On breastfeeding while pregnant

by API Blog on May 25, 2008

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This month’s Motherwear Carnival of Breastfeeding is on the topic of pregnancy and breastfeeding.

When my husband and I decided to try to have another baby when our son was 10 months old, the realities of breastfeeding while pregnant were far from my mind. Like so many other aspects of parenting, I did not really know anyone who had breastfed through a pregnancy, but, as always, I was determined that it was natural and that I could do it.

A nanosecond later, I was pregnant (OK, maybe it was a week or two later, but regardless, we missed the fun of “trying”!). My parents were in town early in the pregnancy and as I sat down to nurse Gabriel, my father exclaimed, “But you can’t nurse while you’re pregnant. Give him a bottle.”

One of my biggest fears about nursing while pregnant was that it would cause my progesterone levels, which were dangerously low with Gabriel, to plummet even lower. There was not a lot of literature out there about what happened to hormones while nursing and pregnant, but I figured if nursing suppressed my hormones enough to keep my period from coming back for 8 months after Gabriel’s birth, it was at least possible that I could have a problem during this pregnancy. Instead, my levels were much higher than they had been during my first pregnancy. Whew! Armed with this news, I mentioned casually during a prenatal checkup that I was intending to continue to nurse my son. My OB-GYN’s reaction, while more understated than my father’s, still expressed surprise mixed with a sort of cautious, grudging approval since this was not a high-risk pregnancy.

Just when it seemed that I was well on my way to my goal of tandem nursing, my plans went awry. Apparently I’d forgotten to tell my son that he should continue to nurse even if there wasn’t any milk. He was just under 14 months old when I entered my second trimester and my milk supply, bountiful enough to soak shirts, spray restaurant tables, and sate my hungry son, was suddenly non-existent. Easy-going Gabriel did not complain, but he also went from nursing 6-8 times per day down to 4-6, then to just nursing before nap and bedtime. By 15 months old, he was down to nursing just once a day, upon waking in the morning.

I tried to draw out these morning sessions both because I enjoyed the extra hour in bed and because I suspected that we wouldn’t make it to tandem nursing land. But the truth of the matter was that my nipples were sore, I was tired, and I didn’t enjoy nursing Gabriel except in those peaceful morning sessions. I felt guilty that I didn’t want to nurse him anymore, and I felt sad that he didn’t want to nurse for comfort, just for milk. Before he was 16 months old, the last of those morning sessions went away too. It was a gradual weaning, but I couldn’t help feeling neither one of us was ready for it.

Looking back 2.5 years later, I have a different perspective. Now I know children who nursed through a pregnancy even when there was no milk, and I know mamas whose supply did not disappear like mine did. But I also know other mothers who experienced what I did, with children who no longer wanted the nurse once the milk was all gone.

I also had the pleasant surprise, a few weeks after Lily was born, of a 20-month-old who decided to try to nurse again after nearly 5 months without. He never did relearn a proper latch, or go back to daily nursing, but that bountiful postpartum supply allowed him to get milk in a cup or from the breast (after baby sister nursed) a few times per week well into his second year. “Yummy milk, Mommy,” he would say, smacking his lips. That did it for me: no more guilt, no more regret. Just a little boy and a mama sharing a cuddle and some milk.

Please visit this month’s other Carnival of Breastfeeding participants:

- Julie

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API Blog (53 Posts)

APtly Said, Formerly API Speaks launched in April of 2008 as part of Attachment Parenting International's larger effort to offer interactive content through their newly-redesigned web site: http://www.attachmentparenting.org. All contributors to APtly Said, as with so many of API's staff, are volunteers who donate their time and energy to promote Attachment Parenting world wide.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole May 20, 2008 at 8:14 am

Yeah! Guilt has no place in mothering anyway :)

I’ve BF through 2 pregnancies now. Interestingly, my experiences were really different, even though my kids were exactly the same ages when I got pregnant each time. It was much harder the first time! I wonder if it’s because the kids were different people or if I’d done it before so it was easier or my hormones were different or??? Either way, I’d do it again!

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Elizabeth G. Sipple September 4, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Wow thanks for sharing. I have a 7mo and just found out I am pregnant. I am nuring and want to keep at it. I have 2 other children and have gotten pregnant while each of them were very young they ended up self weaning at around 13mo, far earlier than I had ever wanted. This time around I really want to keep my supply up and see if my sweet girl will tandem nurse…..thanks so much for sharing your story!

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