Despite what some believe, it IS possible to get pregnant while breastfeeding. In this article, we will discuss some of the pregnant while breastfeeding signs that are a little more specific to breastfeeding mothers, as well as a few things you should know about pregnancy and breastfeeding!
Pregnant While Breastfeeding Signs
Are you wondering if you might be pregnant while breastfeeding?
If so, you’re not alone. Many women wonder the same thing.
Although it’s possible to get pregnant while breastfeeding, there are also a few signs that can help you determine whether or not you’re pregnant.
Here are five signs that may indicate that you’re pregnant. Of course, you may experience any number of early pregnancy signs, but the ones listed below are some of the ones that are more associated with breastfeeding.
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- Pregnant While Breastfeeding Signs
- Decrease in milk supply.
- Baby refusing to nurse
- Change in taste
- Very sore nipples
- Excess tiredness
- Positive Pregnancy Test
- When should I take a pregnancy test while breastfeeding?
- What happens when you get pregnant while breastfeeding
- Can a breastfeeding mother be pregnant without knowing?
- Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding without a period?
- I think I’m pregnant – what next?
- Call your doctor
- Start a Prenatal Vitamin
- Consider Supplementing Options
- Decide if you want to continue breastfeeding
- Take a breastfeeding class or get a prenatal consult
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Decrease in milk supply.
If you are breastfeeding and notice a decrease in your milk supply, it could be a sign that you are pregnant.
This is most often because the hormones that support pregnancy usually lead to a drop in milk supply. Some mothers see this drop right away, but most often, I see the most significant change around 12 weeks of pregnancy.
At some point during the second trimester, you will start to produce colostrum. Your child CAN drink this, though they may or may not like it. In my experience, most children accept it just fine, but it likely won’t be enough to sustain them (especially if they are under a year).
However, it is also important to note that a sudden decrease in milk supply can be attributed to many different factors. If you think you might be pregnant, it’s always best to take a test to be sure.
Baby refusing to nurse
Another sign that you might be pregnant is if your baby suddenly refuses to nurse. This can be because the taste of your milk has changed or because your supply has decreased.
Change in taste
Pregnancy can change the taste of breast milk (similar to a change that sometimes occurs with menstruation). While you probably aren’t tasting your breast milk regularly, as mentioned above, it might be something your child will notice. If your child is verbal, they might even mention it!
Very sore nipples
Of all the women I’ve talked with, the vast majority of said that the sore nipples they experienced during early pregnancy while breastfeeding were almost unbearable. This is due to the increased hormones in your body and the increased blood flow to your breasts.
So if your nipples are suddenly very sore and uncomfortable without any other culprit, it could be a sign that you are pregnant.
Feeling extremely tired is another common sign of pregnancy. This is because your body is working hard to support your growing baby and all the changes that come with pregnancy (such as an increase in blood volume). Combined with breastfeeding, this can make you feel even more exhausted since you are not only sustaining a human being in your body but with your breast milk!
Due to the increase in oxytocin that comes with breastfeeding, you may experience some cramping in early pregnancy. Unless you are at a high risk of miscarriage or pre-term labor, this is not thought to increase any risk of miscarriage.
Positive Pregnancy Test
Did you get a positive pregnancy test? Well, that’s a pretty sure sign that you are pregnant! False positives are pretty rare if you read the pregnancy test within the allotted amount of time. Of course, if you get a presumed positive pregnancy test while breastfeeding, it’s probably a good idea to reach out to your OBGYN or Midwife to request an HCG blood test to confirm pregnancy.
When should I take a pregnancy test while breastfeeding?
If your period has already come back and is pretty regular, taking a pregnancy test as soon as you have your missed period might be a good idea.
Even if it’s not regular if you have been tracking your ovulation, taking a pregnancy test 14 or more days past ovulation can usually be a pretty good indicator of pregnancy.
If your period hasn’t come back yet, it can be a little trickier to know if you are pregnant. Some moms take pregnancy tests every month, just in case, but I don’t think this is necessary for most moms. If you want to be careful, though, you can buy this large box of pregnancy tests. No need to shell out the big bucks for a more expensive pregnancy test!
I would personally take a pregnancy test while breastfeeding if I start to notice any typical pregnancy symptoms or any of the ones above. Timing can be important when it comes to taking a test, here is some advice on the best time of day to take a pregnancy test.
What happens when you get pregnant while breastfeeding
In general, your body will start to grow and sustain your pregnancy just like any other pregnancy. However, you may experience some of the symptoms above and eventually will have a decrease in milk supply.
