Monday, October 30, 2006

Nursing a toddler (a 2-year-old) while pregnant

I said a long time ago that I wanted to write about my experiences nursing a toddler - not only for my own record, but in hopes that it might provide some insight to someone else out there. I figure I need to tackle this topic soon (and actually started this entry a couple weeks ago), while I still have time to reflect on it and blog about it before baby boy gets here, so here goes...

I always knew that I would nurse my children, but I never thought about the length of time I would do it. The American Academy of Pediatrics has their recommendations, as does the World Health Organization. Both seem to agree that breastfeeding should continue "as long as mutually desired by mother and child." I figured I would play it by ear with Ava, allowing her to self-wean if possible, but not commit to anything one way or the other.

She celebrated her second birthday in June 2006 and nursing continued. By this time, Ava was only nursing a few times a day and had night-weaned as of 22 months. I'm not sure if the drop in nursing came as a result of her age or as a result of my milk drying up with my pregnancy. I had become pregnant with our second child in February 2006, and my milk dried up somewhere around 15 weeks pregnant.

While nursing a toddler was not something that bothered me, nursing a toddler while pregnant (with all the lovely pregnancy hormones coursing through my system) and without any milk coming out was less than appealing to me. I kept at it despite the fact that it wasn't always easy, partially because I felt like it was easier to grin and bear it rather than wean. I know that may not have been the best way to respond and others chose different paths (which I can totally understand), but that's how I handled it.

There was a time, several weeks ago, when I was seriously contemplating weaning Ava before baby boy is born. I was having such a hard time and feeling very overwhelmed with nursing (even though it wasn't that often) and life in general. But after talking with several other moms who are either nursing now while pregnant or have nursed while pregnant, and reading the chapter about nursing while pregnant and tandem nursing in "Mothering Your Nursing Toddler," I was reassured that all of the feelings I was having were completely normal. Such a relief! That didn't make nursing any easier, but it did reassure me that there was nothing wrong with me for feeling the way I did.

Here we are now - me at 37+ weeks pregnant and Ava at 28 months old. She is still nursing 1 to 2 times per day - which consists of always before bedtime (though she doesn't nurse to sleep) and sometimes once in the middle of the day. I managed to cut out the morning nursing session fairly easily by way of distraction. When she does nurse now, I place restrictions on it and it's only for 2 to 3 minutes at most, which is really all I can handle. There have been times when nursing is just too much for me at the time and I tell her that mommy is feeling frustrated, etc. She understands and has been fine with me placing restrictions, so it works for us.

I'm hoping that by continuing to nurse her, it will make her transition from being an only child to an older sister a bit easier, since we will still have that special connecting time together each day. I know that moms who wean are still able to connect with their older child, but maybe by sharing something as sacred to her as mommy's milk with baby brother, it will help calm her uneasiness with the changes of having to share mommy with someone else. Time will tell.

I never expected nursing while pregnant to be as difficult as it has been. Hormones can do crazy things to a person. I can totally understand why women wean while they are pregnant and I wouldn't have been too upset if Ava had decided to wean on her own. Of course, that didn't happen. ;)

I'm still not making any promises as to how long nursing will continue. We will take it day by day, even after baby boy comes. No matter what happens, I feel good about the nursing relationship Ava and I have had and know that we both have shared some precious memories together over the years.

I welcome any tales from mamas who have nursed while pregnant or tandem nursed. It's always nice to know I'm not alone. Thank you. :)

By the way, I did some searches for nursing a toddler and found this info on LLL's site with "Toddler Tips", as well as info about nursing while pregnant. Also found this with "Toddler Nursing Testimonials."

18 Comments:

At 10/30/2006 12:37 PM, Blogger Caroline said...

Ok, I'm confused. How can you nurse without any milk coming out? Or having "dried up?"

 
At 10/30/2006 3:12 PM, Blogger AnnieM said...

I think you are being very realistic to take it one day at a time. I was told by everyone to wean before baby sister came, even my LLL leader but I think that weaning down to 1-2 times a day made it easier than weaning completely. There have been days when I really feel like a bad mama for not paying enough attention or being so "short fused" that it is such a nice way for Mason and I to have quiet, cuddle time. I am not sure how long I'll make it but hopefully Mason will still be able to decide when he is completely done.

