Though it is unlikely that you will become pregnant during the early months if you're exclusively breastfeeding, pregnancy while nursing a toddler is a possibility and a real occurrence for many mothers. It is definitely possible to become pregnant while nursing, especially after the first 6 months!
The human body is amazing. Your body can nourish your new baby in the womb as well as your nursing child, and both will receive adequate nutrition. Once the new baby arrives, your body responds and makes an increased amount of milk, just as it would if you had twins or multiples.
If you have had healthy, basically normal previous pregnancies, nursing will not put your expected baby at risk. There is a link between nipple stimulation and labor contractions, so there is a possible worry if you are at risk of premature labor. Sometimes the hormones released during nursing can trigger labor, but only if your doctor has informed you that you are at risk for preterm labor. Otherwise, the hormone level is quite small.
You will notice some changes if you choose to continue to nurse while pregnant. Many women experience renewed nipple tenderness. If this occurs, you can limit the length of the feeding or adjust the latch. Another potential problem as your tummy begins to grow quite large is finding a comfortable position to nurse in!
Additionally, nursing may trigger a sensation of nausea, but it has been known to decrease total overall pregnancy morning sickness
Milk supply will also decrease slightly in early pregnancy, and milk may taste different. The milk changes to colostrum at the end of pregnancy, and a toddler may get frustrated at the change in quantity and quality. Your child may end up weaning him or herself! If not, you may end up nursing both your newborn and your toddler. This is what is referred to as tandem nursing.
Changes in milk composition from KellymomOne study compared changes in the milk of two lactating pregnant mothers through the first two months of pregnancy to daily changes in the milk of two women who were gradually weaning (Prosser, Saint & Hartmann 1984). Milk composition and volume changes during pregnancy were similar to those during gradual weaning, but the changes during pregnancy occurred despite continued or increased nursing, rather than in response to a decrease in nursing frequency.
|Pregnancy ||Gradual Weaning |
|Increased sodium, protein||Increased sodium, protein|
|Decreased glucose, lactose, potassium||Decreased glucose, lactose, potassium|
|Changes were not related to nursing frequency||Changes were closely correlated to the decrease in nursing frequency|