QoW: Is it Harder to Get Pregnant While Nursing a Toddler? — Babylicious by Figur8

QoW: Is it Harder to Get Pregnant While Nursing a Toddler?

Okay, so it’s been more than three months since I said I officially announced that hubby and I are working on baby number two and there is still no sign of a pregnancy…

I know there there is no evidence to support the need to wean to get pregnant but I am starting to wonder.  It certainly wasn’t this hard getting pregnant the first time around.  I don’t know too many mothers practicing extended breastfeeding who are trying to get pregnant but based on my current circle of Mums in this predicament (just me and one other, currently), neither of us have been too successful so far.  Although, that said, my BFF has been successful getting pregnant while still nursing her toddler.

According to KellyMom:

“If your periods have come back and settled into a regular pattern, it is likely that breastfeeding is no longer affecting your fertility.”

Well, I’ve been menstruating like clockwork (which is pretty amazing for me since I was generally irregular prior to the pregnancy), so I must be fertile…

“Changes that are more abrupt tend to bring fertility back faster (e.g., cutting out one nursing session abruptly, rather than gradually decreasing nursing time at that session) –even if you continue to breastfeed a great deal– this is why many mothers experience the return of fertility when their child sleeps through the night or starts solid foods.”

Well, Gavin has been on solids for some time now and has been eating more lately.  He’s pretty much cut out the day time nursing except before nap time and when he’s teething.  Other than that, he doesn’t nurse during the day.  He does wake up at night to nurse, however, but KellyMom says time of nursing doesn’t make a difference:

“If you decide to make changes to your nursing pattern, the time of day that you make the change (e.g., cutting out or shortening a nighttime nursing session as opposed to a daytime nursing session) should not make that much of a difference. Current research indicates that nursing frequency and total amount of time at the breast per 24 hours are the most important factors, rather than the time of day that the suckling occurs.”

KellyMom also says that while there are some mothers who find it impossible to get pregnant while nursing, this is uncommon.  So technically, I should be able to get pregnant.  I’ve read the literature, I know what it says, but now I’d like to hear it from the nursing Mums:

Are you a mother nursing a toddler who is trying to get pregnant or have managed to get pregnant?  Please share your experiences with me.  I’d love to hear from you!

About the author

Shen-Li Shen-Li is a stay-home mum to two boys who have been the inspiration for her interest in early childhood development and early child education. She searches for the balance in child development methods and the educational philosophies that will enable the nurture of happy, confident and successful children. She shares her views and findings at Figur8.


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Comments

  1. Hi Winter,

    We had a tough time getting pregnant the second time, too, but I did eventually get pregnant without having to wean my first child so I do know it can be done! Good luck!

  2. Winter says:

    I’m nursing my 20 month old and not having success conceiving a second. I got pregnant very easily with my first. Breastfeeding seems to be good birth control for us. I wish we could get pregnant. Hopefully we will succeed this month!

  3. Amy says:

    It depends on the person. I nursed my daughter till she was almost 15 mo old (she was only nursing 4 times a day from 12 mo – 15 mo). I got my period back at 2 mo post partum and had regular cycles from 6 mo on (no formula and one bottle of breast milk a day). We tried for two months while I was still nursing and we did not get pregnant (it took one month with our daughter). My doctor told me that if we were really serious about getting pregnant that I needed to wean to increase my chances…we got pregnant within a week of completely weaning.

  4. Amy says:

    It depends on the person. I nursed my daughter till she was almost 15 mo old (she was only nursing 4 times a day from 12 mo – 15 mo). I got my period back at 2 mo post partum and had regular cycles from 6 mo on (no formula and one bottle of breast milk a day). We tried for two months while I was still nursing and we did not get pregnant (it took one month with our daughter). My doctor told me that if we were really serious about getting pregnant that I need to wean to increase my chances…we got pregnant within a week of completely weaning.

  5. Hi Ashley,

    There is a lot of individual variation on this one. I found that I did not have to stop night feedings in order to get pregnant. In fact, I continued nursing my son all the way through my second pregnancy and then tandem nursed both boys for 6 months after my second child was born.

