Breastfeeding toddlers & beyond: not as weird as you might think – #KBBF2014

The theme for today in the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt is “Breastfeeding Beyond a Year”. I still remember the feeling when Andrew, my eldest son, got to his first birthday and was still breastfeeding. At the time I wrote a blog post on it called the not-so-crazy world of toddler breastfeeding. After all the struggles we’d had in the early weeks and months (as I explained in my last KBBF post, I have IGT – insufficient glandular tissue – so can’t exclusively breastfeed a baby), I could hardly believe that we’d got to 12 weeks let alone 12 months. But he was still keen to feed, or nurse would be a better term as it really wasn’t about the food anymore but about the comfort and routine. And I always said that I wanted him to decide when to wean and it wouldn’t be me who would initiate the weaning process. So we carried on beyond the time that most mums I knew were breastfeeding.

Apart from his lack of interest in weaning, there are other good reasons to have carried on nursing a toddler (and now preschooler). I think that it’s helped in the fact that he’s still hardly ever been ill. Nursing has been fundamental in his daily bedtime routine for a long time, along with a bath and reading books. He likes to have that routine and I think it has helped him know that it’s bedtime before he could understand properly what was going on. Nursing has also helped when he’s been upset or tired over the years, to calm him down, though these days he only really has some milk before bed.

 

When Andrew was around 13 months old, I found I was pregnant again. This brought with it all sorts of thoughts and feelings about breastfeeding, for example: I had bad vomiting and nausea throughout the pregnancy and wondered if I had the energy to carry on and how I should initiative weaning in that case; I wondered if Andrew would self-wean anyway, as many do during the pregnancy of a sibling; I wondered if/how it would work out with tandem nursing if he did want to carry on. I wrote about these thoughts at various times in my weekly pregnancy diary blog posts, such as this one.

Well we both made it with the breastfeeding through pregnancy thing, and when Joel was born, we became a tandem nursing family. I had lots of support from my local LLL group, and one leader in particular had gone out of her way to help put me in contact with another LLL leader from elsewhere in the country who had tandem nursed with IGT. She made the good point that the toddler is an excellent breast pump substitute in terms of giving the breasts extra stimulation after the newborn feeds (of course you can’t get the milk back from the toddler though, like you can from a bottle of pumped milk, and give it to the baby, but I never got much from a pump anyway.)

As Andrew was basically down to just having one feed before bedtime, I made sure that Joel had had good feeds himself up to that point, and then he had time with Daddy whilst Andrew and I had milk time. He probably was getting very little actual milk by that point in the day, but as he’d nursed through pregnancy, when milk supply drops naturally even in mums without IGT, he was used to that. He just liked the time with me, and I think the tandem nursing helped him accept Joel into the family, although he was young enough to not really care that much anyway. Sometimes Andrew would ask for milk while I was sitting feeding Joel in the day – an increased interest in nursing can happen with older siblings, even if already weaned, so he wasn’t unusual in this, and would usually be happy with a few sucks from the other side, just to mark his ground more than anything I think. There weren’t many times that I would actually have one feeding from each side at the same time – tandem nursing refers to breastfeeding 2 (or more) children in the same time period, not necessarily precisely simultaneously.

Joel seemed to get more breast milk than Andrew did at the same age – I could tell partly from the fact that he needed less formula supplementation and partly because his poos looked so much more breastfed than Andrew’s ever did pre-solids! Many mums, with and without IGT, report increased milk supply with subsequent children. So even if Andrew was taking a little of the shared supply when Joel was a baby, I was happy that over the span of their nursing years, they were getting their own fair share.

Before I knew it, we somehow managed to get to a whole year of tandem nursing; it dawned on me that I was tandem nursing 2 toddlers, and nowadays a toddler and a preschooler.  Neither of them nurse for very long these days, but both of them still enjoy Mummy milk before bed. I think Andrew is slowly on the stopping straight because he doesn’t ask for it every day now, but I’ve heard that this is how self-weaning at this age can happen – a slow process that you look back on and can’t pin point an exact time that they stopped, the breastfeeds just go down from once a day to once a week to once a month etc. We often joke that at this rate, Joel will stop before Andrew, because he’s probably less interested in it than Andrew was at this age, but who knows! (Only they know.)

