Breastfeeding while Pregnant
Read time: 5 minutes
What should I know about breastfeeding while pregnant?
You can breastfeed while pregnant in most cases
Learn what to consider when deciding whether to breastfeed while pregnant
Tips for breastfeeding during pregnancy
It’s not uncommon to become pregnant while still breastfeeding, even if your breastfed baby is under 1 year old. In fact, your chances of becoming pregnant while breastfeeding increase considerably once your little one turns 6 months.11 This is usually a result of the natural process of reducing breastfeeding a bit to fit in solid foods.
While it’s definitely possible to continue to breastfeed when pregnant, doing so is a very personal decision. It means taking care of all 3 parties involved – mother, breastfeeding baby, and unborn child – nutritionally, physically, and emotionally.
nutritionally, physically, and emotionally.
Nutrition needs increase when breastfeeding while pregnant
Your nutrient needs are increased both when you’re pregnant as well as when you’re breastfeeding.1 Should you decide to do both simultaneously, you’ll need to pay plenty of attention to the quality of your diet.
Proper hydration, appropriate nutrients, and adequate calories are crucial to support yourself, your breastfeeding child, and your baby in utero all at the same time.
Studies have found that without eating well and taking the right dietary supplement, pregnant women may be at higher risk for anemia and lower weight gain should they continue to breastfeed.2
While there is currently no research on the total needs of women who are breastfeeding during their pregnancy, it’s important to protect your and both your children’s health. You may not need to add both breastfeeding needs plus pregnancy needs on top of each other (our bodies may become more efficient when doing both), but it will be important to listen to your body and adjust as needed.3
Chat with your doctor about taking a prenatal vitamin, focus on eating balanced meals and snacks throughout the day, and be sure to drink plenty of fluids.
Potential complications of breastfeeding while pregnant
You may run into some hurdles but being aware of them in advance can help.
Pregnancy symptoms and their effect on breastfeeding
Physically, the changes your body goes through while pregnant may pose some challenges. Some women find that the increased nipple and breast pain is too much to handle while trying to also breastfeed.4
For others, their morning sickness intensifies while baby is breastfeeding. This could be from the influx of hormones that happen while the body produces milk for your child.3 These intense feelings and symptoms may make it harder to continue breastfeeding.
Learn about: Strategies to Manage Morning Sickness
Hormonal shifts during pregnancy affect breastmilk
Hormonal shifts related to pregnancy change the composition, taste, and supply of your breastmilk.
As your pregnancy progresses, your breastmilk changes back to colostrum in preparation for the birth of your baby.2 Colostrum tastes saltier and your breastfeeding baby may not enjoy this change, causing them to refuse the breastmilk and begin to self-wean.1
Note that colostrum also contains natural laxatives, which may make your breastfeeding child have looser stools.3 This is normal and will not harm your little one!
Additionally, for many women the shift in hormones causes breastmilk supply to decrease.2,4 You may find your little one becoming more frustrated at the breast and either trying to feed more frequently or stopping all together. If your breastfeeding baby is younger than 1 year, it will be important to add in supplemental formula to make sure their nutrition needs are met.5
Read more: Introducing Formula to a Breastfed Baby
Breastfeeding may impact your pregnancy
Some studies have indicated that breastfeeding may cause uterine contractions. While these are usually nothing to worry about, this could be something to take into consideration for higher-risk pregnancies.
Everyone is different. Some women experience supply dips from pregnancy hormones, while others may not. Some women suffer from severe morning sickness and discomfort, while others may have never felt better. Think about whether the continuation of breastfeeding will work for your situation and lifestyle.
And keep in mind that your breastfeeding child might make the decision for you! Changes in milk composition can lead to self-weaning in some cases. Take it one day at a time and listen to your body and your babies.
Unsure what to do? Reach out to our team of registered dietitians and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday – Friday 8am-6pm (ET), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-2pm (ET). Chat Now!
Tips for breastfeeding while pregnant
Speak with your healthcare provider
If you want to continue breastfeeding while pregnant, have a discussion with your healthcare provider to discuss any risks that may apply.
You’ll want to make sure the continuation of breastfeeding won’t interfere with your ability to take care of yourself with adequate rest, appropriate pregnancy weight gain, and stress levels.
Learn about: Creating Stress-Lowering Routines in Pregnancy
Is it possible to increase breastmilk supply while pregnant?
While most non-pregnant breastfeeding women can increase their supply by breastfeeding more often and pumping, this may not be possible during pregnancy. Since your lowered supply during pregnancy is related to changes in hormones, extra breast stimulation by pumping may not help to increase breastmilk supply.
Should you not be able to increase your supply, your breastfeeding child may need nutrition from another source.
Watch to make sure your baby is getting enough
If your nursing baby is under the age of 1 year or relies heavily on your breastmilk, keep an eye on their overall weight gain, growth patterns, and developmental milestones.
Be mindful of any changes in your baby’s intake, signs of hunger or fullness, and any supply dips that may happen because of your changing pregnancy hormones.
Under 1 year: Supplemental formula will be needed
Over 1 year: Your child may start to eat more at meals and snacks5
Meet your increased nutrition needs
Remember that you are not only pregnant and creating a new life but also continuing to nourish another child as well. This is a lot of work!
Keeping yourself well fed and hydrated for both your nursing child and fetus are key. This is especially important if your child is exclusively breastfed or under a year old, as their nutrient needs will be coming primarily from your body.
Tips to help you meet your nutrition needs when breastfeeding while pregnant:
Drink enough fluids. During pregnancy your fluid needs are between 8 to 12 cups (64 to 96 ounce) each day.8 You may want to aim toward the upper end of this to ensure you’re getting enough to also support breastfeeding.
Eat enough nutrient-dense foods: Your needs while pregnant are about 340 extra calories (over pre-pregnancy amounts) starting in the second trimester, increasing to about 450 calories in the third trimester.9,12 For breastfeeding, your needs are about 300 to 400 more per day.10,12 Aiming closer to 400 or a little more will help you and your babies get enough.
Ask about a prenatal vitamin: Chat with your doctor about taking a prenatal vitamin and which may meet your needs best.
Surround yourself with people who support your decision
For many women, the opinions of family and society play a big part in the decision to breastfeed while pregnant.4
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET), and Saturday - Sunday 8am-2pm (ET). Chat Now!
Read more about the experts that help write our content!