    The interesting thing was that after the second delivery, my period came back after I stopped nursing the elder child so it is clear that a significant decrease in milk production by the body is required. In my case, I went from producing milk for 2 to milk for 1 and that triggered the return of my period.

    Sometimes it just takes time – and the important thing is relax, relax, relax. Usually, the longer you have been trying, the more stressed you are about wanting to get pregnant and the harder it becomes – truly! I know it isn’t easy but perhaps finding ways to relax can help you as well. I have had a number of friends in this boat. They “give up” after trying for so long and then surprise! They fall pregnant.

    I also believe that not being able to get pregnant is your body’s way of telling you it isn’t ready so focussing on your health is also important. If you’re feeling run down or busy with lots of things, it can also affect your chances of getting pregnant.

    I’m sure all this is not news to you, but sometimes we’re so caught up on the fact that we’re still nursing the older child and that it affects our chances of getting pregnant that we forget the other reasons.

    Good luck!

  6. Erica says:

    Ashley
    I was in same boat. Now 26 weeks pregnant and my daughter is almost 3.
    Even though your periods returned early you might not be fully fertile dye to nursing. Or you might be. I would recommend chatting cycles to confirm sustained temperature shift and a luteal phase of at least 10-11 days ideally longer. If you have those features likely you are fertile. Nightweaning helped us. And you can get a 21 day progesterone level checked (7-10d after ovulating) to confirm strong ovulation.
    We also used LH sticks.
    Good luck!!!

  7. Ashley says:

    My daughter is 2 and breastfeeds during the day about 4 times and is off and on through out the night. My period came back when she was 6 months old. Her father and I have been trying for almost a year now to conceive, without any luck. Im starting to think there is some other problem, and about ready to give up. We’re trying to stop the night feedings, do u think it could help?

  8. Congratulations E! Wishing you a safe pregnancy!

  9. Mommybritton – it does vary from individual to individual but so long as you are not exclusively breastfeeding, you can get pregnant. So as far as family planning goes, you should rely on it. But if you do want to get pregnant, then you can.

    I was irregular with late cycles but I still managed to get pregnant with my second while nursing my first.

  10. E says:

    Hi all, Happy to write again to report that I am pregnant, 8 weeks… All while nursing quite frequently day and night. So it is possible.
    Mommybritton: my experience is that my fertility was unaffected by breastfeeding once I had ovulatory cycles that were consistent in length. It took me almost a year to achieve that despite periods – - they were irregular, and even though I was ovulating, I was subfertile. I charted the whole year and it is fascinating to see. I recommend you start charting your cycles to see how long they are (ideally 12 days. If you are ovulating and have met those criteria, I bet you will get pregnant. We tried for almost a year but once my cycles were regular, it only took a few months. Good luck!

  11. mommybritton says:

    I have a one year old an he barely nurses anymore I’m really not produceing much milk so can my husband an I get pregnant we’ve been trying an my doctor said I’m healthy to get pregnant an my periods are regulating. So can I get pregnant?

  12. E – It is my pleasure. Good luck to you!

  13. E says:

    Thanks so much for your encouragement, Shen-Li! Sorry for the delay in responding too! I am still hoping we can impregnate while nursing — I would wean if I could but literally I do not see how that is possible at the moment without a lot of heartache and distress for all parties. The good news is that I am ovulating with regularity and for the first time ever had a normal cycle in terms of overall length (31 days) and luteal length (13 days!). So I figure that a few more cycles under my belt with that same length and I can assume that breastfeeding is no longer affecting my fertility. Or at least I hope that is the case. I’m 33 and I feel the slight urgency to hop on the bandwagon, especially if we want more than two…. Hoping and trying!
    So glad to hear that you were sucessful!! :)

  14. E – I was still nursing Gavin for naps and overnight when I got pregnant with Gareth. Gavin was 25 months at the time. We had been trying for quite a while and I felt exactly how you felt now. Ironically, after Gareth was born, my period came back very quickly even though I was tandem nursing – or perhaps it was the gradual weaning of Gavin during the tandem nursing phase that did it. When Gareth was 13 months, I got pregnant again – unplanned and much to my surprise.