I look back now and can’t quite believe that I’m sitting here writing this, given our shaky start in the world of breastfeeding. But I’m glad that we persevered through the hard times to get to this point. When I think about how much breast milk that my boys have had over their nursing lives, it’s probably similar to how much some babies had who were exclusively breastfed for the 6 months that is seen as the ‘standard’ amount of time to breastfeed for. Some people may think that breastfeeding or nursing toddlers is weird, and pre-schoolers even weirder, but it works for us and I’m happy to carry on for as long as they require, which may turn out to be not much longer.

Others who are writing about breastfeeding beyond a year today include….. (please go and visit their blogs too).

Sorry about the mess

Circus Queen

Hex Mum

My thoughts on things

Baking Betsy

And another WAHM like myself taking part in the hunt is

Cherub Chews

a Rafflecopter giveaway

When will I stop breastfeeding? – #KBBF2013

I don’t know the answer to this, only my boys do. From early on in Andrew’s life, I said that I wanted him to self-wean rather than me leading. In general I’ve taken a very baby-led approach to parenting, letting them settle into their own rhythms and not setting a routine – though Joel has had to conform a bit more than Andrew did, as his older brother’s pattern (that was drawn on a blank slate) was already set, but he seems to have been easy-going enough to cope with this. Breastfeeding is one aspect of my parenting, and an important one at that.

When I said that I would let Andrew self-wean, I didn’t think for one moment that he would still be enjoying mummy milk at nearly two and a half years old. I assumed that as my supply had been so rubbish in the first 6 months of his life, he would soon give up on me and that would be it. But as he quickly took to solid food, breastfeeding became something he did for comfort, not calories, and therefore it didn’t seem to matter to him that there wasn’t a huge amount. I then thought that he would self-wean during my pregnancy with Joel, again thinking that if my supply had been so rubbish before, then it would be even worse as the hormones caused it to dwindle in preparation for the new baby. I wrote a fair amount about this in my pregnancy diary posts every week on the blog (for example here and here). But he carried on, and it is still important for him now, nearly 8 months into his baby brother’s life.

My boys and I on our tandem nursing adventure
My boys and I on our tandem nursing adventure

Andrew doesn’t have loads of milk, and some days it’s more than others, but before bed every night he will have a cuddle and some mummy milk and then Daddy will read a story and say a prayer with him before leaving him in bed to drop off to sleep, which he is very good at. I think this regularity helps him unwind and know that it’s bedtime, and if it’s been a busy day, it’s one time that I know we can reconnect and talk about how the day has been for us.

Joel is now at the stage where solid food is taking up more and more of his daily calorie intake, which seems to be quite a lot as he’s also crawling everywhere so needs lots of energy. He too has taken to solid food well, and the amount of formula that I need to supplement with has gone down drastically in the past month or so. He’s feeding less in the daytime, and has most of his milk intake 5am-7am and 7pm-8pm, as well as a few small feeds here and there in the day alongside his solid food.

As with Andrew, I will let Joel decide himself when he wants to stop breastfeeding. There are some days when Tom (my husband) and I joke that at this rate Andrew will be feeding longer than Joel, mainly because Joel is in that stage of feeding quite a bit less now that he’s on solids so it doesn’t feel like I’m constantly feeding him any more and there is a big difference in how that feels to me.

Well done! You've found another hunt logo - you can enter the competition again at the bottim of this post.
Well done! You’ve found another hunt logo – you can enter the competition again at the bottom of this post.

When I look back at how breastfeeding started with Andrew, it’s hard to believe that we’ve ended up where we are – I have two boys who have healthy appetites and are still enjoying mummy milk. How on earth we ended up here I wonder with amazement, things could have turned out so differently. Before Andrew was born I had no idea that it was even possible to breastfeed a toddler, let alone through another pregnancy, and it didn’t even enter my head why anyone would want to do that. I guess if we hadn’t have hit problems and therefore found help through LLL, I might not have even learned that I don’t *have* to wean my baby at 6 months when they start eating more than milk, like all the prominent books and advertising would have us believe.

