Breastfeeding & pregnancy: how does that work and what to expect

There is a common belief that a woman cannot get pregnant while she is lactating and breastfeeding. And while a related birth control method shrill exists and is called the lactation amenorrhea method (LAM), it is not an ultimate protection based exclusively on the mere fact of breastfeeding. Most women do not ovulate for two more months after delivery, and, if the mother breastfeeds, it further delays ovulation. Conception cannot occur without ovulation.

Nonetheless, for that to work, breastfeeding should be exclusive and frequent, with the period length between the feedings no more than 4 hours during the day or 6 hours at night. If you are already feeding a toddler who also takes solid food and/or drinks from a cup, you may as well be fertile and your body is ready for another child. That should be taken into account if you’re trying birth control.

If, however, the conception has occurred, and the pregnancy progresses, there will be inevitable questions regarding the following changes in the mother’s and her older child’s life.

Should you stop or continue to breastfeed?

Firstly, the decision on that is yours entirely. There is no solid evidence that breastfeeding during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, but there are three reasons that may be solid enough for you to decide to wean your older child.

  1. You are having a high-risk pregnancy. Breastfeeding provokes the release of oxytocin, a hormone that makes you happy to care about your newly-born baby. It also stimulates uterine contractions which may be a problem and provoke preterm labor if you’ve already miscarried, gone into preterm labor, or had other issues with your previous pregnancy. When pregnant, you want to exclude every possible risk, so if any risk factors are present, it may be wise to stop breastfeeding. If your pregnancy develops smoothly, then you have no demanding issues at hand.
  2. Nutrition problems. When you breastfeed during pregnancy, your body essentially does the triple work of caring for three: you, your delivered baby, and your fetus. La Leche League has found that mothers who breastfeed burn at least 450 extra calories than those who use formula or had already weaned their child. Thus, you should carefully monitor, how many calories per day you consume, and ensure that you get all the nutrients that both your born and yet-unborn babies need. If you are not gaining or even losing weight, weaning your child might be your solution.
  3. You do not feel energetic and confident enough. Pregnancy put a lot of stress on your body on its own. If yours gives you much discomfort it is okay to care about your well-being first and give yourself more time to rest.

How will pregnancy affect your ability to breastfeed?

Should you choose to continue breastfeeding while pregnant, there are pregnancy hormones that will change how your body works. Here are some potential changes and outcomes best to be aware of.

Milk production

Pregnancy will be the reason for your organism to cut breast milk supply. The drop in milk production can occur right away or a little later. If your born child is younger than one year talk to your lactation consultant to come up with a plan to ensure that the baby has all the nutrients they need. If you are breastfeeding a toddler who already takes solid food and drinks from a bottle you may revise their diet a little to maintain its nutritional value but not much more than that.

The breast milk itself will also change with pregnancy and, specifically, when the new baby arrives. For newborns, your body produces so-called colostrum, which is less sweet, saltier, and contains more nutrients and antibodies. Your older baby may not like those changes and wean on its own. Colostrum also has a laxative effect, so your older baby will be affected by it, too.
You may also choose to feed both of your children: this is called tandem feeding. It contributes to bonding between two siblings and saves you time and effort.

How will you feel

Pregnancy hormones will change your body and lifestyle the very same way they did with your older child. This means that you are likely to experience all the symptoms that bothered you last time:

  • Sore breasts and nipples. While it is enough discomfort to have tender and sore breasts and nipples during pregnancy, breastfeeding with it can become stressful, painful, or downright impossible. You may try to alleviate the unpleasant feeling by wearing supportive bras, using specific ointments to heal and moisturize your nipples, and trying new nursing positions.
  • Morning sickness, joint pain, leg swelling. Those are issues related to the physiological changes in your body and, thus, are unavoidable. The best you can provide for yourself is more rest and palliative care.
  • Fatigue and hunger. While your body is trying to care for three humans in parallel, be sure to provide it with everything it needs. Remember that you burn more energy and feed one more child now, so monitor your water and calorie intake, and do not forget to rest and ask for help when needed.

Breastfeeding while pregnant – Conclusion

The lactation period is a very exciting time for new mothers, and it is the time when they truly bond with their newborn baby. However, breastfeeding is not absolute insurance from getting pregnant again, and, why it is comparatively uncommon, it is still very possible. Carrying your second child while the older one is still feeding may be great for them in relation to bonding and avoiding future sibling rivalry.

If your previous and current pregnancies are smooth and trouble-free, for you it is absolutely safe to breastfeed while pregnant. All you have to do is properly care for yourself because your body will now endure much more load. A healthy and nutritional diet, staying hydrated, and staying comfortable as much as you can–will probably do the trick for you. Remember to do regular check-ups at your doctor’s to ensure that everything is still how it should be.

If you decide to wean your older child for whatever reasons–that is still totally up to you. Your children need their mother to be positive and energetic, so, if you feel that this decision is going to benefit your physical and mental health, do not hesitate to make it. Talk to your pediatrician about how properly introduce formula or solids, and enjoy being a future mother again.

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