    Hope that’s encouraging…

  15. E says:

    Greetings,
    Just looking for some encouragement here!!
    Daughter is 28 months… still nursing and heartily I must say…. Mostly just at nap and bedtime but still at night (sleeps with us)….
    Would love to get pregnant but it is harder than it looks!!!
    Periods returned when she was 19 months but then it was 123 days until the next one…. then 44…. then 38… then a freaky cycle of 31 days but only a 6 day luteal phase…. then most recently a 32 day cycle with a 11 day luteal phase. I want to believe that I am JUST now getting back to a normal cycle length (< 35 is normal) and my luteal phase is tolerable, and hopefully soon will be able to get that egg going….. but it is surprising how long it is taking!! We have been trying since I got my periods back but then again I have only had 5 periods in 9 months and while they have been ovulatory cycles they were irregular and probably not the most fertile cycles…. I can't fathom weaning her since it would be so hard to do since our routine of sleep etc is wrapped tightly to the nursing…. but she is nursing less than before and some days during the day we go 7 hours or so when we are busily doing lots of things…. it is just the night time that seems to be affecting my fertility I think. Hoping that it works out one of these days. Thanks!!!

  16. Hi Hannah,

    Yes you can nurse your toddler even when you are expecting. I nursed first son all the way through my pregnancy and practiced tandem nursing for a large part of my second son’s first year. I only weaned my older son when my second son became mobile and started to wriggle too much while nursing. As MieVee said, there is a lot of individual variation between mothers.

    From my experience, I found nursing during pregnancy to be a great way to meet my older son’s needs when I was too tired to play with him. He would be content to lie down with me and nurse while I rested instead of insisting we play our usual games which I found too exhausting. Nursing during pregnancy can get a little uncomfortable, though. Because our nipples get sensitive during pregnancy, it can feel like your child is biting you. For some women, the pain is excruciating (like my friend); for others, it’s just a mild discomfort which is easily tolerated (like for me).

    Around about the 5th month of pregnancy, your milk supply will start to dwindle as the milk changes to colostrum. Your toddler can still drink it but you will have to supplement his fluid intake. Some children find they don’t like the change in taste and will self-wean, others are happy to continue nursing all the way through the pregnancy.

    If you plan to nurse through your pregnancy, you will have to be prepared for tandem nursing after the delivery because there is no way your older boy will want to wean immediately after you deliver. However, continuing to nurse your older son is a great way to help him cope with the arrival of a sibling. He still gets to have that special time with you when he nurses.

    If you tandem nurse, there is no need to worry about milk supply. Your body will automatically adjust to the needs of both children. The only time when you have to give consideration to your baby is in the early days when you are producing colostrum. Once your full milk is in, either child can nurse first or together. The other benefit of tandem nursing is that your toddler can help you with engorgement.

    As for supplements, as long as you are eating well, there is actually no need for additional supplements, but you may want to talk to your doctor about your individual case to be sure. Some doctors aren’t comfortable about breastfeeding during pregnancy. I did check up on that, so you may want to read this post:

    http://figur8.net/baby/2009/04/19/nursing-while-pregnant-what-are-the-risks/

    I’ve also written two other blog posts on tandem nursing:

    http://figur8.net/baby/2009/11/13/breastfeeding-tandem-nursing-in-theory/
    http://figur8.net/baby/2009/06/06/more-on-breastfeeding-during-pregnancy/

    If you have any other questions, you can contact me and I’ll be happy to help you with them.

  17. @ Hannah: Many mothers have nursed while being pregnant. Guess it depends on your own body and child’s nursing needs.

    As an update, my 14-month old was still a fussy sleeper who nursed up to 10 times a night. No menses, no time & no energy to make babies. I decided to wean him off at night and let him sleep properly through the night before I try getting pregnant again. Moreover, pregnancy gets me very tired and I knew I couldn’t handle a toddler who didn’t sleep well at night.