For most mothers, breastfeeding is not thought to impact pregnancy negatively. I have actually heard some people have experienced less morning sickness while breastfeeding, though I am not sure if there is any research to back this up beyond anecdotal reports.
Can a breastfeeding mother be pregnant without knowing?
Absolutely! I see this happen a lot. Many women mistakenly believe that they cannot get pregnant while breastfeeding. While breastfeeding can be birth control in certain circumstances, it doesn’t always work out for many mothers. If you don’t meet the following factors, breastfeeding may not be as helpful as you think for preventing pregnancy:
- Your baby is under six months
- Baby still wakes to nurse at night
- Baby nurses 8-12 times a day
- No supplementing with bottles (breast milk or formula)
- Baby isn’t eating solids
- You haven’t had your period return
Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding without a period?
You definitely can! You will ovulate before your first period returns after giving birth, so if you happen to conceive during that time, you can definitely get pregnant while breastfeeding.
Many women report irregular cycles while breastfeeding, so this can add to the confusion some women feel while breastfeeding. You may have your period arrive at a different time than you might normally expect.
Additional Reading: 11 Tips for Getting Pregnant While Breastfeeding
I think I’m pregnant – what next?
Congratulations! If you suspect you are pregnant (or have gotten a positive pregnancy test), here are a few things you should do next:
Call your doctor
Reach out to your trusted medical provider to get a pregnancy confirmation test. If you aren’t sure when you conceived due to not knowing when you ovulated, they may have you come in for a dating ultrasound sooner rather than later.
You can also discuss with them the safety of continuing to breastfeed while pregnant. While it’s largely considered safe, your doctor is the best person to discuss this with.
Start a Prenatal Vitamin
If you aren’t already on a prenatal vitamin while breastfeeding, you should start one right away as soon as you know you are pregnant.
My favorite brands are:
- needed – use code TBM for 20% off a three-month supply or TBMSAMPLE for $5 sample packages.
- FullWell – use TBM10 for 10% off
- Mixhers HerBaby Powder – Use code breastfeedingmama10 for 10% off
Consider Supplementing Options
As mentioned previously, it’s very likely that you will experience a decrease in milk supply due to pregnancy. Depending on the age of your child, now is a good time to consider whether or not a substitute milk or donor milk will be appropriate.
If your child is under a year…
You will more than likely need to have alternative milk for your baby unless your baby is close to a year when you find out you are pregnant. Donor milk or formula is the best options before a year when your own milk isn’t an option.
If your child is over a year…
A lot of children over a year don’t seem as bothered by the drop in milk supply and often continue to nurse, even if it’s just dry nursing. If your baby was nursing a lot, and it was a significant source of their nutrition, you may want to start offering whole milk or other dairy products.
Decide if you want to continue breastfeeding
There is no right or wrong answer to this one. Some people will want to continue breastfeeding while others want to wean. I know quite a few moms who continue to breastfeed but want to wean before their baby comes, while many others choose to tandem feed.
If you would like to continue breastfeeding through pregnancy and possibly tandem, I highly recommend this class – Breastfeeding Through Pregnancy and Beyond. It’s written by a fantastic IBCLC who has breastfed through pregnancy and then tandem-fed her children.
Ready to wean? That’s an understandable choice, too! My online workshop, Weaning Made Easy, will have everything you need to successfully wean your baby in a positive way.
Take a breastfeeding class or get a prenatal consult
Even if you’ve been breastfeeding for a while, it’s great to take a class to brush up on your skills and prepare to make your breastfeeding journey even more successful. If you struggled to breastfeed at all, it can help as well. The Complete Online Breastfeeding Class or Breastfeeding Bootcamp are both great options.
A prenatal consult can also be really beneficial as well to discussing your pregnancy and goals. I offer prenatal consults virtually throughout the world, which you can book here.
If you think you might be pregnant while breastfeeding, watch for these 7 signs. Pregnancy and breastfeeding can be a difficult combination, but with the right support, it is possible to successfully breastfeed through pregnancy. If you have any concerns about your health or the health of your baby, please speak to a healthcare professional.
More Articles You May Enjoy:
- Top Signs of Low Milk Supply to Worry About
- How to Night Wean Your Child Without Losing Your Mind
- The Best Bottles for Breastfed Babies – An Unbiased Report
Katie Clark is a Certified Lactation Educator, Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, and IBCLC student. She has helped thousands of mothers and families around the globe navigate breastfeeding challenges and questions since 2015. She has a passion for creating research-based, helpful breastfeeding education and helping parents find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Katie is a mom of three little boys and lives in the great state of Colorado. She also has a degree in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism.
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