Breastfeeding while pregnant: here is what you should know

Nursing moms often face the surprise of finding out they are pregnant. This is where anxiety and confusion kick in. Can a woman continue breastfeeding while pregnant? What are the associated risks? In this article, I will answer the most frequently asked questions about breastfeeding during pregnancy to offer a supporting guide to new moms.

dr sally.webpSally Al Beer
Feb 14th 2023
Breastfeeding while pregnant

Can I keep breastfeeding while pregnant?

Unless there is a clear medical reason, and a recommendation from your doctor to stop breastfeeding while pregnant, there is no harm in continuing breastfeeding. Breastfeeding during pregnancy is safe for the fetus, the nursing baby, and the mother. You can keep on breastfeeding if you want to, especially if the pregnancy is unexpected and your baby is still young and fully dependent on breast milk.

You can even continue breastfeeding after you give birth. You can breastfeed your older child, and your newborn, this practice is known as Tandem nursing. In this case, breast milk adapts to serve the needs of the newborn baby, at first, it starts as colostrum, then transitional milk, then mature milk. If the older child doesn’t have a problem with this transition, you can continue nursing both children, although it might be physically taxing for you as a mom.

What are the risks associated with breastfeeding during pregnancy?

There are no known risks for the nursing baby, the fetus, or even the mother. Especially if the mom is getting enough water, healthy food, vitamins, and above all rest and sleep. Rest is essential to make your body capable of serving the needs of the nursing baby and the fetus.

There is however concern about premature birth or miscarriage due to the increase in oxytocin during breastfeeding. Oxytocin is the same hormone that induces contractions that lead to labor. The doctor will evaluate your case and decide whether it is safe for you to continue nursing while pregnant, or if you should stop nursing because you are at risk of miscarriage or premature birth.

The effect of breastfeeding on pregnancy symptoms

Breastfeeding might increase some pregnancy symptoms like fatigue, and nipple tenderness. It might also worsen pregnancy nausea, to overcome this you can:

  • Decrease the duration of feeds.
  • Increase the feeds’ frequency.
  • Ensure the baby is latching properly.
  • Make sure the baby is not biting, to avoid worsening the breast and nipple tenderness.
  • Have multiple small, light, and healthy meals that don’t increase nausea.

Is breast milk affected during pregnancy?

Breast milk is affected by the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Your milk might become thicker, with a taste and texture similar to colostrum. Therefore, there are many cases of self-weaning, where babies stop nursing because of these changes.

The baby’s age plays a big role in the road forward. If your baby is younger than six months, you might need to supplement with formula milk to make up for any decline in breast milk quantity. If your baby’s age allows him or her to have solid foods, you might want to increase the solid meals to make up for any deficiency.

It is noteworthy that taking supplements or foods to increase milk flow or pump breast milk or increase the feeds won’t restore the quantity of breast milk, as the reason for the decline is the pregnancy hormones.

Weaning your baby while you are pregnant

A nursing mom will often feel great guilt when she becomes pregnant while nursing. Especially if her doctor’s recommendation is to stop breastfeeding, or if she feels great exhaustion from continuing to nurse while pregnant. Don’t be hard on yourself, you do not fault this, it just happened! You only need to do what is best for you and your children.

To best wean your child, you need to do it gradually, and make it up for your child by spending quality time with your baby, hugging your child, playing with him a lot, give him the time and physical proximity you used to give while breastfeeding, this will make the transition easier for you and your baby.

Supporting nursing moms

A nursing mom who finds out she is pregnant needs our support, kindness, and help. We shouldn’t be hard on them or blame them as they are already under a lot of physical, emotional, and mental pressure. I also recommend that moms get the help and support of a breastfeeding specialist and a doctor for sound advice and support and not to listen to blaming and shaming.

Also check out Top breastfeeding myths and how to debunk them

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