When I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child, I was still breastfeeding my third child, who had just turned a year old. This was a first for me, so I wasn’t sure if I could safely continue breastfeeding while pregnant.
The short answer is yes, you can breastfeed while pregnant, but you do need to talk to your doctor and understand it’s not a one size fits all answer. Every mom is different, and every pregnancy is different.
What worked for me might not work for you. It’s all about what is best for you, your body, and your pregnancy. So, if you found out that you’re pregnant but still breastfeeding, here is what you need to do and know.
Talk to Your Healthcare Provider
Even if you feel comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding while pregnant, talking to your doctor can give you essential insight into your particular situation.
Generally speaking, breastfeeding while pregnant IS considered safe. Even though some pregnancy hormones might make it into your breast milk, it’s not harmful to your breastfeeding child. The amount of oxytocin released while you’re breastfeeding is small during a nursing session, and it’s rarely enough to induce labor.
Oxytocin tends to be the one thing that women worry about because synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) is given to mothers to induce labor or strengthen contractions. Some worry that the contractions caused by these hormones could cause a miscarriage, but the risk is small.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for every woman. There are some circumstances when weaning your child might be the best course of action, including:
- You have a high-risk pregnancy or are at risk for miscarriage.
- You’re carrying twins or multiples.
- You experienced bleeding or uterine pain.
- Your doctor advised you not to have sex during pregnancy.
Talking to your OBGYN or midwife can help you determine if continuing to breastfeed is the best decision. If you’re advised to wean, remember this is the best decision for your body and your new baby. Your baby will be okay if you wean!
Find Comfortable Ways to Breastfeed
Something you might find is that your favorite breastfeeding positions are no longer comfortable, and you’re even more tired than before. Sitting down or lying down to breastfeed could be the best decision for your body. You need to rest as much as possible.
As your belly gets larger, you might find that lying down is the best position because it prevents your child from laying across your stomach, which might be uncomfortable for you.
Watch Your Supply
For some women, pregnancy can decrease your milk supply. That happens because of your pregnancy hormones, but it doesn’t happen in all cases.
If you’re breastfeeding a child who is under one year old, you need to closely monitor your supply to determine if you need to supplement with formula. If your baby is happy after breastfeeding and continuing to meet their growth and height markers, you don’t need to worry.
You also need to consider whether or not you want to stop breastfeeding before your new baby arrives or if you want to tandem breastfeed. I chose to tandem breastfeed, but if you do, you do need to make sure the new baby receives the bulk of the colostrum. You will need to limit nursing and keep a balance to ensure the new baby receives all of the milk required to grow.
Drink A Lot of Water
Proper hydration is a crucial part of breastfeeding AND pregnancy, so don’t slack on your water consumption. Lack of water can decrease your milk supply.
Generally, in pregnancy, you need to drink 80 ounces of water per day. Every woman has different needs; some need more or less water, so you need to pay attention to your body to figure out what will work best for you. Start with the 80 ounces and see how you feel.
Watch Your Diet
Eating well is essential for the health of your baby during pregnancy, but it’s also a necessity when you’re breastfeeding. You need to stay healthy to encourage milk development. Breastfeeding and pregnancy both require a lot of energy, so you need to take in the right calories to maintain your overall health.
In general, you should take in 500 calories extra if you’re breastfeeding a child who is eating other solid foods. Take in 650 extra calories if the baby is under six months old.
Then, add an extra 350 calories when you’re in your second trimester and 450 calories in the third trimester. Most doctors agree that you don’t need extra calories during the first trimester, and considering how rough morning sickness can be, that’s a good thing for most women.
Take Care of Your Nipple
When you’re pregnant, it’s not uncommon to have tender breasts, so when you combine that with breastfeeding, you do need to take care of your nipples. Sore nipples are a frequent problem if you’re breastfeeding while pregnant.
It’s a good idea to grab some nipple cream or lanolin as well as cool packs for your breasts. That will help provide some relief that you need, especially throughout the first trimester.
Be Prepared to Wean
A reality that you might need to face is that you might have to wean even if you don’t plan to do so. It’s not uncommon for your milk supply to dip between the fourth and fifth months of pregnancy. Also, your milk might change flavors during pregnancy, and your nursing child might not like the new taste.
You might find that, due to the nipple discomfort, weaning would be the best choice for you. Pregnancy can be hard on its own, so adding in breastfeeding might be a challenge for some women.
If you’re considering weaning, think about your child, in particular, especially his age and how you think he will respond to weaning. If your child doesn’t take any solids, it might not be the best time to wean, but remember, you can always transition a child to formula even if it takes a few weeks to make the change.
If breastfeeding while pregnant is essential to you, then know that it can be done safely. Talk to your doctor to be sure that your particular pregnancy doesn’t require you should wean your child. If you do decide to continue to breastfeed during your pregnancy, be sure to take care of your health by eating correctly, drinking well, and taking care of your nipples.