Breastfeeding while pregnant: trying at times, but ultimately worthwhile

Welcome to the May Carnival of Breastfeeding, hosted by Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog. This month’s topic is pregnancy and breastfeeding.

When I became pregnant with my son, my daughter Ava was about 20 months old and still nursing regularly. While I had friends who’s children had self-weaned when they became pregnant, I had my doubts that my “na-na”-loving kid would consider weaning for a second, even if my milk dried up.

Photo courtesy seanmcgrath

Photo courtesy seanmcgrath

At that age, Ava was still a comfort nurser, and still woke at night to nurse. After finding out I was pregnant I worked towards gently night weaning her by letting her know she could nurse as much as she wanted during the day, but at night the na-na had to sleep and she had to wait until the sun woke up in the morning to have mama milk.

By 22 months, miraculously (or so it felt) she was sleeping through the night. (Can you hear the angels singing? I thought I could. ;) It was wonderful. :) She was still happily in our bed, but no longer waking for na-na, and I was able to get the sleep I needed while growing a baby.

Of course, night weaning her did nothing to reduce her desire to nurse during the day, even when my milk dried up (somewhere around 16 weeks I think). However, as my pregnancy progressed, I decided that I wanted/needed to cut down on the number of nursing sessions per day for a variety of reasons. 1) My nipples were becoming increasingly tender. 2) My hormones were all kinds of crazy and the feeling of her nursing when there was no milk to be had sometimes honestly made my skin crawl. 3) I had my qualms about tandem nursing a newborn and a toddler.

The negative and skin crawling feelings were very much a surprise to me and I admit I felt guilty about it. I felt fortunate that I had a group of friends to bounce these feelings off of and was happy to learn that while all pregnant women don’t feel this way, my feelings were certainly not out of the ordinary and others had experienced similar feelings as well.

I used distraction to help reduce the number of times Ava nursed and my husband Jody helped out a lot too. We would ask Ava, “What else could we do to make you feel better instead of having na-na?” and often sang silly or happy songs together rather than nursing. It wasn’t always easy and sometimes I let her nurse even though I didn’t want to, but eventually (about a month or two before Julian was born), she was down to nursing only 1 time per day – before bedtime.

Before Julian was born we talked a lot with Ava about how he would be a little baby and need a lot of mama milk to grow up big and strong like his big sister. We really wanted to get the point across that he would be nursing all the time. And we talked up how she was a big girl and got to do lots of things that Julian was too little to do. I was also sure to let her know that we’d still have our “special na-na time” every night before bed. It honestly worked pretty well.

There were a few weeks towards the end of my pregnancy that I seriously considered weaning her all together. Like I mentioned earlier, my hormones were wreaking havoc on me and nursing her, even only once per day was hard because I had some seriously strong negative feelings that were hard to control. There were a few times that I had to tell her that I was feeling frustrated and needed a break and I would have to take a minute to calm and center myself before letting her latch back on. I think keeping the lines of communication open like that and being honest with her was helpful.

Part of the reason I didn’t wean her completely then was because I felt like it’d be harder to try to do that, than it would be for me to just suck it up and muscle through the last few weeks. I know that sounds horrible, but I knew that when my milk came back in and my hormones weren’t so crazy, nursing her would not affect me so. And I was right. It got easier, much much easier once Julian was born and the milk started flowing freely again.

At the end of my pregnancy, I remember every night I would lay down for some quiet, cuddle time to nurse Ava before bed, she would hold onto baby (put her hand on my belly), and I would wonder if it would be our last night together just the two of us before her baby brother would join us.

In retrospect, I’m glad that I didn’t wean her, despite my strong feelings because I think tandem nursing has been a nice bonding experience for the two kids. On the somewhat rare occasion that Jody is traveling for work and I’ve had to get both kids to bed by myself, we’ve shared some pretty special (though definitely awkward) times together with both of them at the breast, holding hands or giggling at each other, and it’s moments like that that I wouldn’t trade for the world. :)

I want to add that this is my experience only. Just because it was trying at times for me, does not mean it will be for everyone. It’s impossible to know how pregnancy and breastfeeding will go for each woman until she experiences it for herself and then can decide what is best for her and her family.

To read more about others’ experiences and thoughts on pregnancy and breastfeeding, please visit the other carnival participants listed below:

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24 thoughts on “Breastfeeding while pregnant: trying at times, but ultimately worthwhile

  1. You know Amy until I read this I had totally forgotten how I had those creepy crawly feelings too… funny how we get mommy amnesia :)

    I also had to limit the nursings when I got those feelings. It helped for me to let the child know that we were going to “nurse while we sing the alphabet” or something so they could expect that it would be a short session.

