Eating for Three? Nursing while you are pregnant

This post is from one of my fellow bloggers, Anne from Zephyr Hill blog. I’ve followed her for a few years now. Anne is an absolute wealth of knowledge on cloth diapers…among many other interesting things she writes about on her blog. She is a mom to seven and also writes about homeschooling and hobby farming! I haven’t yet had to nurse while pregnant. But I know that this post is something that many of you might find helpful. Be sure to check out Anne and follow her on Facebook at Zephyr Hill

If you’re nursing a baby and recently found out you are pregnant, join the club. This has happened to me several times! And there a few things I wanted to share with you about my experiences, just to give you a heads up and help you prepare for the experience of “eating for three.”

Your milk may change. Sometimes, pregnancy will alter the taste and/or amount of your milk. Your nursing baby may be fussier than usual, may show signs of wanting to wean or his/her weight gain may slow or stop. If changes occur, they tend to happen after the first trimester. About 70% of women will see a decrease in supply. But that leaves 30% who will produce enough to exclusively feed their nursing baby as long as they wish, so don’t lose hope, but do watch your baby for signs that he/she is not getting enough. If that is the case, you can still continue to nurse even after the baby comes, but you’ll likely need to supplement in some way.

Demand will increase. I had a friend who was eating for four; she was feeding herself, nursing twins and growing a baby! Be vigilant about nutrition and hydration if you are pregnant and breastfeeding at the same time. Answer your appetite, eat nourishing foods and you should be fine.

Anne and her sweet baby <3

Anne and her sweet baby <3

Take your vitamins. Really. During pregnancy, you’re constantly reminded to take your vitamins; this can be doubly important if you are also nursing. It’s a good idea to ask your doctor or midwife about any supplementation that you might need to due to higher needs. With my last pregnancy I was advised to continue taking Vitamin D to benefit my nursing baby; I also became anemic halfway through the pregnancy and had to supplement with Floradix (a fantastic herbal iron formulation that had my levels up in less than 2 weeks).

Dueling hormones. You’ve got pregnancy hormones doing their thing, and breastfeeding hormones doing theirs. It can be quite a roller coaster!

But there are many positive benefits. The soothing effect of nursing can help counteract the moodiness of pregnancy. Every time you stop to feed your baby, you enjoy a little quiet time. You might become even closer to your child as you treasure the fleeting moments you are sharing before delivery day. Nursing and caring for a baby may take your mind off morning sickness, aches and pains and pregnancy worries, at least for a little while. And there’s something about nourishing two babies at the same time that really makes you feel like a super hero sometimes!

But….if you find yourself experiencing breast discomfort and pain, feeling more tired and irritable, or just wishing your baby would self-wean, those are all normal emotions, too.

It may affect morning sickness. There are no scientific studies I know to back this up, but some women do report that breastfeeding helps to lessen morning sickness a little bit. This has been my experience. Others experience waves nausea while feeding their child. For some, this happens during letdown. I’m sure the reason it’s hard to do a conclusive study on this is that every pregnancy is different; having morning sickness – or not – is hard to attribute to just one thing.

You might be curious about other effects that breastfeeding can have on your pregnancy, especially if you are high-risk, or have had a prior high-risk pregnancy. Those would be questions to ask your healthcare provider, since every situation is different and you don’t want to wean unnecessarily.

Have you nursed a baby during pregnancy? Did it change things for you?

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About Jennifer Reinhardt

Jenn is a WAHM to two beautiful little girls. Sophia (4.5 years old) and Norah (4 months). She closed her business, Curves, when she found out she was pregnant so she could stay home with her first daughter. Now Jenn spends her time spreading the love of fluff and sharing common sense answers that help to make cloth diapers easy for everyone.

View all posts by Jennifer Reinhardt

16 Responses to “Eating for Three? Nursing while you are pregnant”

  1. Kayla Says:

    Love all if the stories, love the info, but has anyone ever experienced nursing a nine months old and being pregnant?