Everyone has their own breastfeeding goals, and what is right for one family is not the same as what is right for another family. Different mums and babies are ready to wean from breastfeeding at all sorts of different times and for different reasons. This is just our story. At one point I said I would be glad to get to 6 weeks, then I said I’d be glad to get to 6 months, then to 1 year, then through pregnancy, then to 6 months of another baby, then to whenever they both want to stop. My goals have shifted as I’ve lived with one and then two nurselings. I hope that anyone reading this is able to achieve their own breastfeeding goal, whatever that might be.

There’s still more time to enter the main competition of the scavenger hunt, with more than £1000 worth of prizes in the kitty. Just fill in the rafflecopter below! You can read more posts about breaastfeeding at the following blogs…

The Brick Castle

In the Playroom

Pea Musings

Faded Seaside Mama

Let’s Walk Together for a While

And here’s a company where you can find all sorts of baby things, not just breastfeeding stuff (I love their babywearing items for example)

Natural Nursery

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Our adventure in tandem nursing

Throughout pregnancy with Joel, I was convinced that Andrew would self-wean from breastfeeding at some point. My milk supply had never been great, but I thought the dwindling in pregnancy would be enough to put him off for good. But as he still wanted it right up until the night Joel was born – I actually had my first contractions whist feeding Andrew before his bedtime – I thought that it showed how breastfeeding wasn’t about the volume of milk for him, but rather the comfort that he gets from cuddling up to me and sucking. Not that I had anything against tandem (two children of different ages simultaneously) feeding, but I was concerned that this wouldn’t be possible for us due to my insufficient glandular (breast) tissue or IGT. However, through my local La Leche League (LLL) group, I found out that it’s not out of the question to tandem feed with IGT – I wrote about this here.

So I set to and read bits from the LLL book Adventures in Tandem Nursing. If Andrew was going to carry on, I needed some info on how to meet the needs of both a baby and a toddler at the same time. This task seemed like something for a super-mum, and I certainly didn’t feel that I was a super-mum, but the book helped me see that it was more normal than I once thought. As Andrew has continued to breastfeed since Joel’s birth, I thought I’d share on here the beginnings of our adventure in tandem nursing, particularly as I have no idea how long this adventure will last. Andrew still seems quite keen at the moment, but you never know how a toddler’s mind can change from one day to the next!

Right up until the night Joel was born, Andrew was still breastfeeding twice a day, once first thing and once before bed, for about 20 minutes on average each time, plus the odd bit here and there in the day if he was upset/tired/grumpy and I needed to calm him down. We were only in the Birth Centre for less than 12 hours, so he only missed the feed first thing in the morning on the day of the birth (which was in the early hours), when Grandma got him up instead of me. The first few mornings and evenings he continued as he had done, but Joel fed first each time and then Andrew fed whilst Daddy held Joel, who slept between feeds anyway, in normal newborn fashion.

Unfortunately we had to go back into hospital when Joel was 3 days old because he had pretty bad jaundice and needed light treatment. So Andrew missed out on the bedtime feed on the one night that we were in, and the morning feed the following morning. Joel responded well to treatment and recovered very quickly, so the doctors were happy that he was well enough to go home on the second evening. The ward staff were very busy though, and asked if we wanted to stay in another night (suggesting that we might like to get onto a 3-hourly feeding routine before we left!), I guess because doing the discharge paperwork would take a while. But I played the toddler card and said that I wanted to get home to put my elder child to bed (I didn’t mention breastfeeding him, but that was part of it). They saw my point and agreed to send the paperwork later in the post. One of the hardest things for me about going back into hospital was leaving and missing Andrew; I was very emotional on the first day and night, partly because it was hard to see Joel on the lights and not be able to cuddle or feed him, but also because I felt bad about not being there for Andrew as I always had been. The hormones probably were also not helping then!

