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Can I Breastfeed While Pregnant?

If you are still breastfeeding one child, and have discovered that you are pregnant again, you are probably wondering whether it is safe to continue with the breastfeeding, or whether, in fact, you will actually be able to continue.

Your body will continue to produce milk while you are pregnant, so biologically, there is no reason why you cannot continue to feed your child in this way throughout the entire duration of your pregnancy.  However, there are some things that you may want to consider before you make your decision.

mother breast feeding her baby

Breastfeeding while pregnant – what to consider

While it is generally considered safe to breastfeed during pregnancy, you may notice that it causes more discomfort than usual.

  • Hormonal changes within your body are likely to make your breasts much more sensitive than they would normally be, so you may find that breastfeeding is painful, particularly during the early stages of pregnancy.
  • Breastfeeding causes a hormone called oxytocin to be produced in your body.  This is a natural chemical that helps you to bond with your baby, and is one of the reasons why new mothers are encouraged to breastfeed.  Oxytocin is also released as part of the process of childbirth, and there are concerns that it would start contractions too early in the pregnancy.  However, even though your body is producing the hormone, the muscles in the uterus do not react to it until the end of the pregnancy, after thirty-seven weeks.
  • You may find that your child no longer likes the taste of the milk after a certain stage in your pregnancy, and chooses to wean himself or herself.  This is because the milk changes back to colostrum in month four or five, which your new born will need during the first few weeks.
  • If your child does keep feeding after the milk changes to colostrum, then you will need to keep a close watch on their weight, as colostrum and milk will have different nutritional values.  Sometimes, you may find that your child is no longer gaining weight as a result, and you will need to supplement their diet.
  • Another consideration is whether you want to tandem feed or not.  Tandem feeding involves feeding both of your children, and it is a personal decision that only you can make.  Your body will produce enough milk for both children, so this does not need to be something that influences your decision.  Mothers that tandem feed, however, are less likely to develop mastitis than those who are only feeding one child.
  • If you decide not to tandem feed, then it would be advisable to wean your first child during your pregnancy, rather than after your second child is born.  This will be easier for both you and the child.

When is it best to avoid breastfeeding in pregnancy?

Although it is normally fine to continue breastfeeding throughout your pregnancy, in some situations, you may be advised to switch to formula feeding instead.  This may be the case if:

  • You have experienced a miscarriage in the past.
  • You have experienced abnormal bleeding during your pregnancy, either now or in the past.
  • You have experienced premature labour in a previous pregnancy.

Although the risks of anything going wrong with your pregnancy as a result of breastfeeding are extremely low, you may prefer not to take that chance at all.  Depending on the age of your child, you may be able to wean him or her onto solid foods, or you may need to switch to formula milk for a while.  This choice is completely yours.

If you are not pregnant, but are trying to conceive another child, then you may want to wait until you have finished breastfeeding.  This is because you are less likely to ovulate while breastfeeding, so you are unlikely to become pregnant during this time.

If you are at all unsure about continuing to breastfeed during your pregnancy, then you should seek advice from your doctor or midwife, who will be able to advise you if you are at risk.  The vast majority of women are able to breastfeed while pregnant, and experience no serious problems as a result.

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