Dear Lactation Consultant,
My son is 13 months. We want to try to get pregnant soon, but he is not ready to wean.
Are there problems with breastfeeding while pregnant?
The short answer to your question is no, there is no problem with breastfeeding while pregnant. In fact, I did it myself twice. Many MDs, however, don't know much about it and may be nervous when asked. Some even recommend weaning "just in case." Two excellent resources are: Mothering Your Nursing Toddler by Norma Jane Bumgarner and the brand new book Adventures in Tandem Nursing by Hillary Flower. In my own book, The Breastfeeding Answer Book (2003), a guide for breastfeeding counselors, I wrote a chapter on this topic.
Only in parts of the world where mothers are poorly nourished have any health problems in mothers or babies been found. In the US, no problems have been recorded. In fact, it is also possible to breastfeed though a pregnancy and then breastfeed both siblings, which is called "tandem nursing." Some mothers find themselves in a situation where the older child is still not ready to wean when the newborn arrives. One study found, however, that about two-thirds of the older children wean during pregnancy. This may be because the milk turns to colostrum at about the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy and some children don't like the taste. Or it may be because about that same percentage of mothers experience sore nipples during the hormonal changes of pregnancy and naturally begin to discourage nursing due to the discomfort. Or a combination of both.In any case, there is no reason you have to wean while you're trying to get pregnancy, during pregnancy, or even after birth.
Best wishes to you and yours,
-- Nancy, IBCLC
Dr. Kendall-Tackett is a health psychologist, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and Research Associate Professor of Psychology specializing in women's health at the Family Research Lab, University of New Hampshire. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association in both the Divisions of Health Psychology and Trauma Psychology. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is a La Leche League leader, chair of the New Hampshire Breastfeeding Taskforce, and the Area Coordinator of Leaders for La Leche League of Maine and New Hampshire.
Dr. Kendall-Tackett is author of more than 140 journal articles, book chapters and other publications, and author or editor of 15 books including The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood (2005, Hale Publications), Depression in New Mothers (2005, Haworth), and Breastfeeding Made Simple, co-authored with Nancy Mohrbacher (2005, New Harbinger). She is on the editorial boards of the journals Child Abuse and Neglect, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse and the Journal of Human Lactation, and regularly reviews for 27 other journals in the fields of trauma, women's health, interpersonal violence, depression, and child development. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is the "Ask a Lactation Consultant" columnist on Pregnancy.org and serves on the Board of Directors of Attachment Parenting International.
Dr. Kendall-Tackett received a Bachelor's and Master's degree in psychology from California State University, Chico, and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University in social and developmental psychology. She has won several awards including the Outstanding Research Study Award from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and was named 2003 Distinguished Alumna, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, California State University, Chico.