Breastfeeding During A New Pregnancy

Can you continue to breastfeed during a new pregnancy?
If you want to continue breastfeeding during a new pregnancy, talk to your doctor. altrendo images/Altrendo/Getty Images

Getting Pregnant While You're Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding lowers the chances that you will get pregnant, especially if you are exclusively breastfeeding, and your baby is less than six months old. However, it isn't 100% effective. The chances of becoming pregnant again go up once your period returns, your baby gets older, and you begin feeding your baby other types of food. 

Can You Continue To Breastfeed If You're Pregnant?

If you do become pregnant, you may think that you have to stop breastfeeding.

This is not necessarily true. If your pregnancy is not high risk, you should be able to continue to breastfeed. However, there are certain situations when you shouldn't continue breastfeeding. 

When you breastfeed, your body releases the hormone oxytocin. This hormone causes uterine contractions. In a healthy, low-risk pregnancy these contractions are not harmful. But, if you have a history of miscarriage, preterm labor, or if you're pregnant with twins or more, you should not continue to breastfeed. Talk to your obstetrician or health care provider to determine if it is safe for you to continue to nurse while you're pregnant.

Concerns About Breastfeeding During A New Pregnancy

It is normal to have some concerns about breastfeeding while you're pregnant. You may be wondering if you will be able to provide enough nutrition to the child you already have, and the child that you are carrying at the same time.

It will take more of your energy, but you can do it. It is important to keep yourself healthy, increase the number of calories you take in each day, and get plenty of rest.

If your baby is very young when you become pregnant again, and breast milk is still his main source of nutrition, you may need to monitor your baby’s weight.

A new pregnancy can cause a decrease in your supply of breast milk, and it could interfere with your baby’s growth. Your child’s doctor might recommend that you breastfeed your baby along with formula supplementation. If your baby is between 4 and 6 months old, this may be a good time to introduce solid foods to complement his diet and meet his nutritional needs.

Weaning During A New Pregnancy

For some women, breastfeeding during a new pregnancy is too exhausting. A new pregnancy is a common reason for weaning. Some children will even wean themselves when their mother becomes pregnant again.

Why Some Women Wean When They Become Pregnant

  • Breastfeeding during pregnancy can be physically and mentally demanding. You will need extra rest, extra nutrition, and extra support. All this additional stress can be overwhelming for some women.
     
  • The hormones of pregnancy can cause breast tenderness and sore nipples. It may become very painful to nurse your child once you become pregnant again. 
     
  • As your belly grows, and your nipples become increasingly sore, it may be difficult to find a comfortable position to nurse your child.
     
  • Concerns about miscarriage, preterm labor, or the health of your child or your pregnancy, can be scary.  It may be easier to wean your older child than to worry throughout your pregnancy.   

Why Some Babies Self-Wean When Their Mother Is Pregnant

  • You will make less breast milk by the second trimester of your pregnancy. As your supply of breast milk drops, your child may lose interest in nursing.  
     
  • The hormonal changes in your body during pregnancy can change the flavor of your breast milk.  Some children don't like the new taste, and will stop nursing.  
     
  • It may be uncomfortable for your child to lay on your lap and nurse as your pregnancy progresses, and your body begins to grow.  
     
  • Toward the end of your pregnancy, your breast milk changes to colostrum for the new baby.  Your older child may not like this change. 

 

When Your Baby Doesn't Wean, But Continues To Breastfeed

Some children are not at all bothered by the decrease in breast milk or the changes in the milk. They will continue to nurse, sometimes just for comfort and security, throughout a new pregnancy. If this is the case, you may choose to continue to breastfeed your older child even after your new baby arrives. Breastfeeding an older child along with a newborn is called tandem nursing.

See Also: Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding A Newborn and A Toddler 

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

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