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Breastfeeding during pregnancy

Breastfeeding during pregnancy

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When it comes to pregnancy and breastfeeding, it is recommended to wait at least 6 months following weaning before falling pregnant again.

This gives your body time to recuperate before the additional energy expenditure. If you happen to fall pregnant before this, your child’s breastfeeding needs should (ideally) not have to be interrupted unless this is your choice, or theirs!

In fact, many women DO fall pregnant before this time frame, and an estimated 30-55% will continue to breastfeed their previous child throughout subsequent pregnancy and beyond.

Here are some of the common reasons women choose to breastfeed while pregnant:

  • Falling pregnant unexpectedly (the lactation-contraceptive method is not foolproof!)
  • You may not be ready to wean
  • Your child may not be ready to wean

 

Here’s what you need to know if you decide to breastfeed while pregnant!

Is it safe?

Yes, it is usually perfectly safe to breastfeed while pregnant. Your body will continue to provide nutrients to your older child as well as support the growth of your unborn baby.

Breastfeeding can trigger mild uterine contractions. These are safe in uncomplicated pregnancies and are generally painless and unproductive. However, in high-risk pregnancies its safest to seek advice from your healthcare provider prior to continuation of breastfeeding.

High risk pregnancies can include previous preterm delivery, high blood pressure, twins, placenta previa and more.

What are some possible issues?

  • Reduced milk supply (usually mid-pregnancy) - happens as a result of hormonal changes and is often non-responsive to additional milk removal that would normally increase supply
  • Change of milk taste – this is due to colostrum and an increase in sodium/decreasing lactose concentration as milk supply begins to drop.
  • Breast and nipple tenderness – caused by hormonal changes in pregnancy. It is cited as the most common reason for women choosing to wean their toddler.
  • Time constraints and fatigue of breastfeeding 2 babies instead of one
  • Emotional impact of caring for more than one child
  • Lack of support from family and friends

 

Looking after your first child

Your breastmilk will still provide your first child with the nutrients they need - however, the content and supply of your milk will change over the course of the pregnancy.

You will also begin to produce colostrum again in preparation for your newborn. This tastes different and can also have a laxative effect on your breastfeeding child.

These changes may cause your older child to naturally wean themselves at some point during the pregnancy. This commonly happens from around 25-30 weeks onwards.

If your child is less than 12 months of age when you fall pregnant be mindful of their urine output, weight gain and behaviour to ensure they are receiving enough breastmilk.

You can take care of yourself by making sure you are well hydrated, eating well and resting! The additional energy requirements can be met by your body as you adjust throughout the pregnancy.

Cover image by Jonathan Borba

Written by Keryn Thompson RM & IBCLC (L-301766)

References

Anderson, P., 2017. The Pregnancy-Breastfeeding Interface. Breastfeeding Medicine, 12(1), pp.2-4.

Chowdhury, R., Sinha, B., Sankar, M., Taneja, S., Bhandari, N., Rollins, N., Bahl, R. and Martines, J., 2015. Breastfeeding and maternal health outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acta Paediatrica, 104, pp.96-113.

Fledderjohann, J., Vellakkal, S. and Stuckler, D., 2016. Breastfeeding, pregnant, and non-breastfeeding nor pregnant women's food consumption. Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare, 7, pp.70-77.

López-Fernández, G., Barrios, M., Goberna-Tricas, J. and Gómez-Benito, J., 2017. Breastfeeding during pregnancy: A systematic review. Women and Birth, 30(6), pp.e292-e300.

Mgongo, M., Hussein, T., Stray-Pedersen, B., Vangen, S., Msuya, S. and Wandel, M., 2019. Facilitators and Barriers to Breastfeeding and Exclusive Breastfeeding A Qualitative Study. International Journal of Pediatrics, 2019, pp.1-7.

Monasta, L., Cetin, I. and Davanzo, R., 2014. Breastfeeding During Pregnancy: Safety and Socioeconomic Status. Breastfeeding Medicine, 9(6), pp.322-322.

O'rourke, M. and Spatz, D., 2019. Women's Experiences with Tandem Breastfeeding. MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, 44(4), pp.220-227.

Yalçın, S., Demirtaş, M. and Yalçın, S., 2021. Breastfeeding While Pregnant: A Country-Wide Population Study. Breastfeeding Medicine, 16(10), pp.827-834.

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