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:
- Breastfeeding 1-2-3 on Ten Tips on How a Pregnant Woman Can Prepare for Breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding Mums Blog on Preparing for Breastfeeding During Pregnancy
- Crunchy Domestic Goddess on Breastfeeding while pregnant: trying at times but ultimately worthwhile
- Milk Donor Mama on I speak from experience
- Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog on A breastfeeding-friendly birth plan
- Natural Moms Talk Radio on Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding Built for Two
- Permission to Mother on Low Milk Supply in Pregnancy