    Finally, I completed day and night weaning when he was 18 months old. Menses came one month later and got pregnant soon after.

    Through breastfeeding and pregnancy, I continue eating prenatal multi-vitamins, calcium and DHA supplement, all recommended by my ob-gyn because of my size (underweight) and diet (mainly vegetarian).

    All the best! :)

  18. Hannah says:

    Dear ladies, would like to know if I m expecting can I nurse my toddler? I m planning for a 2nd baby, but I m afraid that if I m pregnant my elder boy wil still want me nursing him before he sleeps. Any mom had experience this before? Btw, what supplements shd betaken if we are still breastfeeding?

  19. Yeah, after a while it is largely a psychological comfort. Even now, I know that Gavin doesn’t need to nurse any more but he just wants to. He’s gone without nursing while I was at the hospital for a week and towards the latter part of the pregnancy, my milk was largely colostrum so I know he wasn’t really getting much breast milk but still he wanted to nurse.

    There was a period of time when Gavin completely stopped nursing during the day and was only nursing before naps and night time. You may find that as your son gets more active, he forgets the need to nurse during the day because there are too many things he wants to do.

  20. My boy would be a tough one to wean off the breast even though he is taking 3 meals of solids well. Perhaps i should start trying earlier in case it takes a while.

  21. I got my period back about a year and three months after – I think. The memory is rather hazy now… Took us a bit longer to get pregnant, but I have heard that it varies greatly from mother to mother.

    My cousin’s SIL got pregnant after six months (she was fully breastfeeding and on the mini pill!) so there you go, it is very possible.

    Sometimes I think it’s also partly the psychological factor. We’re always told we can’t get pregnant if we’re still breastfeeding. Maybe that’s why it seems so hard to get pregnant while breastfeeding.

    Then again, Murphy’s Law works too – sometimes when you don’t want to get pregnant, you get pregnant! Or rather when you don’t expect it, it happens.

  22. This is very encouraging. My 10-month old is still feeding many times round the clock, especially at night. My menses are still missing and we are going to try for #2 next year. Thank you for your sharing, ladies. :)

  23. figur8 says:

    Yes, I have read that ovulation can occur before you even begin to menstruate again, although I have never personally heard of a real life example. Now, thanks you to, I have one :-)

  24. SMartin4 says:

    Well it is definitly possible.. I thought It was very unlikely for me to get pregnant since I haven’t had a period at all and my daughter is 14 months old. I have been feeling sick so we got a pregnancy test to rule it out.. I’m pregnant and not one period.

  25. figur8 says:

    I think you should try what they suggest – cutting back on your nursing sessions. You don’t have to stop altogether, but reducing the frequency is important to help you get your period back.

    My cousin used to replace feeds with her child’s favourite foods and distract her daughter from the breast. You could try that. Wasn’t very successful for me though. Wasn’t until I got pregnant and my milk started changing that Gavin actually reduced nursing on his own.

    Sorry – haven’t exactly been very successful at it myself. Gavin was 2 plus before I was even able to get pregnant again.

  26. Jennifer says:

    My 4th child is 12 months and a few weeks and still haven’t started my period and i am wanting to get pregnant again? how do i do so any suggestions would help. Thanks

  27. figur8 says:

    Thanks for the encouragement Christine. I’m glad to say that I have since managed to get pregnant. I’m now in my 8th week!

  28. Christine says:

    I have a 2 1/2 year old son who is still nursing almost constantly…It took us almost a year to get pregnant with number two after we decided to try…I had my preiod back for more than 6 months before we started trying…Good luck!

  29. figur8 says:

    Thanks for the sound advice, dear. Clock isn’t ticking just yet but the body is definitely slowing down. Don’t want to be “too tired” for the kids. Feel all achy after carrying Gavin around the shopping mall yesterday :(

  30. No problems getting pregnant while nursing. In fact, at almost 8 months now, baby is doing well and normal sized while toddler is growing like a weed. Almost 1m tall already and not 3 yet. Only complaint is nipples hurt like hell when nursing. That itself would be reason enough to wait if you don’t have that clock ticking. :p