What to Know
- Yes, you can breastfeed while pregnant
- What to take into account when deciding whether to breastfeed while pregnant
Continuing to breastfeed into your next pregnancy is a personal decision. It means taking care of all 3 parties involved – mother, breastfeeding baby and unborn child – nutritionally, physically and emotionally.
Know that you have increased nutrient needs when you’re pregnant and also when you’re breastfeeding, so if you’re engaged in both simultaneously then you’ll need to pay plenty of attention to the quality of your diet. Proper hydration, appropriate nutrients and adequate calories are crucial to support yourself, your breastfeeding child and your baby in utero all at the same time.
You may run into some hurdles, but being aware of them in advance can help. For example:
- Physically, the changes your body goes through while pregnant and breastfeeding (think nausea, fatigue and other uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms) may pose some challenges.
- Hormonal shifts related to pregnancy may change the composition, taste and supply of your breastmilk. Your breastfeeding baby may not prefer this new milk and could go on a “strike” or initiate self-weaning. (Read Navigating nursing strikes for more information on this topic).
- Know that it is common to have an aversion to nursing during pregnancy, so if your breastfeeding baby is less than 1 year old have a contingency plan for feeding him or discuss the aversion with a Happy Family Coach.
What to Do
Speak with your healthcare provider
If you want to continue breastfeeding while pregnant, have a discussion with your healthcare provider to discuss any risks that may apply. Specifically, you’ll want to make sure the continuation of breastfeeding won’t interfere with your ability to take care of yourself – think adequate rest, appropriate pregnancy weight gain and stress levels.
Surround yourself with people who support your decision
For many women, the opinions of family and society play a big part in the decision to breastfeed while pregnant.
Take good care of you
Remember that you are not only pregnant and creating a new life (from scratch!), but continuing to nourish another child as well – this is a lot of work! Keeping yourself well fed and hydrated for both your nursing child and fetus are key. This is especially important if your child is exclusively breastfed or under a year old, as her nutrient needs will be coming primarily from your body.
Check in with a Happy Family Coach to make sure you are meeting your needs during this time of high demand.
Stay in tune with the needs of your nursing baby, especially if she relies heavily on breastmilk
If your nursing baby is under the age of 1 or relies heavily on your breastmilk, keep an eye on her overall weight gain, growth patterns and developmental milestones. Be mindful of any changes in your baby’s intake, signs of hunger or fullness and any supply dips that may occur as a result of your pregnancy hormones.
A baby over 1 year of age that is consuming solid foods multiple times throughout the day and has decreased the amount of breast milk as a direct result, will require less milk than a baby under 1 that is still heavily relying on breastmilk as their main source of nutrition.
Do what makes sense for you
Everyone is different. Some women experience supply dips from pregnancy hormones, while others may not. Some women suffer from severe morning sickness and discomfort, while others may have never felt better. Think about whether the continuation of breastfeeding will work for your situation and lifestyle.
And keep in mind that your breastfeeding might make the decision for you! Changes in milk composition can lead to self-weaning in some cases. Take it one day at a time, and listen to your body and your babies.
Pay attention to any nutrient deficiencies
Keep track of your nutrient intake, especially if you follow a special diet due to dietary preferences, restrictions or a diagnosed nutrient deficiency (like iron).
Article and imagery: Happy Family Organics website