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What They Don’t Tell You About Breastfeeding Whilst Pregnant

Congratulations, you’re going to be a parent again! It is strange how you can feel a mixture of emotions from a soggy red line on a stick, isn’t it?

Quite often Mums start to think of everything and everyone besides themselves when discovering they are expecting. Your thoughts might already be wandering to your little one who regularly feeds from you day and night, and that’s ok.

You might also be thinking…

Is it safe to keep breastfeeding?
How will my child react to a newborn feeding?
Do I want to continue breastfeeding two (or more) children?

A todler reacting to mother breastfeeding newborn baby

Although the chances of falling pregnant again within the first 6 months of giving birth are considerably low, it can still happen. Even if your periods haven’t started yet! Some women use breastfeeding as a form of contraception, formally known as the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). However, this is not a method that ensures 100% effectiveness due to the ever-changing balance of hormones in a woman’s body.

Choosing to breastfeed through pregnancy and beyond is a personal decision that each mother will make for themselves*. This article is aimed at helping mothers to make that choice.

*Although it is safe to continue breastfeeding throughout your pregnancy, it is important to discuss this with your doctor in case there are other reasons related to your medical history as to why it is not advisable.

Benefits to Mums who continue to breastfeed

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that babies are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, and then up to 2 years or more alongside other solids. This recommendation stems from the long list of benefits that babies receive from breast milk during their first 24 months.

Nutrition for Mum, Toddler and Baby

A commonly known benefit is that a mother’s breast milk boosts her baby’s immunity and nutrition. Although your body will be demanding more from you, your breastfed child will not be taking away any nutritional content from your growing baby. Your child will continue to receive the same nutritional content and immunity for as long as they continue to feed. And Mums, you need to eat and drink enough to cater for yourself too, not just for your little one’s appetites! Remember to take pregnancy supplements, such as folic acid, to aid the baby’s development and your own nutritional needs throughout your pregnancy.

Top tip: Prepare “grabbable” snacks in the fridge such as chopped fruit, veggie sticks, pasta salad (or a biscuit or three!), so that you can snack easily whilst feeding. Keeping bottles of water by your feeding chair or bedside will also remind you to keep your fluids up.

A mum breastfeeding and having lunch

Time to relax

Let’s face it. Young babies and toddlers can be exhausting at the best of times. Let alone when you’re growing another human too! Fatigue can be more prominent in your first and third trimesters and settling down to feed your child is an opportunity for you to put your feet up and get some well-deserved rest.

Top tip: Once the baby is born, there will be times when you need to feed them and entertain your toddler at the same time. Keep aside a box of activities and toys that your toddler can quietly play with whilst you feed. Include your toddler and make it their ‘special box’ that only comes out for feeding times. Suggestions to include are puzzles, drawing pads, books and problem-solving type toys.

toddler playing while mother breastfeeding baby

Reduces engorgement

When your new bundle of joy arrives, it is usual for women to feel engorged as their milk comes in (approx. day 3-5 after birth). However, if you are still feeding your first child, this will help you to feel less engorged and more comfortable as your milk starts to re-establish. This will also reduce the risk of developing mastitis which is common in breastfeeding mothers in the first 6 weeks postpartum.

Top tip: When you’re feeding use a silicone breast pump on your other breast to collect any excess milk that would otherwise have been wasted. You can also use a electric breast pump or hand express to ease any discomfort in between feeds.

Feelings of stability and safety

A new baby can be an unsettling time for their siblings, regardless of how old they are and what understanding they have of this new reality. Despite what people may think, breastfeeding is not just about milk! For a lot of children, it is a place of comfort and relaxation.

Emma Pickett, chair of the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, and a lactation consultant said in a recent article “It’s also about connecting to you, relaxation, safety and contentment. That big world out there is only getting bigger and breastfeeding is home.”

If you decide to tandem feed (feeding more than one child at a time), it could mean a smoother transition for you and your toddler and it’s a great way for your child to bond with their new sibling.

Check out: Breastfeeding essentials kit

Mother breastfeeding 2 kids in tandem

Aversion to breastfeeding in pregnancy

Aversion is when breastfeeding triggers negative emotions, a skin-crawling sensation, or an urge to de-latch. It’s a surreal feeling that can quite often come out of nowhere! With all the changes your body is going through, it’s normal to feel emotions and sensory issues like this.

Fran, Mum to Hallie (2 years old) and expecting her second baby, shared her story with us:

"I have exclusively breastfed my daughter since birth. It’s given us an incredible bond and provides a huge comfort to her. However, when I became pregnant with our second and my body started to change, feeding her began to feel painful and I started to dread every feed. My nipples were sore, and I would feel agitated the longer she fed on me. She was equally frustrated that the milk which was once plentiful was suddenly lessening every day. After a couple of months, I decided that it was best for our breastfeeding journey to come to an end for the benefit of both our mental wellbeing, as it was no longer an experience we both enjoyed together.

Initially, I was anxious about stopping something which brought her comfort but after a few days of encouragement, she had weaned herself with little upset. Since then, she hasn’t asked for milk and we are both much happier. We enjoy a cuddle (often clinging onto my top still!) and now I can look forward to starting a new breastfeeding journey when baby number 2 arrives.”

Samantha Radford, Mum of two and a scientist who focuses on maternal-child health, wrote an article sharing her research and personal experience. You can read her story here.

There isn’t any evidence as yet to say how many breastfeeding mothers are affected by BAA (Breastfeeding Aversion and Agitation). However, there have been studies conducted in recent years to provide more insight as to how and why it may be triggered. If you have any concerns, you should always consult your doctor or midwife who can offer you advice and support.

What are the side effects of breastfeeding during pregnancy?

Nausea when breastfeeding

Breastfeeding alone poses a big demand on your body to provide for your baby. Breastfeeding and growing another human demand even more! Here are some useful tips to help you overcome symptoms you may experience whilst you continue to feed during your pregnancy.

1. Nausea

More commonly known as “morning sickness", can be heightened when feeding. Keeping a stash of ginger biscuits or herbal teas with ginger handy will help to decrease feelings of sickness. Why not treat yourself to a thermos mug to prevent those hot drinks from spilling near little hands!

2. Sore Nipples

Your nipples may feel more sensitive in pregnancy and make feeding uncomfortable for a short while. Use a soothing nipple cream to prevent dry/cracked skin. These are safe to apply before and after baby feeds. The Lola&Lykke bamboo pads are also a great solution to keep moisture away from the skin and leave a soft silky texture against your skin to reduce irritation.

3. Fatigue

Your energy levels are more likely to dip and fluctuate. The best way to reduce fatigue is to snack little and often, drink plenty of fluids and take every opportunity you can to rest! Having a good support network of friends and family to help you, especially in those early days after birth, will be much appreciated!

4. Wellbeing

How are you feeling? Breastfeeding and pregnancy can be quite taxing on our wellbeing and mental health sometimes. Be honest and ask for help when you need it. Ask the Lola&Lykke experts for any queries you have and always consult your doctor if you have any mental health concerns.

5. Contractions

Some women experience mild contractions when they continue to feed through pregnancy. Don’t fret! Your baby might not be ready to arrive just yet. This is caused by the increased levels of oxytocin being released. These are safe in pregnancies without complications however if you do have any concerns, it’s best to speak to your midwife or doctor.

Final thoughts

Breastfeeding through pregnancy is very much on your terms. There will always be one person who wants to put in their pennies’ worth! But ultimately, it’s a decision that you as a parent will make with your and your children’s best interests at heart.

Check out further blog posts in the Mamahood Journals for advice about breastfeeding and pregnancy topics.