 
At 10/30/2006 3:31 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

i think i told you before that i nursed while pregnant and tandem nursed. i don't recall!?

anyways, i did, and it was both *wonderful* and *frustrating* LOL. but i'd do it again in a heartbeat. those pregnancy hormones can make nursing painful at times, and if your child is getting less milk than they hoped for, it can be frustrating.

i also had to set some limitations at times, and my son was also as understanding as Ava is. i do think that it helped smooth the transition, my son still felt very attached because we still had our special nursing time together. he ended up weaning about 4-5 months after his sister's birth (at 2 years, 4 months old).

i never did master nursing them both at the same time.. they both sucked so differently, it was irritating to have them both on at the same time, but i know other women who have handled that better than me :)

my daughter weaned at 2 years, 6 months old, so i guess i won't have another opportunity to tandem nurse, and i am so happy that i did it while i could!

i wish you and ava and baby brother a happy nursing relationship!

 
At 10/30/2006 5:54 PM, Blogger erica said...

I haven't had any children of my own, but my parents have photos of my mother nursing both myself, and my sister B-, while pregnant with my sister A-. I was four, B- was 3. I hope when I do have kids, my milk is as plentiful as hers was (and how weird did it just feel to write that?).

Best of luck to you

 
At 10/30/2006 6:54 PM, Blogger Happy Mom Tonja said...

I guess I am thinking along the same lines as Caroline... if your milk has dried up, how are you still nursing Ava? and WHY if there's no milk? lol Maybe that's why you feel the way you do sometimes, because you know there's not a nutritional reason for it at this point??
Good luck with your upcoming home birth. I look forward to reading about it.

 
At 10/30/2006 8:36 PM, Blogger amygeekgrl said...

Caroline and Tonja - It's fairly common for a woman's milk to "dry up" while she is pregnant. However, it's also fairly common that her nursling will still want to continue nursing - despite the fact that they aren't getting any milk. This is a bit of a generalization based on children I've known over the past few years, but it seems that children who are over the age of 15 - 18 months or so when the milk dries up have such an emotional attachment to nursing that they want to continue to do it even though there's no more milk for them. Whereas children who are a bit younger are just nursing primarily for the milk/nutrition and they self-wean when there's no more milk to be had.
So anyway, the short answer is - I continue to nurse Ava because she still wants to nurse. :) She is getting other benefits from nursing besides comfort and security though, since my colostrum (which contains immune factors and growth factors) came in many weeks ago. And of course, a few days after baby boy is born, my milk will "come in" again and she'll get the benefits of that again as well. :)
Thanks for the good luck wishes. :)

Annie - Thanks for your encouragement. I'm surprised your LLL leader even advised you to wean. I would think she'd tell you that it might be hard, etc., but leave the decision up to you and not try to tell you what you should do. Glad that you are still enjoying some special time with Mason each day. :)

Michelle - Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I'm not sure how I feel about nursing them at the same time either since I know a newborn's suck is totally different from a toddler's - like you said. I think I would find it uncomfortable too, but we'll see what happens. Also glad to hear you'd do it all again.
Thanks for the well-wishes. :)

Erica - Welcome to my blog and thanks for sharing. :)
Wow - how amazing that your mother did that! I don't think I could nurse two kids while pregnant with a third. It was hard enough with just one. ;) Very cool that you have pictures to remember such a special time in all of your lives. :)

 
At 10/31/2006 6:04 AM, Blogger Denise Docherty said...

I really admire you for continuing to feed Ava at this point.

I'd have been happy to still be feeding Lana now, but she self weaned at 14 months. I was really quite sad when she did, but looking back, I think 14 months was an ok time. She still got plenty of benefit from it. I just wasn't ready for her to not be my baby anymore.. (I'm still not!)Sigh.

Kaya self weaned at 15 months when I was pregnant with Lana. I thought it was because of the milk drying up. But since Lana did it at about the same age I've started to question that theory.

I'm looking forward to hearing how tandem feeding works out for you. I've always though that's a precious way to bond and help older children accept a new sibling.

 
At 10/31/2006 2:16 PM, Blogger Nelly said...

I've had to tell myself to stop trying to figure you out Amy, because I just can't. All I can say is good luck when #2 arrives.

 
At 10/31/2006 10:19 PM, Blogger amygeekgrl said...

Denise - Thank you. :) Interesting that both girls weaned around the same age but with different circumstances. I think it's awesome that they were able to wean when they were ready though, even though it may have been hard for you to have your babies "grow up."
I think it will be bittersweet for me when Ava weans (whenever that day comes). And I'm sure I'll be posting about my tandem nursing adventures in the weeks/months to come.

Nelly - *nod* Thanks for the good luck wishes.

 
At 11/01/2006 11:21 AM, Blogger KleoPatra said...

Not having a child, i still find this subject very interesting, and also the comments people have made, Amy... If i ever do get pregnant, i know at least one place i can look toward for insight... right here. I appreciate you sharing all of the information and your feelings, Amy.

 
At 11/01/2006 1:17 PM, Blogger Avery's mom said...

