Breastfeeding During Pregnancy: Your Questions Answered

Your first born is heading steadfast down the path to toddlerhood, and you find your heart aching at the sight of every random infant you see at the grocery store. You’re seriously thinking about and discussing “baby #2” with your partner, but there’s one little problem: your toddler is still breastfeeding with no end in sight. So many questions are running through your head.

“Can I even get pregnant while breastfeeding?”  

 “Will breastfeeding take important nutrients out of my body that are necessary to aid in a healthy pregnancy?”

   “Will pregnancy make my milk supply dwindle?”     

“Will I be too tired to breastfeed during pregnancy?”   

“Will I have trouble gaining enough weight if I breastfeed during pregnancy?”  

“Will breastfeeding during pregnancy induce labor or cause early miscarriage?”

“Will I be able to tandem breastfeed if it comes down to it?”

 

“Can I even get pregnant while breastfeeding?”

Yes! Many women are misinformed that they cannot get pregnant while breastfeeding, but that is simply not true. This myth is supported mainly by the fact that weaning, changes in or the end of breastfeeding are usually shortly followed by a woman’s first postpartum menstrual cycle and the return of her fertility. The truth is, you can get pregnant during your body’s very first post-pregnancy ovulatory cycle.  Some women actually use early breastfeeding as a form of birth control. This method is called Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM), and is considered to be 98-99.5% effective in preventing pregnancy as long as its three main conditions are followed:

  • The breastfeeding baby is 6 months old or younger
  • Your menstrual cycle has not yet returned since having your baby
  • Your baby is exclusively breastfeeding consistently both day and night

However, here’s where things get tricky. While it is rare, some women ovulate for the first time postpartum without menstruating. In this situation, it is possible to get pregnant while practicing LAM. It is important to note, however, that postpartum ovulation without menstruation is more likely to occur if your cycle returns later and postpartum menstruation without ovulation is more likely to occur if your cycle returns early.

While every woman’s body is different, your menstrual cycle and full fertility are most likely to return when your baby’s breastfeeding schedule and habits change. Examples of these changes could be when your baby starts sleeping through the night or begins to experiment with solid foods. Many women have no problem waiting out the duration of this time frame to try to get pregnant again, as it gives their body a much needed recovery period between pregnancies. However, some women who desire to get pregnant sooner, might try to wean their baby earlier. In most cases, complete weaning is not necessary to achieve pregnancy while breastfeeding.

“Will breastfeeding take important nutrients out of my body that are necessary to aid in a healthy pregnancy?”

As long as you are eating nutritionally well, the answer to this question is typically “no.” It is important to note that, depending on how old your breastfeeding child is, you will probably need to consume more calories on top of the additional calories required during a regular pregnancy. According to La Leche League, if your child is under 5 months old and still breastfeeding, you might need to add an additional 650 to your daily diet. That number decreases to about 500 extra calories per day if your child is eating solid foods in combination with breastfeeding. Those numbers are additional to the extra 350 calories you should be consuming daily during your 2nd trimester and 450 during your 3rd.

“Will pregnancy make my milk supply dwindle?”

No matter how frequently your child is nursing, your milk supply will dwindle at some point during your pregnancy. Most women experience this decrease during the middle of their pregnancy, often no later than the 20th week. However, some women may notice a change as early as the first month. This decrease is due to the changing hormones in your body, especially the increase in progesterone. You will need to prepare yourself and your child for this change, especially if he is not fully eating solid foods yet. Once your supply decreases below his demand, you might have to consider supplementing with formula if he is under a year old. If your child is older, and eating solid foods, you can continue to nurse him throughout the milk decrease without adding supplements to his diet. He will notice the change, and either begin to naturally wean himself or demand more frequent nursing sessions. It is perfectly fine to continue nursing your child even if your milk supply has completely dried up. Nursing, with or without milk, is still a way to comfort and bond with your child.

“Will I be too tired to breastfeed during pregnancy?”

Let’s face it; breastfeeding can be exhausting. Your body is working round the clock to produce an adequate milk supply for your ever growing baby. Add to that the overwhelming fatigue that accompanies pregnancy, and the thought of breastfeeding a toddler while pregnant might be enough to make you want to jump into full weaning mode the second that stick turns pink. But there are definitely ways to use it to your advantage. Chasing a rambunctious, energetic toddler around while pregnant can be a feat in itself during pregnancy; and many women find those breastfeeding sessions throughout the day to be a much needed break. Not only will you get a chance to spend special bonding time with your little one, but you can put up your feet and relax for a few minutes multiple times a day. The key is to stay hydrated and well nourished, and to really make use of the valuable resting time your breastfeeding sessions will give you.