When we got home, Joel was having top-ups via the SNS, and due to his sleepiness from the jaundice he was taking a long time to feed, as he’d feed for a bit, fall asleep, so I had to wake him up and re-latch him, several times over. This meant that more often than not he was feeding at the times when Andrew woke up and went to bed. So what we did was Joel had one side, and after he switched to the other, Andrew fed from the first side. We’ve carried on like this until now. It’s through this arrangement that I’ve ended up having one on each side simultaneously – totally tandem nursing!

My boys and I on our adventure

At nearly 4 weeks into our adventure, I’ve noticed that Andrew’s nursing pattern has changed. He no longer has one main feed at the start of the day and one main feed at the end, but rather lots of smaller ones throughout the day when it’s just the 3 of us together. As I am feeding Joel for quite long stretches (up to an hour) every couple of hours, when that’s happening at home (as opposed to out at a group) and I’m sitting on the sofa, Andrew keeps coming to me and asking for milk – he’ll feed for a few minutes, then go back to watching his DVD or reading a book or playing with toys, and come back to me a bit later for some more, and so it goes on until Joel has finished. Andrew seems less bothered about lots of time with me just before bed than he used to, but overall I reckon on days when it’s just us, he’s feeding for a similar amount of time as before, just in short and sweet stints. When Tom or others are around, he’ll generally have a longer feed again before bed rather than more in the day.

It’s great that Andrew wants to, and feels that he can ask to, feed when I’m feeding Joel, because I feel bad about the fact that I’m spending less time focussed on Andrew these days, though I know that this is an inevitable part of having a second child, and at least by letting Andrew in on our milky cuddles, he knows that I’m still there for him too, whenever he needs me. I think this is important for him and means a lot to him – to know that I haven’t forgotten about him. When my 2 boys are nursing at the same time, I look down at them and think what a lovely way it is for them to bond; Andrew is very affectionate towards Joel when they’re nursing together, and often strokes his head and comes off and kisses him.

Overall I’d say that tandem nursing is so far a very positive experience. I do have to say though that I still have the feeling like I did in pregnancy that feeding Andrew is less pleasurable for me than it once was. It’s hard for me to put into words what I feel – it’s not painful or annoying, it’s just a strange feeling that having him suck from me is not the same as Joel sucking. Maybe it’s his size, maybe it’s because he moves around and therefore his latch sometimes leaves a lot to be desired (although at least I can ask him to come off and do it better!) I thought this feeling was mainly to do with feeding during pregnancy, but obviously it’s not the case now. Apparently this happens to other mums who nurse toddlers though, so I’m not alone. But I always said I would let him choose when he wants to stop, so I’m happy to carry on, despite the strange feeling, until that might be – I’ll let you know when I see any signs of him giving up completely.

Pregnancy diary: week 31 – breastfeeding update

I thought it was about time that I wrote a pregnancy post with an update about how breastfeeding Andrew is going and my thoughts on how it might go once baby is here. In early pregnancy, I wrote about my thoughts on nursling (self-)weaning. I then wrote a sort of update at 21 weeks, but I hadn’t come to any firm conclusion about how or when I would initiate weaning if Andrew didn’t self-wean. I guess I was trying to leave it as long as possible, to see if Andrew would self-wean, even if right at the last minute. Well he’s still going strong (as strong as he has been for the past 6 months), and feeding for about 20 minutes first thing in the morning and about 20 minutes last thing before bed, plus the occasional feed in the day if he’s upset or grumpy for some reason (for example, teething).

I’ve been reading the book Adventures in Tandem Nursing on and off for a while, so I now have lots of info about breastfeeding a toddler in pregnancy and once the new baby is born. This has been very helpful, but since I know that we’re a special case, given my hypoplasia (insufficient glandular (milk-making) breast tissue), I wasn’t sure that all of the info was completely applicable to us, because it doesn’t specifically mention mums with hypoplasia. So I decided that the best thing would be to get some expert advice, more than is available in books.