Avery was 3 months when we started feeding her baby cereal, she took to eating so good. by four months my milk started drying up and I realize that my milk supply was not enough to support her appetite. She weened herself by 5 months and it hurt emotionally for me that I was no longer needed for nursing but discovered at 6 months that I was already 3 months pregnant. I felt a small relief knowing that it was the new baby hormones causing me to dry up and not anything I had done. Though my parents tried to give me a guilt trip over not nursing avery long enough and thats why i got pregnant so quickly (not true but parents have their oppions)

 
At 11/01/2006 1:20 PM, Blogger Avery's mom said...

also, How does it work out when your milk comes in again with the new baby and Ava starts stealing from her brother?
just curious how that works out. I know when i've tried to pump, it messes up my supply and demand cycle. I much prefer to have the baby attached then to use the bottle. havent even tried it with benjamin this time around.

 
At 11/01/2006 2:43 PM, Blogger amygeekgrl said...

Kleopatra - Thanks for your appreciation, sweetie.
It is a sensitive (and personal) topic and I wasn't sure I wanted to open myself up for criticism by posting about it, but I do feel like it's good for mamas to share about things like this and to support one another. :)

Avery's mom - It's too bad your parents tried to guilt trip you. That had to be rough. I have a friend who breastfed exclusively for nearly 9 months before starting her son on solids and she STILL got her period back at 6 wks postpartum. I, on the other hand, didn't get mine until I was 15 months postpartum. So ya just never know.

As for tandem nursing (nursing two or more children), first of all, I know you didn't mean this in a bad way, but Ava will not be "stealing" from her brother. The female body is an amazing thing and capable of producing enough milk for both. :) It's supply and demand, just like it would be for nursing one baby or twins, etc. The important thing is for baby boy to get the full breast each time he nurses and he will get plenty. :)
You can learn more about tandem nursing here - http://www.lalecheleague.org/FAQ/tandem.html

 
At 11/03/2006 2:35 AM, Blogger BlueGoddess said...

Wow, I just love reading about the fact that you are still nursing!! I love nursing my son most of the time. But in June when we went to visit family in another state, I didn't want things to be weird with them. So I decided to wean. Plus my son was nursing very acrobatically. So it was usually uncomfortable. At the time my son was 34 months old. He turned 3 in August.

The funny thing is that he hasn't forgotten it. And he asks to nurse all the time when it is bed time or when he is hurt or upset. There have even been a couple of times that I let him. But there isn't any milk left and it feels weird now. Just kind of uncomfortable again.

So I can understand all of the strange and unusual feelings you might have while pregnant. I hope you are able to tandem nurse. It would just give me a sense of pride knowing that women out there can do that. But of course do what is best for you and your family.

I am proud and amazed at a woman like you. I wish I would have had more friends like you when I was nursing my son. But even though I didn't I was still able to give him almost 3 years. So that was an accomplishment for me. Plus I hope that when my son grows up that he will be supportive of his wife nursing his child.

Good luck and be well.

 
At 11/03/2006 9:40 AM, Blogger amygeekgrl said...

Blue Goddess - Thank you for sharing your experience. I think it's awesome that you were able to nurse your son for as long as you did and that you have such fond memories of it (and obviously, he does too).
A friend of mine has two boys and has mentioned before how she hopes that by them witnessing extended bfing and homebirth, etc., first-hand that they will encourage those kinds of things in their future spouses. And I think she is right on. Of course it's important to empower our daughters, but it is also important to empower our sons. :)
I don't know if you are interested, but there is an API chapter that meets regularly in Boulder. Email me (amygeekgrl@gmail.com) if you want info or just want to join the group's yahoo group to see what it's all about. :)

 
At 11/03/2006 11:24 PM, Blogger purple_kangaroo said...

My oldest was 6 months old when I got pregnant with my second.

Nursing was never easy for me, and being pregnant and nursing was extremely difficult for me. I did it for almost 6 months, and I hope never to do it again.

Of course, I have other health issues that may have made it more draining for me than it would be for most people.

Anyway, I wrote a long post on this topic not too long ago. Let me know if you'd like the link.

 
At 11/04/2006 10:34 AM, Blogger amygeekgrl said...

Purple Kangaroo - I would love the link. Thanks for sharing. :)

 
At 11/05/2006 6:19 PM, Anonymous Raw Vegan Momma said...

I love hearing extending breastfeeding stories. Congrats to you onyour decision. I vividly recall the vast range of emotions I went through during pregnancy.
Aiyana is three years old and still nurses at bedtime. I occasionally ask her what the milk tastes like and I get a kick out of her answers. Can you believe I still have milk in there? :)

 

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