Can I Breastfeed While Pregnant?

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Breastfeeding During Pregnancy

"You ARE going to stop breastfeeding her, aren't you?”

Those were the first words uttered by my daughter's pediatrician during her 18 month checkup as soon as he found out I was pregnant.

"Not a fat chance, Mister", I thought, but I simply smiled and nodded in reply. I would rather have him leave me alone than hear a sermon that I would not agree with.

Unfortunately, his reaction is quite typical. Even though studies show more and more women are choosing to breastfeed up to the 6 month recommendation with an average of 49% in the U.S; and even 27% of women are now continuing to breastfeed their infants at 12 months , many women are uncomfortable with the idea of breastfeeding a toddler and even more so while pregnant. Some might even think breastfeeding while pregnant is dangerous.

Breastfeeding during pregnancy is not dangerous.

For most uncomplicated pregnancies, continuing to breastfeed your older infant does not endanger your life or your unborn child.

Deciding whether or not to continue breastfeeding during pregnancy depends on several factors:

  • mom's medical history
  • breastfed baby's age
  • baby's need to nurse
  • and mom's emotional and physical comfort level.

Physcially, breastfeeding during pregnancy can cause some discomfort with either light uterine contractions or nipple soreness. Unfortunately, since the soreness is caused by hormones andthere isn't much a mother can do to treat it.

The advantages of breastfeeding an older infant should outweigh the negatives. Even if you experience a drop in your milk supply, your child will enjoy the bond and closeness that comes from nursing and it will continue during your pregnancy. Not to mention also the continued source of nutrients and antibodies your milk provides.

However, if you have been advised by your OB/GYN to abstain from sex due to a difficult pregnancy or because you are at risk for premature labor, then you probably should consider weaning your infant. This is because the hormone that is released during an orgasm, oxytocin, is the same hormone released during breastfeeding and is responsible foruterine contractions. Normal uncomplicated pregnancies should not be concerned since these contractions will not harm your unborn baby and are not enough to dilate your cervix. Also, rsearch suggests that the uterus is not receptive to hormonal stimulation from oxytocin until around 24 weeks gestation, so it is generally safe to consider nursing until about 20 weeks.

Do make sure to eat healthy, whole, nutritious foods.

The most important thing you can do to ensure a healthy pregnancy while breastfeeding is to make sure to eat well for yourself!

Even if you are experiencing morning sickness, don't worry, your body will know which nutrients to use for you and your baby. Plus, no extra calories are needed in the first trimester of prengnacy. Just try to eat smaller meals several times a day and avoid having an empty stomach.

You will need to catch up on eating wholesome foods once you are able to eat normally again, otherwise you risk of being malnourished and having a malnourished baby born with lower weight. During pregnancy, needs for protein, iron, vitamins A, C,D, folate, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc increase since these nutrients are important for the growth of the uterus and expanding blood volume as well as the infant's growth and development.

Breakdown of extra calories needed when breastfeeding and pregnant:

Age of Older Baby

Extra Calories Breastfeeding

Extra Calories Pregnancy 2ndTrimester :

Extra Calories Pregnancy 3rdTrimester

Total Extra Calories Needed 2ndTrimester:

Total Extra Calories Needed 3rd Trimester

<6 months old

650

350

450

1000

1100

>6 months old, or eating solids

500

350

450

850

950

If you are breastfeeding and pregnant, you will definitely need to increase your intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA. DHA is crucial to the development and function of many different organ systems and for the structure of the brain and retina of the eye. The primary source of DHA is fish, and for vegans, microalgae. You will need to supply DHA for yourself, your breastfed infant and your unborn child.

Breastmilk Supply Changes

In your first trimester you might not experience many changes in your breastmilk. However, as your pregnancy progesses and in your second trimester, you might experience a drop in your supply due to natural hormonal changes. Also, sometime during your second trimester, your milk will turn into colostrum, which has a different taste to it. Some toddlers might enjoy colostrum, while others might start to self-wean because of it and because of the drop in supply.

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly suggests to exclusively breastfeed your baby the first 6 months of life, with no solids, and continuing to breastfeed throughout the first year of life and beyond. If your breastfed infant is under 6 months of age and you notice a significant drop in your milk supply during pregnancy, or your baby is not gaining enough weight or not having regular bowel movements, please contact your pediatrician and/ or lactation consultant immeadiately. You may need to supplement your baby with formula.

Choosing What Is Right For You

I chose to continue breastfeeding my toddler because I was comfortable with the idea, and I did not experience any problems. I even continued to tandem breastfeed once my second daughter was born. But that worked for me and I was lucky enough to have enough milk throughout my pregnancy, and some mothers may experience an emotional withdrawl while they nurse pregnant, and this is normal too. You have to do what is best for you and your family, because a happy mom means a happy child.

For more information please read:

 The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

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