So you want to get pregnant but are still breastfeeding. It’s a hard place to be feeling you have to choose between what is good for your child and the child you hope for. Weaning isn’t your only option to having another child. I have been there and put together my 10 best tips for getting pregnant while breastfeeding.
My husband and I started our family when we were 32 and 33 and knew we wanted more than one child. When we had our daughter we fell in love with her quickly and knew we wanted her to have a sibling close in age.
Breastfeeding was really important to me as a mother, but knowing I wanted another baby soon caused me to consider switching her to formula. We decided we wanted to start trying for another child when our daughter was about 7 months old. Here are some of the tips for getting pregnant while breastfeeding that worked for us, and helped us continue breastfeeding and conceive a child at 9 months postpartum.
Table of Contents
How Breastfeeding Affects Fertility & Your Chances of Conceiving
Your body naturally prevents pregnancy in the postpartum period when you are exclusively breastfeeding. That is why you may have heard people tell you that you can’t get pregnant while you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding, however, as a form of birth control is really only effective for the first 6 months and only if you are exclusively feeding on demand.
Oxytocin and Prolactin are hormones that promote breast milk production. Prolactin is the hormone that inhibits FSH hormone, which is a hormone that tells your follicles to release a mature egg. If you body is not releasing an egg you can not become pregnant. If prolactin levels can drop enough you can see FSH levels increase and ovulation can happen. Women who exclusively breastfeed will typically see a return of their fertility naturally around 9-18 months postpartum.
Despite having no return of your menstrual cycle you can still get pregnant. Your body first ovulates and then if the egg is not fertilized your period arrives. So there is always the possibility that you can catch your first ovulation before you experience your first period postpartum.
So ideally you want to decrease your body’s natural production of prolactin so that ovulation can occur. Here are some tips to help you do this without abandoning breastfeeding.
Tips For Getting Pregnant While Breastfeeding
- Improve your nutrition– breastfeeding can take a lot out of you. If you are too focused on losing baby weight you may be taking it too hard to allow your menstrual cycle to return. Consider focusing on eating a wide variety of enough healthy calories to help your body return to fertility postpartum.
- Drop a feeding– By dropping a feeding or switching up your child’s breastfeeding schedule you are more likely to see a return of fertility. Those longer stretches of breastfeeding allow prolactin levels to decrease. It is easiest to try to drop a night feeding as your child gets older, which also leads to longer stretches of sleep for you!
- Supplementing with Formula– Another option is to supplement one feeding with formula. That can decrease the amount of prolactin secreted in your body causing a return of your menstrual period.
- Introduce or Promote pacifier use– Pacifiers also cuts back on the secretion of prolactin because it cuts back on the amount of time your baby is suckling. This reduction of prolactin production can be enough to lead to ovulation.
- Sleep Training – Similar to the above methods if your baby is sleeping for longer stretches of time and feeding less frequently in the night your fertility is likely to return. Consider sleep training your baby or toddler to help you go longer stretches of time without breastfeeding.
- Introduce solids– by introducing solids to your 6 month old or older can decrease their breast milk needs and increase your chance of returned fertility.
- Spend more time away from your child and used pumped milk– Mothers who spent more time away from their children, such as returning to work, had a 5% increased chance of pregnancy.
- Keep track of your fertility signs– If you have tracked your periods prior to the birth of your baby you are more likely to be able to tell if your periods are normal postpartum. You could have a return of your periods without ovulation. Understand what other signs to look for to determine if you are ovulating. This includes changes in cervical mucus, basal body temperature changes, and cervical changes.
Do I Need to Stop Breastfeeding Before Undergoing Fertility Treatments?
This is something you should discuss opening with your fertility specialist. There are some fertility medications that are considered safe while breastfeeding, but some medications can end up in your breast milk. Discuss your particular situation with your provider and make the right decision for you.
It is a good idea to discuss how long you plan to continue breastfeeding. You may be able to store the amount of milk you will need to continue breastfeeding your child and wean prior to starting fertility treatments. Many toddlers are only breastfeeding 1-2 times a day as they near the age of 2 and would require less stored milk.
How to Preparing for Pregnancy While Breastfeeding
If you are trying to conceive while breastfeeding there are other things you should consider.
- Start taking a prenatal vitamin with folate
- Understand your dietary needs to support breastfeeding and a pregnancy then adjust your diet as needed
- Maintain a consistent regular exercise routine to improve your health.
- Prioritize sleep
- Properly Hydrate
Should I Be Trying to Get Pregnant Yet?
I understand the urge and desire to have children, but a great question to stop and ask yourself is, “am I physically and mentally prepared to be a mother again right now?”
If you had a difficult and demanding pregnancy, a traumatic birth, postpartum depression, or any other challenge during your pregnancy and postpartum period you should really ensure you have healed and are ready to do it again.
If you have questions or concerns about your readiness reach out to a therapist, OB-GYN or midwife, mothers support group, family and friends to make the best decision for you and your family.
Is it Safe to Breastfeed While Pregnant?
In uncomplicated pregnancies breastfeeding is perfectly safe while pregnant. Discuss any concerns you have about safety with your provider regarding your particular situation.
You may notice that your child has some aversion to your breastmilk when you become pregnant as the taste, consistency, and quantity of your breastmilk will change through your pregnancy. It is still nutritious and safe for your child to consume.
It is essential to ensure you are taking good care of yourself by eating quality food, staying hydrated, and exercising to ensure your body can continue to provide the needed nutrients to you, your child, and baby.
Frequently Asked Questions
In my personal experience I was able to get pregnant again while breastfeeding by decreasing night feedings, returning to work (increasing my time away from my child and increasing bottle feeds), and introducing more solid foods. These steps helped me to conceive prior to my first period at 9 months postpartum. I know that everyone is different and what works for one will not work for all. I would recommend trying these tips consistently for a few months. If you don’t see a return in your period or a positive pregnancy test you may consider your goals and weaning your older child if that is what feels best for your family.
Jess is a registered nurse with over 6+ years of critical care experience for patients young and old and is the mother of two small children. After having her own children she felt inspired to provide mothers with real actionable guidance and education to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and postpartum experience.