What to Expect if You're Pregnant While Breastfeeding

Pregnant Woman With Husband And Son On Bed At Home

The lactation process decreases a woman's fertility, but it is still possible to become pregnant while breastfeeding. Once a pregnancy is discovered, nursing is still a viable option. Old wives tales regarding breastfeeding during pregnancy leading to malnutrition and miscarriage aren't typically true. When deciding to continue breastfeeding while pregnant be especially careful and discuss individual medical issues with your doctor.

Symptoms When Pregnant While Breastfeeding

You may notice certain changes and symptoms when you're still breastfeeding and become pregnant.

Sore or Throbbing Breasts and Nipples

One of the first symptoms of pregnancy while breastfeeding is the sore nipple. Tender and swollen breasts normally occur during pregnancy. When a mom is nursing at the time of conception, this translates into a sudden change in the breast leading to increased sensitivity of the nipple. This transformation causes the nipple to become extra sore and irritated while nursing, triggering pain and discomfort for many. While the only cure for sore nipples is weaning, if a mom wants to continue nursing, the soreness will gradually lesson as the pregnancy progresses.

Decrease in Milk Supply

Pregnancy causes a lactating woman's milk supply to decrease. This is due to new and increased hormones which react to the pregnancy. The milk supply reduction launches between two to eight weeks after conception and continues throughout pregnancy until birth. The drop in supply is especially significant with an older baby who nurses less and eats solid foods.

Consistency of Breast Milk Changes

Breast milk does not only change in its supply, the consistency will also adjust. The taste transforms as the milk takes on a colostrum-like composition. The breast milk will appear different in appearance, sometimes more watery and less white. These variations do not affect the nutritional value of the milk, but sometimes cause the baby to wean due to the different taste and texture.

Mother feeding her baby

Uterine Contractions During Nursing

The hormone oxytocin, employed by the lactating body to produce milk let down, is the same hormone that promotes labor. For a breastfeeding pregnant woman this can initiate uterine contractions during nursing. These contractions only occur after the first trimester and thus do not lead to miscarriage. Known as Braxton-Hicks or false labor, this type of contraction does not cause labor in a normal pregnancy.

Increasing Discomfort While Nursing

Pregnancy instigates many physical changes that impact a mother's ability to nurse comfortably. At first it might be sore nipples and later the enlarged abdomen. As the uterus grows, finding a comfortable nursing position is more challenging. Even given these potential discomforts, a healthy determined lactating mom can continue to breastfeed while pregnant if she desires.

Mother Breast Feeding Newborn Baby

Special Considerations for Breastfeeding While Pregnancy

As the milk supply decreases, it can produce a risk of failure to thrive in some babies. If a pregnancy occurs before a nursing baby is six months, extra caution must be taken to ensure the infant receives adequate nourishment. Up to the age of one year, a nursing baby from a pregnant mom may need supplementary formula if the breast milk supply drops too low. Discuss the pregnancy with a pediatrician. A doctor will walk through the appropriate steps determining the baby's extra food needs due to milk supply issues.

Nutrition for Mom Is Essential

When pregnant while breastfeeding, a woman will have to take particularly good care of her body. As the body's system is supporting two growing babies, it requires extra rest and relaxation. Diet is especially important as adequate nutrition and calorie content is crucial to a healthy mom and baby.

Work Closely With Your Doctor

Remember the importance of working closely with a doctor when breastfeeding while pregnant. For some situations, such as twin pregnancy or history of premature labor, numerous doctors recommend weaning. In a normal pregnancy, extra care leads to healthy babies while nursing; in a high-risk pregnancy, the risks for the fetus might outweigh the benefits for the breastfeeding child.

Checking A Pregnant Woman's Stomach

Weaning Your Baby From Breastfeeding When You're Pregnant

In most cases, weaning is entirely up to the newly pregnant mother to determine. If a doctor requires it due to potential complications or the baby refuses the milk, however, then an immediate weaning may occur without mom's choice. Weaning while pregnant is usually easy, as the milk supply and taste change, naturally encouraging a baby to resist the breast. As always, wean gradually to lessen any discomforts and break the cycle of nursing for the baby. Take into consideration the timing of weaning, avoiding the double whammy of weaning upon the pending arrival of a new sibling. Ideally, weaning should occur a few months before birth or a few months after.

After Baby Arrives

Once the pregnancy is over and the baby is born, the decreased milk supply will dramatically increase. Therefore, breastfeeding while pregnant does not adversely affect the quality or quantity of milk for the newborn. If nursing continued throughout the entire pregnancy, once the baby is born and two children are nursing, it is known as tandem nursing. Many women are successful with this technique with support and information found through the La Leche League.

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What to Expect if You're Pregnant While Breastfeeding