Breastfeeding and Trying to Conceive

Many believe that they cannot conceive while still breastfeeding, but many women have fallen pregnant unexpectedly, so this is not true.

It is also not true that Mom needs to wean before she can try to conceive again. 

What is Lactational Amenorrhea?

Lactational Amenorrhea is when a mother has no menstrual periods due to exclusive breastfeeding.

This is achieved by giving your baby nothing else, but breast milk; not even water. Mom should also be feeding on cue and feeding at night. This method of birth control provides a 98% protection against falling pregnant. 

Even when a mother’s menstrual cycle returns and she ovulates, she is less likely to fall pregnant because the Prolactin will interfere with hormonal processes. This is called a luteal phase defect. 

As a mother starts to breastfeed her baby less, her Prolactin levels will begin to fall in-between feeds and once menstruation returns, she is on her way to becoming fully fertile again. 

In some cases, mothers have been found to have high levels of Prolactin even into their second year of nursing. 

Fertility and Trying to Conceive while Breastfeeding

If a woman is still breastfeeding a child that is over two years old, and she is struggling to fall pregnant, the chances are that her fertility issues are not related to her still breastfeeding. 

40% of the time, fertility issues lie with the man. 50% lies with the woman and 10% combined. Some fertility issues that a woman might be struggling with include lack of ovulation, blocked fallopian tubes, hormone imbalances, PCOS, scared womb, sexually transmitted disease or endometriosis. Male problems include: low sperm count, abnormal sperm and hormone abnormalities.

Some mothers may decide to wean their babies "just in case," if they are trying to fall pregnant, but research shows that mothers who breastfeed and undergo In-Vitro-Fertilization have had success. 

breastfeeding while pregnant

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Weaning

  • What are my hormone levels in blood tests?
  • What evidence suggests that breastfeeding will hamper my efforts at falling pregnant while using my specific fertility method? 
  • Would I still like to continue breastfeeding, while pregnant?
  • If I continue to breastfeed now and wait to fall pregnant later, how will I feel if I am unable to conceive later?
  • If I am using fertility drugs, how safe are they while breastfeeding and are there alternative safer drugs available? 
  • Will any of the fertility drugs decrease my milk supply? 

Breastfeeding while Pregnant

  • Research shows that half of all women who fall pregnant are still breastfeeding another child.

    It is safe if the mother does not have preterm labor risk. Other than this, breastfeeding is not a health risk for the mother or her unborn baby. It is always best to continue breastfeeding if your child is younger than two years old.

    When should a mother not breastfeed while pregnant?

  • If the mother has a history of giving birth prematurely.
  • The mother has a history of miscarriages. 
  • The mother’s cervix is incompetent. 
  • The mother is currently pregnant with multiples. 

What about Oxytocin and Contractions?

Oxytocin is the hormone that triggers contractions of the uterus. Oxytocin is also released when a mother’s nipples are stimulated during breastfeeding.

  • The contractions that are taking place during breastfeeding are minor and can usually not be felt, except for if the mother is days away from giving birth.

    Reasons why the release of Oxytocin does not cause preterm labor in healthy women:

  • Oxytocin receptor sites are few and only increase when a mother’s body is getting ready for labor. 
  • The body is not producing the proteins needed in early pregnancy for molecules to hook up to receptor sites. 
  • Mom is producing high levels of progesterone, which blocks the Oxytocin from entering the receptor sites. 

By reading the above mentioned, it is evident that our bodies were made especially for this reason, to be able to breastfeed our babies, even while pregnant. 

The Concerns of Others

Most people will react concerned if they discover that you are still breastfeeding while pregnant, this is just because of a lack of knowledge and understanding.

It is vital that you seek the support of a knowledgeable breastfeeding counselor, who understands the decision you are making.

Things you might experience while breastfeeding during pregnancy

  • Sore, sensitive nipples: The hormones that are released during pregnancy can make a mother’s nipples sensitive and this combined with breastfeeding can cause some discomfort.
  • The mother may experience some light contractions, these are normal and not harmful. 
  • Feeling weak or tired: A mother needs to eat well and rest as much as possible. 
  • Uncomfortable: A mother may feel emotionally drained and may have some normal pains during pregnancy; this combined with a demanding toddler, may make her feel overwhelmed. 
  • Breast milk becomes salty because of an increase in sodium. The baby may start to nurse less often, self-wean or might not even notice the change in taste. 
  • Milk supply decreases: 69% of children wean themselves when a mother falls pregnant. Some may ask to breastfeed again, when they see their smaller sibling breastfeed. 

Top of page

Tracy Behr, CBC, CLD (CBI)

Reference: Course information through Childbirth International on the physiology of breastfeeding/breastfeeding and trying to conceive.

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