Many moms wonder if breastfeeding while pregnant is safe. Yes, in most cases, it is safe for mom, nursing child and the unborn baby. Each situation is different and if you have any bleeding, problems gaining weight or signs of premature labor these issues should be discussed with your health care provider. Nursing may or may not affect your pregnancy in these situations. You may decide to continue to breastfeed, cut down, or wean all together.
A common misconception about breastfeeding while pregnant is that it can increase the risk of miscarriage or premature labor. Complications such as these do not occur during the average, healthy pregnancy because of breastfeeding. The uterus function in such a way that it can withstand the extra oxytocin released during breastfeeding, similar to how it responds after sexual intercourse. You may experience some tightening or cramp like Braxton-hicks contractions, but your baby will be fine.
Another concern is in regards to nutrition for the growing fetus and the expectant mother. Many people wrongly assume that the nursing child is "stealing" nutrients from mother and baby. If you are eating well and taking care of yourself including taking prenatal vitamins, your body will be able to provide nourishment for all 3 - mother, unborn baby and nursing child. You should listen to your body and eat when you are hungry gaining as much weight as you would if you were not breastfeeding. Some additional supplements or adjustments to diet may be necessary if you are anemic, dairy-free, vegan or having problems gaining weight. In most normal pregnancies, eating a well balanced diet and drinking ample amounts of fluids will be enough to keep you healthy while continuing to breastfeed your older child.
Extended nursing past the first year is extremely beneficial for your child. While solids foods are likely a big part of your child's diet at this point, so is milk. If you compare cow's milk to human breast milk the latter is most definitely more healthy. Weaning before the second birthday may result in a higher chance of sickness, infections and other health related concerns.
While the benefits are high to continue nursing past the first year, this may be more difficult during pregnancy. Many women notice a decrease in milk supply and some end up drying up completely. This doesn't mean your child will automatically wean themselves in fact many continue to comfort nurse and are not ready to give up breastfeeding just because the milk is gone, In this case it may be necessary to supplement with formula or cow's milk depending on your child's age and the amount of nutrients they are getting from food.
Another difficulty that is common with breastfeeding during pregnancy is painful or sore nipples. Generally your breasts are more achy and nipples are irritated during pregnancy and combined with a breastfeeding child, these symptoms may be worse. It may be more uncomfortable in the beginning after you first find out you are pregnant and may get better later on. For others the discomfort doesn't begin until the last few months. Some women develop an aversion towards breastfeeding their older child. What was once a peaceful and relaxing time of bonding may now be irritating and unpleasant. This too may come and go and possibly pass as the pregnancy progresses. These feelings are likely attributed to hormonal changes combined with soreness and don't reflect feelings toward your nursing child or your unborn baby.
Another reason for soreness is a change in the breastfeeding child's latch. As your milk decreases or dries up your child may change their sucking technique, possibly more aggressive or more lax. The drop in milk supply may happen right away or midway thru the pregnancy. As many as 30% of breastfeeding mother's do not notice a decrease in supply and it's unknown why this is. Part of it may be the child's age and frequency of nursing but that's not always the case. Anytime after the 2nd trimester begins colostrum will become present. Some toddlers welcome this especially if the milk had dried up while others may not prefer the taste and consistency. It's important to note that your nursing child will not "use up" all of the colostrum; your body will keep producing it for your newborns arrival. Of course once your baby is born the amount of time colostrums is present will be limited to make way for your mature milk which comes in within a few days.
Whether or not your child continues to breastfeed during pregnancy is up to you and them. Some mother's decide they want to encourage weaning before the new baby arrives. It may be because of discomfort nursing during pregnancy or it may be because they aren't interested in Tandem nursing (breastfeeding two at a time). Some children wean themselves during pregnancy. It may be because they are getting little to no milk or because of the new taste once the milk begins to change. Weaning may also just occur naturally depending on the child's readiness and intake of other liquids and solid foods. Experiences breastfeeding during pregnancy varies from mother to mother and while continuing to nurse may be a little more difficult, it is definitely safe and very much possible.