Breastfeeding is often touted as being one of the most natural experiences on Earth. While it’s true that there is nothing more primal and native to us than birthing and nourishing our children, that doesn’t mean it comes easily to every mom. Likewise, many mothers who choose to breastfeed a current child through their pregnancy with the next run into hiccups along the way that they weren’t expecting.
That’s right, even mothers with experience in breastfeeding may be thrown for a loop when they enter this territory while expecting. Pregnancy changes our bodies in drastic ways. Because of that, Mom’s milk also changes. It’s composition, taste, amount and more may fluctuate. This could disturb current nurslings and leave them rejecting the breast, or fighting for even more time on it.
Furthermore, mothers can expect to experience a few bouts of discomfort along the way that weren’t occurring before they got pregnant. A lot of women end up weaning their nurslings on purpose after they get pregnant, because the demand on their bodies is just too hard to keep up with alongside all of life’s other demands. It’s a personal choice that moms need to make with their current and future babies in mind. For those considering nursing through conception and pregnancy, here’s what can be expected.
15 Are We Expecting?
For a lot of mommies, breastfeeding serves as excellent birth control. It is estimated at being 98 percent effective when women are following all seven principles of ecological breastfeeding during the first six months postpartum.
For some women, this isn’t the intention they set out with. They want to conceive quickly and breastfeeding can hinder this by suppressing the menstrual cycle. This occurs because prolactin is high in order for lactation to be possible. High prolactin thereby suppresses estrogen and progesterone, which are needed to produce ovulation and menses.
Both women who are hoping to conceive and women who are hoping to use breastfeeding as birth control may become concerned or suspicious of pregnancy during their breastfeeding journey. While there are some signs women can look for, they aren’t clear cut. For instance, egg white cervical mucus may mean ovulation is pending, but it could also just be a result of an estrogen surge.
Some women experience nipple and breast pain or a drop in their milk supply, but this can also be caused by other complications with breastfeeding. It can be difficult for a lot of women to even know when to take a pregnancy test without a clear point of ovulation or a period to judge it by.
14 It’ll Cause A Miscarriage
Sadly, a lot of women are discouraged from continuing to nurse their current babies while they’re pregnant with the next. Even pediatricians and obstetricians may advise their patients that this isn’t a good idea. And it’s complete bulls***.
A lot of the fears surrounding nursing through pregnancy are unfounded. Doctors often scare their patients into weaning by telling them nursing while pregnant can cause miscarriage. To be clear, this fear isn’t totally irrational. Breastfeeding does cause Mom to release oxytocin, and that can trigger contractions. But it’s not a given, and the vast majority of women who have been breastfeeding can continue to do so while pregnant with no harm coming to either of their little ones.
Some people worry that oxytocin will trigger contractions and that this will cause miscarriage. This is generally not true even in women with a history of miscarriage. It’s a personal choice that each individual woman should make based on being fully informed of any real risks — imaginary ones aside.
13 It Hurts!
There’s no sugarcoating this aspect of nursing through pregnancy. When you conceive, your body starts to produce copious amounts of progesterone and estrogen. Those sex hormones make the breasts very tender and sensitive, much like they do when you are ovulating or expecting your period.
Women may experience discomfort while nursing that is similar to that which they experienced when nursing their first baby for the first few weeks. This is often referred to as the time when the nipples are being toughened up, but it won’t subside as quickly during pregnancy.
As the pregnancy progresses, the placenta eventually takes over for progesterone production. For some women, the pain while nursing decreases at this time. For others, it may worsen. How a woman responds to her own natural hormones varies from woman to woman. Unfortunately, many women will have discomfort through nursing their entire pregnancy. The things we do for our babies!
12 Barf Bag, Anyone?
Believe it or not, breastfeeding can cause some seriously intense side effects for a lot of women. When all those chemical hormones are at play, anything can happen. Some women will find they have no libido while breastfeeding. Others will experience Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, which causes them to feel an extreme aversion to nursing and even get depressed or anxious when they experience letdown.
During pregnancy, breastfeeding just adds more chaos to the hormonal concoction going on inside of our bodies. A lot of women struggle with morning sickness to begin with, but morning sickness while breastfeeding while pregnant can really push a mommy to her limits. For some ladies, breastfeeding will intensify their nausea and vomiting while they are pregnant. The good news is that this tends to subside still after the first trimester has passed.