    Reply

    • Michelle Says:

      I am doing just that now! I have a 9 month old son and am 2 months pregnant. It’s so hard to eat enough so I’m not starving all the time!

      Reply

  2. Krista C Says:

    I nursed my first while pregnant with my second, as well as after baby was born. My older boy was around 16 months old when I got pregnant. He was eating food and only nursing a few times a day, so I didn’t have trouble producing enough. I had less morning sickness with my second pregnancy over-all, but I often noticed that let down triggered the nausea. The reason seemed pretty clear to me. I always got a wave of nausea when I was hungry, and it was common to get a wave of hunger when my milk let down.
    I enjoyed the special time with my toddler, but I often found myself getting irritated while nursing him, especially at bedtime. It was likely partially because of nipple sensitivity. When I got irritated, I would stop. My toddler was just nursing for comfort, so there was no point in getting grumpy. Out was better to pull away the breast and give him comfort in another way.
    Once my second was born, both of my boys had major growing episodes, and I think it had to do with the fact that they were both getting toddler and newborn milk.
    I heard about one woman who was breast-feeding while pregnant. She started only nursing her toddler on one side, asp the. When the new baby came, that breast continued producing toddler milk while the other breast produced colostrum for the newborn! I may try this if it happens again.
    I lived nursing a newborn and a toddler at the same time. I tried to nurse the baby first to make sure he got enough, but I also often nursed them simultaneously. Now THAT made me feel like super-mom! I think it also helped my two boys bond, and eased the transition for my older one.

    When my oldest was about 2 1/2, my body decided it was done duel-feeding and started producing only enough for the baby. At the point my oldest was almost weaned, anyway, though.

    Reply

  3. p Says:

    There’s no mention of pain, discomfort and even nursing aversion. I think they’re important things to discuss so the women feeling them don’t feel so alone on top of the guilt of suddenly hating nursing while pregnant.

    Reply

  4. Heather Johnson Says:

    I nursed #1 while pregnant with #2 until my second trimester.

    Reply

  5. Ashley Says:

    When my daughter was 13 months, I became pregnant with my second. About a week after conception, my daughter decided she didn’t like the milk anymore and weaned very abruptly. Fortunately, she had only been nursing three times a day, and pregnancy apparently diminished my supply, because I had no discomfort from the abrupt weaning. Her self-weaning was one of the clues that caused me to realize I was pregnant. I would have been sad about it if I hadn’t had another baby to look forward to. I thought it was interesting the article said nursing changes usually don’t happen until after the first trimester. I guess I’m an exception.

    Reply

    • Anne Sweden Says:

      Ashley, thank you for sharing your story! In a book called Mothering Your Nursing Toddler, the author Bumgarner talks about a study she did with several pregnant mothers. By testing the milk from the beginning of the pregnancy to the end, she found that around the 2nd month, the milk noticeably changed not only in composition (more sodium and protein, less sugars and lactose) but also decreased in volume. Lower sugar levels would definitely help explain why some babies reject the taste.

      And I think it’s around the second trimester that a pregnant mother’s milk starts to change to something more like colostrum (non-nursing women will even begin to see it leak out), so this further explains why many women see differences at that time.

      High levels of estrogens and progesterone are known to suppress milk production. I wonder if in some mothers, like your case, these levels are higher earlier on?

      Anne (guest poster)

      Reply

  6. Dawne Says:

    I nursed during pregnancy. There really ISN’T much out there, and even doctors don’t know. It was very frustrating, with my 5th baby, I was nursing #4 and my OB told me I had to wean because “it’s bad for the baby”, so I did, when I was around 34 weeks (#4 had just turned 2). He was miserable, but I thought I was doing the right thing. #5 weaned herself at 18 months…she liked the cup better than the mom :( #6 did not want to wean though, and my OB told me there was no reason to, as long as my baby was growing fine. (She was, and I nursed #6 right up until I had #7) #6 is almost 4 and still likes to have a “taste” now and then, and #7 is still going strong at 8 months.

