Breastfeeding While Pregnant

By Krista Gray, IBCLC. Last updated February 8, 2013.

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Is breastfeeding while pregnant safe?

While there is very little research, the simple answer is yes.  In fact, in more traditional societies worldwide, it is quite common for conception to occur while breastfeeding.  Most women will still produce milk and be able to breastfeed another child during pregnancy.

Are there any concerns about breastfeeding during pregnancy?

Yes, there are several things to consider if you are breastfeeding during pregnancy.  Nutritional needs, nipple tenderness, milk supply, and physical stamina are all issues to consider.

What additional nutrients do I need?

In order to ensure an adequate intake for your body, the growing baby in your womb, and your nursing child, it is important to take prenatal vitamins and eat a well-balanced, whole foods diet.  Drink plenty of water and eat healthy, nutritious foods whenever you are hungry.  This is not the time to diet or restrict food.  At the same time, it is an especially important time to take extra care in selecting whole foods and steering clear of unhealthy fats, sugars, highly processed and refined foods, fast foods, etc.

Will my nipples hurt if I breastfeed while pregnancy?

It is common during pregnancy for a woman’s nipples to become sore.  Breastfeeding may make the tenderness even more intense.  Since these are hormonal changes within the mother’s body there is not much that can be done.  In fact, this is the number one reason cited for weaning during pregnancy.1  You may consider decreasing the number of breastfeeds during the day to possibly give your nipples time to rest and help keep breastfeeding enjoyable for both mother and child.

Will my milk change during pregnancy?

It is quite possible that your milk supply will decrease.  About mid-pregnancy, many women will notice their milk supply begin to decline.  This is a hormonal change and usually does not increase with additional breastfeeds.  Because of this drop in supply, the milk will begin to change in flavor, increasing in sodium content and decreasing in lactose.2  If your nursing child is old enough, she may even note the change in flavor of the milk.  Despite this, your breast milk will still be completely nutritious and healthy for your child.

Can breastfeeding during pregnancy harm the fetus?

In the past, some have noted that oxytocin, a hormone released while breastfeeding, is the same hormone released during labor that causes the uterus to contract.  It had been conjectured, therefore, that breastfeeding during pregnancy could cause preterm labor.  However,  two studies3 have both concluded there is not an increased risk of preterm labor due to breastfeeding.  The amount of oxytocin released while breastfeeding does not cause cervical effacement or dilation.  If your pregnancy is high risk and you are concerned about this issue, please discuss the risks and benefits with your health care provider.

Are there benefits to breastfeeding while pregnant?

Breastfeeding can forge a wonderful bond between you and your baby.  It is a way of parenting that is about so much more than just the nutrition – when your child is hurt, sick, sad, upset, wants an extra cuddle, or you just want to hold him extra close sometimes – nursing can help.  While pregnant, you may be tired and have less energy at times; nursing your toddler could provide needed breaks during the day for you to both sit down and relax.  Additionally, the World Health Organization and many pediatric associations around the world recommend breastfeeding your child until age two or beyond.  Continuing to breastfeed your older child continues to have nutritious qualities no matter his age.  And, once your new baby arrives, it is possible to continue to nurse both children.  Breastfeeding can be a way to comfort and prepare your child for the arrival of your new baby.

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Moscone SR, Moore MJ. (1993) Breastfeeding during pregnancy. Journal of Human Lactation 9(2):83-8.
  2. Prosser CG, Saint L, Hartmann PE. (1984) Mammary gland function during gradual weaning and early gestation in women. Australian Journal of Experimental Biology & Medical Science. 62(2):215-28.
  3. Flower H. (2003) Adventures in Tandem Nursing. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology 139(5):597-604.
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