11 Milk Is Going, Going, Gone
Also, due to those rising hormones during pregnancy, mommies may find that their milk supply starts to diminish. If you aren’t an exclusive pumper, it can be hard to tell right away that something is off. You may feel sore because your child is nursing more aggressively in an attempt to get more milk, but you won’t necessarily know this is because of low supply and not just increased sensitivity because you’re pregnant.
Some women can nurse throughout pregnancy and their hormones won’t impact their supply at all. Others will find that they dry up right away. Most who do dry up don’t until the second trimester. Soreness may not be an issue, but your nursling may start to get fussy at the breast or begin to nurse for longer periods of time. These can be signs that supply is decreasing.
10 An Emotional Trainwreck
Hey, if there’s one thing all of us moms are good at, it’s making ourselves feel utterly awful. We are never good enough, right? We can never do enough for our babies. Breastfeeding is a big commitment, and mothers should be proud that they choose to follow this natural and healthy path of childrearing. When it’s time to wean, it can be difficult to process the whirlwind of emotions that overcome us.
There is sorrow that we won’t be looking down and watching our little angel feed anymore. There may be embarrassment that we didn’t stick it out longer. We may feel like a failure for weaning because it’s just become too painful to nurse, or because our supply is drying up. We may even feel guilty for getting pregnant again if the pregnancy is the cause of the breastfeeding relationship ending. Whatever the reason, be kind to yourself.
9 My Cup Runneth Over
Moms who have struggled with an undersupply often balk at this statement. Having three children now, I had a plethora of milk with one, just the right amount for another, and a low supply for the last. Trust me when I say being right in the middle is best. Having too much breastmilk serious can be a pain. Oversupply is a big reason that women are discouraged from pumping in the first six weeks of a baby’s life when the milk supply is trying to regulate itself.
This kind of side effect can also occur when a woman becomes pregnant while she is nursing. It is not nearly as common as the milk supply decreasing, but it does happen. Again, everyone responds to their own hormones in different ways. Likewise, the way a woman reacts to her hormones throughout her life changes, too.
If you’ve been nursing your little one and you’ve suddenly felt engorged all over again or find that you need to pump or manually express between feedings, it’s first suggested that you analyze your little one’s nursing habits. Has babe cut back from nursing as long or as frequently? If not, it may be worth picking up a pregnancy test.
8 Weight Woes
Breastfeeding has long been touted as the perfect weight loss method. If only that were true. While some women notably drop the pregnancy pounds without any effort after birth, others continue to struggle to lose the baby fat, and it’s often because of breastfeeding. Prolactin is high while we are nursing and it encourages mommas to eat, eat, eat. Women actually need a higher caloric intake while breastfeeding than they do while pregnant.
On the flipside, the women who lose weight while breastfeeding may also realize they are struggling to gain it while nursing during pregnancy. This only presents a problem if weight gain is so low that malnourishment or growth hindrances are suspected. Each momma needs to make the decision whether or not to wean based on these facts through serious discussion with their doctor or midwife.
7 When Will We Wean?
All moms have to think about this at one point or another. The best time to wean is truly when both mom and baby are ready to. There is no standard time for this. While it is beneficial for a mother to breastfeed throughout the first year of life, it is really only in America that mothers are told this. In other developed nations, they’re encouraged to breastfeed for even longer.
The benefits of breastfeeding extend well into the toddler years and there was actually never a reason to cap it off after the first year. So, weaning at one year is only necessary if that just happens to be what you want to do.
Getting pregnant is not a straightforward reason to wean. It’s not a guarantee that your milk will dry up. There’s no guarantee it will hurt, and many moms choose to nurse anyway even when it does. Pregnancy may change the way your milk tastes. For that reason, many nurslings choose to self-wean at this time. Supply changes aren’t a reason not to continue breastfeeding. Research shows that allowing kids to self-wean is ideally the best thing we can do for them.
6 Pre-Term Labor Concerns
Just as many women worry about breastfeeding causing a miscarriage, others worry that it could cause pre-term labor. This again goes back to oxytocin production. When we nurse or pump, it sends signals to our body to produce oxytocin. This is the catalyst behind nipple stimulation being used as a form of induction for labor.
