Can You Breastfeed While Pregnant?

You are adjusting to life with a breastfeeding infant when you discover that you are pregnant. That this is a mixed blessing is an understatement. You are probably wondering how did that happen (beyond the obvious) and can I keep breastfeeding my baby? And many more questions will pop into your head.

Key takeaways:
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    Breastfeeding during pregnancy (BDP) does not harm your developing baby.
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    BDP does not cause miscarriage or premature birth.
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    It is important for mom to be well nourished due to the demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding.
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    There are many safe birth control options for breastfeeding mothers.

Will my developing baby be harmed if I continue breastfeeding my infant? Will my breastfeeding baby get the proper nutrition?

Doesn’t breastfeeding prevent pregnancy?

It turns out that breastfeeding your baby exclusively can delay your period (ovulation) but only for a while and under certain circumstances. Research shows that the lactational amenorrhea method of birth control (LAM) can be 98% effective until your baby is about six months old.

LAM means that breastfeeding delays your period for about six months after your baby was born. In order for LAM to be successful the following need to be true:

  • Baby is exclusively breastfed.
  • No formula or other food.
  • Baby is fed every four to six hours.
  • You have not had a period.

This method is only reliable until your baby is six months old. When babies are about six months old, they will start to sleep longer at night, which is likely to reduce the number of times you feed your baby during the night. And baby often starts taking solid food around this age. When breastfeeding occurs less frequently than every four to six hours and the baby is taking solid food the chance of pregnancy increases.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) generally supports LAM for birth control as they recommend exclusive breastfeeding until baby is six months old.

Can you breastfeed during your pregnancy?

Absolutely! During breastfeeding oxytocin is released which causes the uterus to contract. The concern was that the breastfeeding baby would cause uterine contractions that could result in a miscarriage or premature birth. Researchers have found no evidence that breastfeeding during pregnancy (BDP) causes miscarriages or premature births.

BDP is quite common in other parts of the world. Approximately 50% of pregnant mothers in Guatemala in 1990 were breastfeeding a baby. In 1992, just over 16% of pregnant mothers in 17 countries including Africa, Asia, and Latin America were breastfeeding a baby. There is no recent data for North America, but between 1988 and 1994, approximately 5% of pregnant mothers were breastfeeding a previous baby.

What are the risks?

You can be sure that the risk of miscarriage or premature birth is not related to BDP, but there is a risk to you. It is clear that breastfeeding and pregnancy are huge demands on your body. If you are pregnant and breastfeeding, it is important that you get enough calories and nutrition to support you, your developing baby and your breastfeeding baby.

Prevention for next time

If you want to avoid BDP beyond six months after delivery of your next baby, there are many options available to you. Many birth control options are safe to use while breastfeeding.

Researchers have found that breastfeeding during pregnancy does not cause miscarriages or premature births. Although not ideal, getting pregnant while breastfeeding happens in many countries around the world. BDP does not harm the developing baby and does not malnourish your breastfeeding baby. Beyond six months of age, your baby is starting to eat solid food in addition to breastmilk. The important thing is for you to maintain your nutrition so that you, your developing baby, and your breastfeeding baby are well-nourished.

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