Your second and later pregnancies are a special time. You may feel more confident in your role as a mum and be looking forward to your family growing.
You could also be apprehensive. How could you love another child as you love your first? Or perhaps you are worried about the physical demands of being pregnant with another child to look after.
If you’re pregnant and still breastfeeding your baby or toddler, then you may have an extra concern about continuing to breastfeed through your new pregnancy and even beyond. Perhaps you’ve been told you need to wean now. Or maybe you know others who have breastfed through pregnancies and wondered how it all works.
Can I keep breastfeeding? What about my unborn child?
If your pregnancy is normal and healthy and you have no previous history of miscarriage in the first 20 weeks or preterm labour after 20 weeks, it's fine to keep breastfeeding. If you do miscarry, it’s unlikely to be because you are breastfeeding.
Sometimes you may be told that breastfeeding is ‘taking the goodness away from your unborn baby'. The reality is your unborn baby has priority on all the nutrients it needs. Many mums are normally advised to adjust their diet to allow for additional nutritional needs during pregnancy or breastfeeding. If you’re doing both, then obviously, it is important that you do.
If you are still breastfeeding your child in later pregnancy, you may wonder if your newborn may not get any colostrum. Some mums do limit their toddler to one side only during late pregnancy. But it appears that breasts go back to making colostrum automatically without you having to do anything.
Your body may start to make colostrum by itself during the pregnancy, or this may happen if your child stops feeding for a while. The taste of colostrum may encourage your child to wean, at least for a time, as it is saltier than mature milk. Other breastfeeding children don't mind at all. Be aware that colostrum is a natural laxative (to help the newborn pass the meconium poo), so your child's poos may become far more liquid. But it won't harm them at all.
How will I feel?
If you are breastfeeding while pregnant, you may notice a few side effects. Morning sickness can sometimes be worse during a feed. This may be due to hormonal release in your body, hunger, thirst or tiredness.
Your nipples may feel tender as a result of pregnancy hormones, which for some mums can be very painful. Nipple tenderness may last a trimester or longer. You can relieve the discomfort by being careful with positioning and attachment. You may also like to try lying down to feed. Many mums continue to breastfeed even though it isn't comfortable because of the benefits it brings their baby or toddler. Nipple tenderness goes away entirely at birth.
Why continue to breastfeed?
As your child grows, your breastmilk is always nutritious and the best food they could have. Even if they are feeding less often, the immunological benefits are still very valuable. Continuing breastfeeding can also mean an extra rest period or more for you through the day, especially during the first trimester.
Sometimes a mum, or her child, prefers to wean gradually over the course of the pregnancy. However many are happy to keep going, especially if the baby is still quite young or the pregnancy is unexpected.
Deciding to wean
If your baby is under 12 months of age you will need to replace breastfeeds with formula feeds. Speak to your child health nurse or doctor about a suitable formula. If your baby is older, they may be able to drink other liquids from a cup so you won't need to introduce a bottle.
If your child is old enough, you could explain that you are feeling sick or that your nipples are sore. You could delay feeds, or your child could feed for a shorter period.
If your baby or child chooses to wean during pregnancy, it is normal to feel guilty or sad at the end of the relationship. You may even wonder if you sped up their weaning. It may help to try and focus on the new baby and the relationship you will have together. Some mums report that their 'weaned' child returns to the breast after the baby is born.
It may be that your baby isn't ready to wean, no matter what you try. You may like to think about what’s important at this time. You could try weaning more slowly or try to encourage shorter feeds.
Deciding not to wean
If you and your toddler continue to enjoy breastfeeding during your pregnancy, you may decide to keep feeding after your new baby arrives. Feeding two children is called ‘tandem feeding’.
The information on this website does not replace advice from your health care provider.