Breastfeeding During Pregnancy
I'm Pregnant and Still Nursing My Toddler--Must I Wean Now?
Finding out you are pregnant does not mean you must stop breastfeeding your toddler. Many mothers choose to continue breastfeeding throughout pregnancy, while others decide to wean. The following information may help you decide what is best for you and your family.
Relatives, friends and health care professionals may express doubts about breastfeeding while pregnant. Their concerns might include that you would be risking the health of your unborn baby. It may be reassuring to know that in a normal pregnancy there is no evidence that continuing to breastfeed will deprive your unborn child of necessary nutrients. In addition, according to the La Leche League International BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK, 3rd Edition 2003, page 407. "Although uterine contractions are experienced during breastfeeding, they are a normal part of pregnancy. .. Uterine contractions also occur during sexual activity, which most couples continue during pregnancy." Also, according to the BAB, page 408, "Currently, no specific medical guidelines exist that define in which situations it may be risky to continue breastfeeding during pregnancy, and prenatal caregivers vary widely in their recommendations." The materials listed in the "Additional Resources" section of this FAQ will help you address the fears others may express.
Needing extra rest is normal in pregnancy. Breastfeeding during your pregnancy may help you get extra rest if you breastfeed your toddler while lying down. Completely childproofing one room with a mattress or pallet on the floor would allow you to continue to rest if your toddler goes off to play. Who knows, you both may drift off for a little nap!
Some mothers develop tender nipples during pregnancy. Careful attention to your child's position can help. Breathing techniques from childbirth classes can help you cope with the increased sensitivity. The breathing techniques may also help if you become restless while your toddler breastfeeds. If your child is old enough, you can ask him or her to nurse more gently or for shorter periods of time. This will help with both your tender nipples and your feelings of restlessness.
Women who breastfeed while pregnant often find their milk supply decreases around the fourth or fifth month. If your breastfeeding baby is less than a year old, watch his weight gain to be sure he is getting enough to eat. It's also not uncommon for the flavor of your milk to change. These changes may prompt some older toddlers to nurse less often or to wean entirely.
If you decide you want to wean your toddler, it's easiest to proceed gradually. The approach of "don't offer, don't refuse" is one that has worked for many mothers. See if you can anticipate when your child is likely to ask to nurse and offer a distraction or a healthful snack instead. Avoid sitting in your favorite nursing chair. Be sure you give lots of extra hugs and attention. Remember that weaning a toddler can be hard work: continuing to nurse is sometimes easier for the mother. See these FAQs for additional thoughts on weaning.
After the new baby is born, it's not unusual for the weaned child to want to taste the milk or ask to nurse again. Some may not remember how to suckle, others will complain about the taste and there will be some who would be happy to resume a breastfeeding relationship. If you do not want to breastfeed the older sibling, you could offer a taste of your milk in a cup or spoon.
If you continue breastfeeding through your pregnancy, you may find yourself breastfeeding both an infant and an older sibling. Many mothers have found this arrangement, called "tandem nursing," is a good way of meeting the needs of both children. Your local LLL Leader can give you more information on breastfeeding while pregnant and/or tandem nursing. The resources below will help you to explore your feelings about breastfeeding both your new baby and your "old" baby.
Resources for Additional Information
These items may be available from the LLLI Online Store or through your local Leader:
ADVENTURES IN TANDEM NURSING: BREASTFEEDING DURING PREGNANCY AND BEYOND: Author Hilary Flower draws on both research-based information and anecdotes from experienced mothers to provide insight and guidance for mothers. She captures both the joy and the ambivalence of this adventure in mothering. Includes all new illustrations by Beth Hannon and photos generously donated from dozens of breastfeeding mothers.
THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, published by LLLI, is the most complete resource available for the breastfeeding mother.
Breastfeeding through Pregnancy and Beyond. A wonderful booklet to help a mother decide whether or not she will continue nursing an older baby through her pregnancy. With information about technique, solutions to potential problems, and a discussion on weaning. By the Nursing Mothers' Association of Australia.
MOTHERING YOUR NURSING TODDLER, revised edition by Norma Jane Bumgarner: The classic handbook from LLLI for mothers who breastfeed their children past infancy in an updated and expanded edition. Norma Jane Bumgarner includes information on breastfeeding during pregnancy and deciding whether to wean or continue breastfeeding.
Our FAQs present information from La Leche League International on topics of interest to parents of breastfed children. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise. If you have a serious breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to a La Leche League Leader. Please consult health care professionals on any medical issue, as La Leche League Leaders are not medical practitioners.