Can you continue breastfeeding during pregnancy? Nancy Holtzman, a Registered Nurse and Lactation Consultant, has the information you need to make an informed decision. Your question
I am 2-1/2 months pregnant with my second baby and still breastfeeding my first, who is 15 months old. Can I continue breastfeeding while I am pregnant? If not, when should I stop? -- Susie, West Los Angeles
The expert answers
Congratulations on your new pregnancy, and how wonderful to hear you are breastfeeding your toddler! Some mothers may be surprised to find that they become pregnant while still nursing an older baby, and wonder if they should continue to nurse, or wean their toddler from the breast. Research shows that there is no harm to the growing fetus by continuing to nurse an older sibling.
Taking a prenatal vitamin in addition to eating a nutritious diet will help ensure that you are getting what you need to help your baby grow while keeping healthy yourself. In most cases, breastfeeding will not cause uterine contractions, and there is no research that shows a link between breastfeeding and miscarriage or preterm labor. Mothers with a history of premature labor will want to monitor this closely, however.
Most pregnant women in the first trimester have periods of fatigue, and this is intensified when you have a toddler, whether you are nursing or not. Taking a rest when your toddler does is helpful. Usually this fatigue gets better by the second trimester.
Although there is no medical reason to wean simply because you are pregnant, for several reasons you may find that you are nursing less as the pregnancy progresses.
Often it is the nursing child who makes the decision to cut back on nursing during his mother's pregnancy. The hormones of pregnancy will effect your milk supply, by gradually decreasing the amount of milk you produce, and also changing the milk's flavor. Some toddlers decide they don't care for the new taste. Sometimes this is helped along by the mother, who may experience nipple soreness in the first trimester, which may be even more tender as the toddler nurses.
If you would like to gradually wean during this time, you may adopt a "don't offer/don't refuse" technique with your toddler, and use distraction, fun activities, and extra snack times to take the place of some of the nursings. Be sure to offer plenty of snuggle time! If you are happy to continue nursing, you may find your toddler gradually loses interest over the next few months anyway, or, that s/he regains interest after your new baby is born, and the milk is flowing anew. Then you will discover the joys (and challenges) of tandem nursing... nursing a newborn and an older sibling. Yes, that can be done too!
Best wishes to you for your pregnancy!