Is Breastfeeding during pregnancy safe? I asked myself this questions when I became pregnant with my second baby while my first was only 9 months old. I didn’t want to stop breastfeeding him and we continued through pregnancy. In fact, I have breastfed through pregnancy three times and gone on to tandem nurse my babies. Breastfeeding an older baby with a newborn is a great bonding experience and way to relieve engorgement. It does have some challenges, but also rewards and benefits.
Breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organization for at least two years of baby’s life. However, in the USA where many Moms barely make it a few months, breastfeeding during pregnancy is a less common practice. While conceiving while breastfeeding may take some tips and tricks, you may soon find yourself pregnant and breastfeeding. How do you continue to breastfeed during pregnancy? Is it safe for baby? Are there risks?
Breastfeeding my first son was tough. I was a newbie, went through a terrible induction and c-section, and had horrible nursing advice from the hospital. My son was given formula in the hospital without my input or consent. His physician wrote an “order” to give formula after ever breastfeeding for his biliruben… which means nursing staff has to follow through with the formula during our stay. We had a tough time getting back to breast, but successfully stopped formula once we got home. After that, breastfeeding went very well.
I wanted to grow our family but I didn’t want to interrupt our success. I became pregnant with my second son when he was 8 months old. I feared nursing him would take nutrients away from my growing baby. I was terrified it would cause pregnancy problems including miscarriage. My OB didn’t know much about the subject so I turned to our La Leche League and breastfeeding articles. I went on to nurse through pregnancy, and tandem until he was 2.5. I am currently nursing through pregnancy for the third time and look forward to nursing our new arrival with my younger son. It’s an amazing bonding experience.
After researching breastfeeding during pregnancy, I discovered that it’s safe for me, my nursing baby and my baby in utero.While it isn’t recommended for everyone, such as high-risk pregnancies, most Moms can continue to breastfeed. Why isn’t it recommended for high-risk pregnancies? The hormone released during nursing is Oxytoxin, this is the same hormone released during “sexual response” and labor, but in much smaller amounts. Many nursing Moms will say…if your OB hasn’t told you to stop having sex, you can breastfeed during pregnancy. The fear is that it could cause miscarriage or early labor for high-risk pregnancies, but isn’t a concern in regular pregnant women.
Oxytocin is also active during childbirth, in much higher amounts, for contractions. You may be familiar with the synthetic form, picocin, which can be given during labor. While the amount of Oxytocin released during nursing isn’t enough to induce labor, it’s role in uterine contraction after baby is born is beneficial. It helps Mom’s uterus return to a smaller size after delivery by causing the uterus to contract and shrink. These contractions also helps decrease post-partum bleeding and speed up recovery. (1,2,3)
Benefits of Breastfeeding During Pregnancy:
- Continued bonding with older baby/toddler
- Leads to Tandem Nursing/Excellent Family Bonding
- Quality Relaxation-Time during periods of fatigue/sickness related to pregnancy
- Some Moms Experience Faster “coming in” of Milk When Baby is Born
- Breastfeeding baby and toddler after birth helps the uterus contract and return to pre-pregnancy size sooner.
What to Expect for Supply
- Changing Milk Supply
- Milk may decrease mid-pregnancy, However for some Moms this time frame varies and for some their supply continues. Milk may change consistency; Colustrum may come in sooner, and soon before or after birth your older baby can enjoy newborn milk too.
- The taste of milk during pregnancy may change, and your older baby may or may not notice a difference.
- Nipple Soreness
- Nipples commonly become tender. Warm or cool compresses prior to nursing, change in position and developing a schedule for your may help.
- Toddler Diapers
- Older baby’s poo may return to an infant-like consistency. I noticed this tandem nursing and it took a few weeks for my older child’s belly to adjust. Our diaper sprayer came in very handy!
How can you prepare?
- Stay hydrated. Keeping up your water intake is important for breastfeeding, and for the fluid around developing baby. Pregnant Moms can dehydrate fast in warm weather and carrying around hydration is a big help.
- Stay nourished. Eat a healthy diet, take a good quality prenatal (I like New Chapter Prenatal), and make healthy food choices. I know that’s easier said then done when feeling nauseated and experiencing strong cravings, but it’s important for the breastfeeding older baby, pregnant Mama, and growing baby.
- Talk with your partner, family and friends who may be around baby and whom are in your support group. A little education can go a long way! Find your local La Leche League chapter or Green Mom group for Mom-to-Mom support.
If you’re planning on nursing through pregnancy, congratulations! While the practice may not be as common in the USA as it is in other countries, know that is a long-standing practice and has been done since babies existed. In addition to nutritional benefits, I’ve found that nursing through pregnancy and tandem nursing has many emotional benefits as well. Watching my older baby caress my newborn while they’re nursing and seeing him feel baby kick during the last few months of pregnancy is priceless. In addition to bonding, during the first few weeks when your newborn nurses – for what seems like – nonstop, nursing older baby allows you to hold and give attention to him too.
This article makes no attempt to diagnose, treat or make individual recommendations. It’s a personal account. Please consult with your doctor for personal recommendations.