fine to continue breastfeeding. I don't know what that first doc was thinking but I never got to ask her. I can only assume that she was looking at outdated information that cites uterine contractions as a risk factor.
While I did experience a little bit of soreness while nursing it was not unbearable at all. I continued to breastfeed until I was about four months along and my daughter weaned herself. My milk supply did go down a bit but it was not enough for me to notice. I believe she weaned due to a change in the milk taste.
I would have loved to breastfeed her longer and sometimes wonder if getting pregnant shortened things. In the end it was a very peaceful weaning experience and I was happy to have a small break before nursing my newborn.
At my 20 week ultrasound I found out that I had placenta previa or low placenta. This is something I had in my first pregnancy as well. So at that point it may have been recommended I wean anyway due to being placed on pelvic rest. I never noticed any issues from breastfeeding while pregnant despite the low placenta. That is just anecdotal, but it shows me it is most likely very safe.
Breastfeeding during pregnancy is not only doable it is also safe in most cases. I really enjoyed continuing to breastfeed even while pregnant. It showed me what my body is capable of to nourish two babies at once in different ways.
There is a great book out there called Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond by author Hilary Flower. She discusses her experiences and research with breastfeeding during pregnancy.
Please let me know if you have any questions about breastfeeding during pregnancy and I will be happy to answer them.