Ovulation-suppressing hormones are released in a woman’s body during breastfeeding until her exclusively breastfed baby reaches six months of age (exclusive breastfeeding occurs when the infant is nursed regularly every 3-4 hours).
However, even if a woman’s body does not immediately begin to menstruate once exclusive breastfeeding has stopped, she may still begin to ovulate at this time.
If you are still breastfeeding and you do become pregnant, there is no need to worry. In fact, you could even continue to breastfeed both children (known as tandem feeding) once your next child has arrived.
When your milk “lets down,” the hormone oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is also the hormone that sets off contractions. However, breastfeeding while pregnant is unlikely to cause early onset labour, since a woman’s body won’t react to this release of breastfeeding oxytocin until the end of the pregnancy, at 37 weeks or later.
Of course, for those who have experienced premature labour or miscarriage, it’s best to err on the side of caution and speak to your health care professional about breastfeeding while pregnant. Weaning your breastfeeding child may be necessary to ensure a full pregnancy term.
If you continue to breastfeed while you’re pregnant, expect your milk to revert to colostrum around month four or five of the pregnancy. It is best to keep a close eye on the weight of your breastfeeding child while you are pregnant, since your milk production may slow. There will be enough colostrum produced for both children once the new baby comes, but still be mindful of your older child’s emotions, since adjusting to a new baby is challenging enough, let alone having to deal with the stress of sharing dinner!
If you are considering tandem breastfeeding, weigh the positives and negatives of your choice before making your decision.