“Will I have trouble gaining enough weight if I breastfeed during pregnancy?”

As stated before, as long as you are eating well-balanced meals and snacks throughout the day, and making sure you are consuming all of the extra calories you need during your pregnancy and breastfeeding, you should have no problem maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight while breastfeeding.

Will breastfeeding during pregnancy induce labor or cause early miscarriage?”

There is a common fear among pregnant breastfeeding women that breastfeeding during pregnancy can cause uterine contractions, which can lead to possible preterm labor or miscarriage.  Breastfeeding and/or nipple stimulation releases oxytocin into a woman’s body. Oxytocin is responsible for causing uterine contractions. Therefore, it is understandable why there would be a concern. While no direct studies have been performed, many scientific and medical professionals feel confident that under normal circumstances, breastfeeding during pregnancy should not be a concern. The uterus does an amazing job protecting itself during pregnancy. This protection does not fall short at the hands of oxytocin.  Receptor site cells (which the uterus produces in mass quantities towards the end of pregnancy to detect oxytocin) are few and far between during the first 38 weeks. And even when they are plentiful, they need the help of gap junction proteins in order to respond to the oxytocin. Those proteins also will not make an appearance until later in the pregnancy. Adding even more defense against oxytocin is progesterone, a common element during pregnancy.  With all of these natural defense mechanisms, women can confidently breastfeed during pregnancy. If you do notice any contractions during your pregnancy, however big or small, you should immediately contact your health care provider.

“Will I be able to tandem breastfeed if it comes down to it?”

Tandem breastfeeding is becoming more and more common today as mothers are nursing their children well beyond the one year mark. Many women fear, however, that they will not be able to produce enough milk for two children or that it will be too difficult. Most women are completely capable of producing enough milk for multiple children at the same time. Think of mothers with twins and triplets! Your milk supply is completely triggered by your child’s demand. So, if you have two children breastfeeding, ideally, you will produce enough milk for two children. Even during the colostrum phase, your body will produce enough for both. Your older child will just have to adapt to the colostrum for a while (which can begin to develop as early as 4 months into your pregnancy) until your regular milk comes back. As far as the exhaustion of breastfeeding two babies, your older child will most likely be breastfeeding for comfort at that point as opposed to food, so it won’t be like the experience of breastfeeding two infants ’round the clock. Many women find tandem breastfeeding to be just another beautiful experience of motherhood.

Looking for Un-Nursing Wear?

If you need to add some nursing clothing to your wardrobe, but don’t want to spend money on pieces you’ll only wear for a short period of time, then head on over to Melody Lane for the best in regular clothing that is versatile enough to wear before, during, and after breastfeeding! They offer trendy, classic, and comfortable clothing that is hand-picked for all the life stages women usually experience. With nothing over $100, always free shipping, and new styles featured every season, Melody Lane makes sure your “fashion meets life”.

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Do you have a beautiful breastfeeding photo you’d like to share with us? Enter our August Breastfeeding Awareness Photo Contest for a chance to win some amazing breastfeeding essentials!

This post is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician, doctor or health care professional. Please read our terms of use for more information.

Sources:

www.kellymom.com “A New Look at the Safety of Breastfeeding During Pregnancy”

www.kellymom.com “Breastfeeding and Fertility”

www.kellymom.com “Getting Pregnant While Breastfeeding”

www.lalecheleague.org “Breastfeeding During Pregnancy”

www.kellymom.com “How Will My Milk Change?”

Photo credit: The Art Of Making A Baby

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Danielle

Danielle is a Pittsburgh native who has been warming her “black and gold” blood in sunny Northern California for the past 6 years. On any given day, you can find her arranging ridiculous photo shoots of her one-year-old son Graeme and cat Gizmo, or working on any one of her 27,000 writing projects. She enjoys daydreaming about becoming a famous actress and starting a handful of different businesses with her husband over glasses of wine in the evenings. Someday, she hopes to travel the country in an RV with her family… but she needs to sell that novel first. You can follow her journeys through her blog With A Red Bird On My Shoulder

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