Andrew reading up on tandem feeding with the book Adventures in Tandem Nursing 😉

I spoke to the leaders at my local La Leche League (LLL) group where we’ve been going since Andrew was just a few weeks old. They have been an amazing support to us, and I knew they would do everything they could to help us with this situation too. One leader in particular was very helpful. As we talked and she helped to unravel my thoughts by asking me specific questions about what I was thinking, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t against tandem feeding in itself, but what was stopping me from thinking it was possible for us was my hypoplasia and the memory of awful supply issues that I had when Andrew was a baby. (If you’ve not read from the beginning of our breastfeeding journey, you can find it here.) I realised that IF supply wasn’t an issue (a big IF) then I’d have no hesitation in tandem feeding both Andrew and baby – I was up for that. But of course, like I said, it’s a big IF, because it’s likely that supply will be an issue again with baby. My concern would be that Andrew, although he’d help make more milk by feeding (the more he takes the more I make), would also take milk, and I wouldn’t want him to take what would be better drunk by the newborn.

My helpful LLL leader understood what I was telling her, and agreed that it’s an unusual situation to be in – there can’t be many mums out there who have hypolasia and are considering tandem feeding, or are actually tandem feeding. She recognised that our unusual situation went beyond what she had personally read as part of her LLL leader training and experienced with other mums through her role as an LLL leader. So she offered to post our question to the online national forum of LLL leaders, to see if anyone else had experienced a similar situation, either themselves as a breastfeeding mum, or from other mums they had met through their role as leader. What was our question though? Essentially it boiled down to: Is it possible to tandem feed with hypoplasia?

Within a couple of weeks, I had three very helpful leads as a result of my leader’s post to the national leader forum. One was from a mum who hadn’t had supply issues herself, but who had recently been to a conference for lactation consultants (people whose job it is to support breastfeeding mums), where there had been a paper on insufficient glandular tissue and possible ways of helping increase supply. The main focus of her emails to me was on herbs that act as galactologues (substances that help increase milk supply in breastfeeding mums). She gave me some links to resources on these, including those that are apparently safe to use in pregnancy, because relatively few of them are. I’m not entirely convinced about taking herbs in pregnancy, because Andrew is still feeding now and helping to keep my supply going, and the herbs are pretty expensive to keep taking every day over extended periods. As money will be even tighter once I leave work, I have to weigh up all the pros and cons of dealing with supply issues.

Another email correspondence I had was (indirectly via my LLL leader) with Diana West, author of The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk. She’s done some research herself into insufficient glandular tissue, and, as you can tell from the title of the book she wrote, is an expert on supply issues in general. Nothing like going straight to the top lady for advice! Her reply was very to the point: in her opinion it is possible for a mum with hypoplasia to tandem feed, though she would need to take some steps to make sure she is making as much milk as possible, such as taking herbs, expressing and using an at-breast supplementer if supplements are needed for the newborn – all the stuff you can read about in her book, which was relevant to me as a first-time mum breastfeeding just one child; the toddler would also help to boost supply. She said there was no reason that I couldn’t be treated like any other tandem-feeding mum and any other mum with low supply, in terms of the support that my LLL leaders could give me. That was encouraging!

But even more encouraging was to hear from an LLL leader who’s a mum who has personally experienced tandem feeding with hypoplasia. She gave it a go, and it worked out well for her and her children, who have a similar age gap to the one that Andrew and baby will have. She said that she definitely noticed that she had more milk with her second baby, though it’s hard to tell whether this is just the result of having a second child (generally mums have more milk with subsequent babies) or whether the breastfeeding toddler actually helped improve her supply even more than if she hadn’t have been feeding still. She also gave me some tips on herbs that she used, and told me that she always made sure that the newborn fed before the toddler did. Like us, she used a supplemental nursing system (SNS) in the early months for both babies, and she said that with her second baby she stopped using it a lot sooner than with her first, because her supply was better. She said that her toddler acted like her ‘breast pump’, by feeding after the newborn to remove even more milk from the breast so that more would be made for the next newborn feed. One thing that she highlighted, as I often do, is that breastfeeding is not just about food, and that the tandem feeding was a way for her children to bond with each other, and it helped her toddler through the transition of having a new baby in the family.

Bump looks big in this! I think it's because it's a flow-y top though, because I don't think I look so big in a more fitted top. Lots of people are telling me that I look very 'neat' or 'small' for over 30 weeks!