Because of that, many women wrongly assume that the same contractions will be brought on by nursing or pumping while pregnant and that this could cause them to go into labor prematurely. While this is possible should a mother who has not been breastfeeding suddenly pump or use excessive stimulation of the nipples, it is highly unlikely to occur to a mom whose body has been accustomed to nursing throughout the entire pregnancy already.
5 Here Comes Colostrum!
There are a lot of proposed theories out there looming about how the milk supply works to feed both a newborn and an older child — usually a toddler. While it is possible that the initial change in a woman’s milk supply can produce two different substances from each breast, this isn’t as common.
Most women will find that the reason their supply dries up in the late second trimester is because the third trimester is prepping the body to produce colostrum. Moms who have breastfed through most of their pregnancy and then dried up may suddenly see a resurgence in their supply. Others won’t leak a drop until their new babe is born.
Either way, the body does have to make colostrum for the newborn baby. Breasts are miraculous. It is the exchange of saliva from our babies that tells our bodies what kind of milk it needs to make to fully nourish our babies as they grow older. Thus, the milk that a newborn needs is much more nutrient-dense.
4 Stage Five Clinger
As your body, breasts and milk change, your current son or daughter may start to treat you a little differently. They may be put off by your growing chest and belly. They might have questions for which the answers are hard to understand at their age. They may also feel some jealousy over the impending arrival and the thought of having to share Mommy with the new baby. This is totally normal.
Likewise, when you’re pregnant and breastfeeding, your toddler may start to get clingy and appear needier. This isn’t a bad thing and shouldn’t be viewed as such. Sometimes the word needy comes with such negative connotation, but we need to remember that children who have needs are children who need nourishment. Meet those needs. You will not create a clingy toddler. You’ll create a healthy baby with a healthy and strong relationship with their mother.
3 Vitamins Are Vital
There’s a host of research out there that is narrowing in on just what breastfeeding and pregnancy do to a woman’s body. No, we aren’t talking about saggy breasts and stomach flab. Enough people are talking about that. Instead, let’s shed some light on the nutritional aspect of these events in a woman’s life.
Pregnancy requires a lot of nutrition and energy from Mom. She is growing another human being! Sometimes we think this is so common that we don’t truly give it the marvel and attention it deserves. It’s miraculous!
That said, pregnancy and breastfeeding both suck up a lot of Mom’s nutrients and can leave her body very depleted as it facilitates fetal and infant development. Moms who are nutritionally lacking may be more likely to suffer from postpartum mood disorders, and subsequent pregnancies may be more likely to produce children with developmental disorders. So, moms who are both nursing and pregnant really need to up their caloric intake of healthy, whole foods more, in addition to quality prenatal supplements and vitamins.
2 Nursing Without Milk
If your milk dries up, dry nursing is still an option if it doesn’t cause you too much pain. This may be just what your little one needs to ride out this transition. Women who experience discomfort with dry nursing shouldn’t give up right away. Applying lanolin and other barrier creams in between feedings can help. In addition, applying some coconut oil before nursing can provide some lubrication so that the nursing session isn’t too hard on you.
If all else fails, consider alternatives, like bottle feeding while topless. This still gives baby the sensation of nursing if they can play and touch as they normally would while nursing. Don’t assume that just because you aren’t nursing anymore, you don’t need to cradle your child or snuggle with them while they eat from a bottle. Babies nurse for many reasons, not just to eat.
1 Tandem Nursing Ahead
Last but not least, it’s important that moms who nurse during pregnancy prepare for the road ahead. If you are fortunate enough to make it through your entire pregnancy without your milk supply drying up, and your toddler doesn’t reject the breast because of a change in the taste of your milk, then you’ll be all set to start tandem nursing.
This can be difficult in the initial days and weeks. Your toddler will have to learn to wait their turn sometimes. Other times, you may feed both at the same time with no issue. Your body will go through quite a lot to produce milk for two children of different ages, and there’s no reason to be concerned that it won’t deliver what is nutritionally needed. There’s a groove that will suit you and your littles just perfectly, but it takes some patience and commitment to find that groove. Don’t give up!