    Reply

  7. Bianca Says:

    I am so glad that you wrote about this topic! As you know, I’m a mama blogger too and when I was writing about my experience and looking for additional first hand accounts, it was so hard to find something personable. Feeling supported is one of the biggest motivators to my success.

    I nursed my first daughter until I was 5 months pregnant with baby #2. She weaned on her own and it was such a bittersweet end.

    Reply

    • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

      Hi Bianca! I’m so glad you found this helpful. I agree that it’s hard to find much on nursing while pregnant. I am asked all the time and there isn’t much info to link to. I’m so grateful to Anne for writing this post and allowing me to share it here!

      Reply

  8. Kathy Says:

    Wow, what perfect timing. I am nursing my 2+ year old and am also 10 weeks pregnant (found out the day before DS turned two!). I’m having a lot of frustration I’ve never had with nursing because my breasts are tender and DS is going through a nursing mania. I’m starting to set nursing limits for my own comfort though night time nursing is resulting in a lot of tears. :( I’m curious about thoughts on weaning and pregnancy. My CNM said nursing after 12 weeks can lead to early labor onset. She seemed to know that I wasn’t going to wean DS in the next three weeks and said I had to decide what I wanted to do. But, I’m curious if there really is a tie between nursing and early labor. I’ve become rather suspicious of the medical field since becoming pregnant the first time and realizing how much garbage “medical wisdom” exists about childbirth and nursing and baby raisin’!

    Reply

    • Heather Says:

      Kathy I would imagine if you have had a history of preterm labor then there might be some risk in nursing during pregnancy but if you are healthy you shouldn’t have an issue. I just recently had my third baby and I nursed my one year old throughout my entire pregnancy with no issues other than some nursing aversion (where it drove me nuts if she touched me) and sore nipples. If it would help ease your mind, you could always talk to a La Leche League leader. And I’m totally there with you on the garbage medical advice. It’s what led me to free birth my last two children. Very empowering.

      Reply

    • Lynn Says:

      I nursed my 2.5 year old all the way through my pregnancy and I had no problem with early labor. To be fair he was down to once or twice a day! FYI it got really painful for me at the end. One account I recently read described it perfectly, it’s like a cat is licking your nipple *shudder*. Everything did go back to normal after I gave birth (although my son then wanted to nurse non-stop!) I found a few accounts of nursing while pregnant when I googled tandem nursing.

      Reply

    • Dawne Says:

      Tandem nursing is the norm in many cultures, Kathy. Unless you have had problems before with preterm labor, I would not worry about it this time. At 2, your LO can understand when you tell him to be gentle. As with anything else, be gentle and firm with him, but let him nurse for as long as it feels right for both of you.

      I did have preterm labor with my last one, but my doctors said it was not due to breastfeeding, and in the end, she was born 1 day before her due date, with spontaneous membrane rupture and no complications..except that the doc on duty was a jerk and almost had to run to catch the babe. ;)

      Reply

    • Anne Sweden Says:

      Kathy, the concern about preterm labor probably stems from the fact that nursing can cause mild contractions. However, what I’ve always been told (and read) is that for a normal, healthy pregnancy, there is nothing to be concerned about. They are not strong enough to put you in labor.

      In a few situations, there might be an increased risk, but since there is not enough scientific data to bear this out, many mothers who have been, or are now, high-risk, will wean early to play it safe. It really should be taken on a case-by-case basis, and the conditions of your prior pregnancy should certainly be taken into account.

      I know what you mean about being suspicious. My first labor was a c-section, but it was not due in any way to a problem or fetal distress (long story). I had doctors try to dissuade me from a VBAC simply because of the prior surgery, regardless of the circumstances! I have since gone on to have 8 successful VBAC’s.

      Here is an interesting Kelly Mom post about the question of whether breastfeeding can trigger pre-term labor. http://kellymom.com/pregnancy/bf-preg/bfpregnancy_safety/

      Anne (the guest poster)

      Reply

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