Editor’s note: This guest piece on breastfeeding is from Amy Gates. Amy writes about attachment parenting, activism, green living and photography at Crunchy Domestic Goddess, where this was posted originally. Thank you Amy for sharing your story!
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.
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.
Image: mahalie on Flickr under a Creative Commons License
More “Mother’s Milk” breastfeeding posts:
- Mother’s Milk: Boobie Boot Camp
- Mother’s Milk: Nurturing a Breastfeeding Mother, or Nursing for New Dads
- Mother’s Milk: An Eco Child’s Play Series to Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week
- Mother’s Milk Giveaway: World Breastfeeding Week
- Mothers Milk: Breastfeeding and The Non Supportive Other
- Mother’s Milk: Can We Take a Moment To Laugh at These Breasts?
- Mother’s Milk: The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom (Not Just Baby)
- Mother’s Milk: Breastfeeding and Birth Defects-The Breastmilk Challenge