Thursday, May 20, 2010

Breastfeeding While Pregnant

You're happily nursing your young one, and both of you are loving it. You and baby have a fabulous breastfeeding relationship, and you plan to nurse a little while longer, maybe even until baby self-weans. Then you find out you're pregnant. Can you continue to breastfeed? Yes!

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.
If you and your child are still enjoying your nursing relationship, and your pregnancy is healthy, there is no reason you must wean when a new baby is on the way!

Changes in milk composition from Kellymom

One 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.


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


  1. Hi there. I'm a doula and enjoy your website a lot. I'm also the mom of four children.

    Regarding "nipple tenderness". I'm not sure where you got your information from for this section. Sometimes that nipple tenderness is actually nipple-excruciating-pain. One cannot adjust the length of the feedings because when nursing a baby or a toddler, if baby-led, then the baby or toddler decide when they are done. Deciding toddler is done for him/her affects supply and satisfaction. And adjusting the latch isn't the solution either, it's not about latch. It's about skin and nerve endings and hormones.

    Sometimes a pregnancy causes the weaning of the toddler nurser because it's just too hard for the momma. It's happened to me once.

  2. I recently found out that I'm pregnant again, probably about 8-9 weeks along. My first born is only 5.5 months old. I want to continue exclusively breastfeeding him up to the one year mark but I've been reading up on it and everything says he may self-wean before then and that my milk will turn into colostrum when I'm 4-5 months along. I detest formula with every fiber of my being, so that's not even an option. Has anyone else dealt with pregnancies this close together and still been able to EBF the whole time? Did you have to wean to animal milk or formula?

    1. Elizabeth G Sipple, I wish someone had replied to you back then... Tell me, what was your experience after all? I am currently going through the same thing. My little girl is 8months old now and I'm 12 weeks pregnant. I refuse to use formula.


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