    Until I read this I only remembered the happy parts like how neat it was tandem nursing. There were so many benefits for me. While my friends told me horror stories about their toddlers adjusting to the new baby, mine were protective and loving… maybe because their place in my lap was safe. :)

  2. I was still nursing Tamar when I became pregnant with Yael. Tamar was 15 months old. When my milk dried up, she became very frustrated and refused to nurse. My husband took over with a bedtime bottle. Looking back, we could probably have skipped bottles entirely at that point.

    I nursed Yael until she was around 2 years old, and at times, Tamar would ask to try too, and I always let her – but she forgot how to do it. She wasn’t frustrated or anything, just confused b/c she couldn’t get any milk.

  3. I have Hashimotos thyroiditis and struggled to maintain my milk supply with both my kids. As soon as my menstrual cycle returned, it wasn’t long before I was completely dry. I wasn’t ready to stop breastfeeding and even though both my babies were okay with it, it was heartbreaking for me. I’m so glad you were able to nurse for so long.

  4. I had that same skin-crawling feeling. I also felt very nauseous while she was nursing – a few times I pretty much tossed her off of me and ran to the bathroom! But I just COULDN’T wean – Delaney was only 18 months old when her brother was born. I feel lucky enough to get through those last couple of months of her first year without supplementing! Thank you for sharing your experience :)

  5. 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!

  6. Its nice to have and read stories like you have,thanks for sharing it..I have 12 yrs old daughter and have doubt that I’m on the way for the 2nd baby..I am wondering what’s the feeling of being pregnant again after 12 year. Share it to me please….Thanks!

    Bing

    http://mygrowingdaughter.eachday.com

  7. I can relate very much! I did end up weaning Gray- now 2 1/2- for a while when I was so sick with morning sickness- it kinda just happened. But eventually he started up again and I had such mixed feelings about it. Sometimes I hated it! And other times it was the most calm time I got during the day. Now it’s been about 3 or 4 days since I’ve last nursed him and I think we’re going to keep it this way. The baby is due in a few months and I just think this will work for us. Every mother and child is different!

    Steph

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  10. i had almost exactly the same experience with nursing my first through pregnancy… well, through the first 37 weeks. after settling on being willing to nurse once a day, there eventually ended up being days he would not ask to nurse, and once when it had been about 5 days, he forgot how to latch, and never could again… he was 27 months at the time… and tried occasionally until just after turning 3, and now it’s been almost 6 months with no more requests.

    i, too, had been hesitant to tandem, but had made my peace with it, and then just before baby #2 came along, it was suddenly off the table! it definitely threw me for a loop! i’m glad it worked out well for you! :)

    also wanted to suggest the book Adventures in Tandem Nursing – it really helped me clarify my feelings about nursing during pregnancy, and tandeming, and how i could gently set the limits i needed while still respecting my child’s needs.

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  12. I’ve nursed through 2 previous pregnancies, but this time, my 9 month old would not stop biting. I mean, he was actually drawing blood. Add to that the utter exhaustion of being pregnant so close together and I decided to wean him (I’ve never weaned one so early).

    I know it was the best decision for us (I was actually cringing in fear when he would nurse), but I already miss it! Of course, he seems to be just fine with the bottle and doesn’t seem to miss the nookie at all!

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  16. I am 12 weeks pregnant and still nursing my 22 month old daughter. The past week it seems my milk supply has dwindled and she is merely “suckling” rather than really drinking, which makes MY skin crawl!! Nice description you coined!

    I have been considering weaning, but after reading your inspiring story I think I will read more and try to keep going. I am too curious to see the benefits, not only health ones, but better bonding with the new sibling.

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  19. Thank you! This has reassured me enormously. I am just detesting every moment of nursing my 21 month old currently. Feel awful to say it but it is a purely physical thing, extreme skin crawling and discomfort, as well as a medium amount of pain, I’m just at the end of my tether. I can’t bear the thought of another 15 weeks of this, but I know I can live with it if the end is in sight. My worry was that this would somehow continue after the baby is born and give me an aversion to nursing the baby, so I am really happy to read that things changed for you. I’m trying to limit the number of nursing sessions in the day (she says, nursing as she writes) but think I’m going to have to invest in some high necked maternity jump suits to keep him from forcing his way under or over!!!

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  21. I recently found out that I’m pregnant again, probably about 8-9 weeks along. My first born is only 5.5 months old. I want to continue exclusively breastfeeding him up to the one year mark but I’ve been reading up on it and everything says he may self-wean before then and that my milk will turn into colostrum when I’m 4-5 months along. I detest formula with every fiber of my being, so that’s not even an option. Has anyone else dealt with pregnancies this close together and still been able to EBF the whole time? Did you have to wean to animal milk or formula?

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