Can I Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding A Toddler

Can I Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding A Toddler

Can I Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding A toddler

The benefits of breastfeeding are now widely known, in particular regarding its nutritional and immunizing benefits along with developing a close bond between mom and baby. These benefits make a lot of mothers want to continue with breastfeeding for as long as suits everyone involved. Here I will go through what issues will affect a mothers ability to get pregnant and help recognize the symptoms if she thinks she is pregnant.

Yes, it is possible to get pregnant while you are breastfeeding a toddler. The contraceptive effects of exclusively breastfeeding or otherwise known as lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) are unreliable once your child is aged 1 year old.

There are a few factors to consider as to what can affect your chances of becoming pregnant while you are breastfeeding your toddler.  This can depend on what type of contraception you are using and how reliable it is and your body’s unique chemistry that can influence when you will become fertile again. I will also mention what are the specific signs that can give a clue you may be pregnant while you are also breastfeeding your toddler.

Can I Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding A Toddler

A toddler is a child aged 12 to 36 months.

Firstly, you have done a great job if you have managed to breastfeed your child to one year old!  Due to its numerous benefits, many moms would like to continue breastfeeding their babies into toddlerhood and beyond.

The World Health Organization recommends that babies should be exclusively breastfed until they are six months old and then along with suitably nutritious food, breastfed until two years of age or beyond. This will ensure they receive optimal growth, development, and health.

However, along with that come many questions, and a frequent query is what are the chances of becoming pregnant during this time. This time we are discussing is your toddler’s age which is from 12 to 36 months.

Breastfeeding using LAM

Many moms may have been using the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) during the first 6 months postpartum as a means of contraception in itself or as an interim until they can start on an additional type of contraception. It is also known to have a high degree of effectiveness up until 1 year. However, at 1 year the LAM method is unreliable and would not be recommended as a means of contraception. One study showed that there is a 1.1% chance of getting pregnant at 1 year postpartum. If using this method, there is a good chance you could become pregnant.   

Breastfeeding using hormonal and barrier methods

Mothers can continue to breastfeed and use hormonal methods of contraception. Hormonal methods come in the form of pills, IUD (Intra-uterine device), vaginal rings, injectables, and implants. It is advised that the first choice of hormonal contraceptives is progestin-only types. These do not interfere with a breastfeeding mothers milk supply. The other type of hormonal contraception contains both progestin and estrogen. Contraceptives that contain estrogen include the combined oral contraceptives and the combined injectable. If they must be chosen, it is recommended that estrogen-containing contraceptives must not be started until the baby is at least 6 months old. However, they are very effective in preventing pregnancy if taken as recommended.

Breastfeeding and Natural Family Planning

Natural Family Planning is a method of planning pregnancies to suit you and your family. This involves interpreting a woman’s body signs to determine times of fertility and using that information to prevent or purposefully try to get pregnant. Looking out for signs of ovulation include changes in temperature and changes in the cervical mucus. Sexual intercourse must be avoided when you recognize signs of fertility. This can work as an effective method of contraception in some women. However, it should be mentioned that if the mother has not learned to use NFP before getting pregnant, it may be more difficult for her to recognize her return to fertility if she starts using this method while breastfeeding.

If you think you may be pregnant

A pregnant mother holding her toddler up

If you think you may have become pregnant while you are breastfeeding here are some signs that are more specific to a mother who is breastfeeding :

  • Drop in milk supply. Milk production will begin to decrease usually in mid-pregnancy, but this can sometimes happen as early as the first month. This is due to the hormones of pregnancy that have taken effect. Nursing more frequently or pumping will not increase supply.
  • Toddler refusing or taking less feeds. You may notice that your toddler may want to feed less frequently, is fussy at the breast or may not want to feed at all.  This is due to the changing composition of your milk. Breastmilk will start to produce colostrum in the second trimester in preparation for your newborn baby. Your toddler may wean from the breast during this time but can restart again if you wish once your baby is born.
  • Sore breasts/nipples. Again due to hormonal changes nipples can become sore and tender. Nipple soreness can be exacerbated by a nursing toddler who can make it difficult to breastfeed. You may find it easier by reducing the time your toddler feeds or increasing other foods.

These signs may be present along with the other signs of pregnancy a breastfeeding mother may experience. These include fatigue, morning sickness, frequent urination, skin changes, and cramps.

Trying to conceive

If you are planning to conceive while you are still breastfeeding your toddler there are a few factors to be aware of that can affect your ability to get pregnant.

  • Baby’s age. Once a baby reaches 6 months old, they will have started solids and will have begun to sleep longer during the night. This will have reduced the frequency at which you were breastfeeding, and therefore you will have become more fertile.
  • Mothers body chemistry. Every mother will vary as to when she will start ovulating after she has her baby. In rare cases, some mothers will exclusively breastfeed their babies and their period will come back within the first three months after giving birth. In other cases, it can take as long as 2 years for mothers periods to return.
  • Frequency and duration of breastfeeding. For a nursing mother who is exclusively breastfeeding it could be 12-18 months before a period returns.

Avoiding a pregnancy

Some mothers may be trying to avoid a pregnancy but still intend breastfeeding their toddler. It’s important not to rely on a period returning to think you are fertile again. It is possible that a woman could ovulate before her period returns and therefore become pregnant. The most reliable way to prevent becoming pregnant is to use a reliable method of contraception. Discuss the method that suits you best with your doctor.

Breastfeeding Newborn And Toddler

It is possible to breastfeed both your toddler and newborn otherwise known as tandem nursing. This can be stressful at times, but with the right preparation, it is possible. Once a child reaches toddlerhood they can begin to understand the concept to wait. Taking the time to explain to your child how they needed frequent nursing as a newborn may help. It’s also a good idea to involve your toddler preparing for the newborn’s arrival and helping with little things when she arrives. This will help make him feel included and prevent feelings of anxiousness and feeling threatened by the new arrival.

Can Pregnancy Hormones Affect A Nursing Toddler

The hormones of pregnancy are not dangerous to a nursing toddler. The only downside is that a toddler may not want to nurse as frequently or maybe not at all. This is due to the changing composition of milk when mom is pregnant. During the second trimester of pregnancy, the body will start to produce colostrum which changes the taste of the milk which can be offputting to some toddlers.

Will Baby Get Colostrum If You Are Nursing An Older Child

Your baby will receive the required colostrum as a newborn with a few changes to the family’s routine in the first few weeks. It is important that mom gives priority toward the newborn’s needs. Colostrum is very important to a newborn giving specific immunities that a newborn needs. During these first few weeks, another caregiver could assist with meeting the toddler’s nutritional needs with extra solids or other nutritional drinks.

Recommended Topics

References

https://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/infantfeeding_recommendation/en/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7672141

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