So my assumption that it’s not possible for us to give tandem feeding a go due to the hypoplasia and supply issue has turned out to be wrong. That’s not to say from what I’ve heard from these contacts that it would be easy, but I’m not one to avoid a challenge just because it sounds hard. I would never have continued to breastfeed Andrew if I wasn’t determined, despite how hard it was, to give him as much of my milk as possible, and in the end we’re still going now at 19 months. When I think about how much milk he’s had from me over those 19 months, I bet it’s not actually that far off what some babies get in 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding who are then weaned onto formula. Breastfeeding in early pregnancy was tough too, because I was so sick, but we’ve got through that and I’m feeling much better and glad that I was able to persevere in the hard times when I really didn’t feel like letting Andrew feed.

You can probably guess that my thoughts are now not so focussed on the necessity of weaning. My current thinking on breastfeeding is that I’m happy to let Andrew continue, if he wants to, and see where we end up. If he self-weans before baby arrives, that’s fine; there’s still plenty of time, given that weaning in pregnancy can be quite abrupt, and who knows what he’ll be like next week even if he’s going strong now. Or if he’s still feeding when baby arrives, that’s fine too. As he is pretty predictable in his feeding pattern (i.e. twice a day for main feeds and occasionally other small ones), it should be fairly easy to judge when to offer the newborn the breast before allowing Andrew to feed. If the newborn is anything like Andrew was, for which of course there is no guarantee, then he/she will feed most of the day on and off anyway, inter-dispersed with lots of activity and alertness; it would be harder if he/she is a sleepy baby, as I would then need to be more watchful as to when he/she needs to feed, especially in relation to Andrew. Or if Andrew decides to self-wean once the newborn is here – maybe because there’s less milk for him? – then that’s fine too. If breastfeeding helps him to accept the new baby and not feel jealous or like I’ve got less time for him, then I’m definitely up for tandem feeding as a means of meeting the needs of both my children.

It’s a nice feeling knowing that I have so much more info and support for breastfeeding already in place this time. At 31 weeks of pregnancy with Andrew, I had barely even thought about reading up on breastfeeding and was just getting round to booking my place at an antenatal breastfeeding workshop, which in the end was OK, but didn’t give me any info other than the textbook case, which of course we turned out not to be. I look back and wish I’d been more aware and able to get more info and support antenatally with Andrew, but it’s one of those things that is easy to say with hindsight, and Tom has reminded me that we did our best with the info and knowledge we had at the time, and that’s all we could do. At least this time we have been given another chance to learn from our first experience.

That’s all for now, except to say that this week saw Tom and I celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary. It’s amazing to think how much has happened in those four years, and I can’t believe that there are now nearly 4 of us instead of the 2 who started a journey together on our wedding day four years ago. Andrew is definitely a mixture of the 2 of us – I love looking at him and thinking of how he has bits from me and bits from Tom. I’m looking forward to discovering in what ways the new baby is another mixture of the two of us 🙂

 

Pregnancy diary – week 15: thoughts on nursling (self-?)weaning

It’s that time of the week again, when I sit down and ramble about what’s going on in our pregnancy world this week. According to the various pregnancy week-by-week guides that I flick through (online or in print) every now and then, it’s normal by week 15 for most ladies to feel better from any sickness that they’ve experienced. As you may have guessed, I’m still feeling sick and haven’t stopped being sick, though thankfully not as often as in earlier weeks. But then I’ve never laid any claim to being ‘normal’, and some would advocate (probably Tom the most strongly) that I’m not ‘most ladies’.

What is ‘normal’ anyway?! The statistician in me (the one who was taught all she knew during the PhD) understands that every ‘normal distribution’ is a curve – some lucky ladies are in the thin end at the left and suffer no or hardly any nausea and sickness (lucky them, she says gritting her teeth), some not-so-lucky ladies are around the peak of the curve and suffer nausea and sickness for about 14-15 weeks, and some unlucky ladies find themselves in the thin end at the right and get the nausea and sickness thing real bad and/or for ages. So far I’m hanging around to the right of the peak, waiting to see whether I’ll slide any further down into the gloomy far-right of the curve, or whether I’ll be spared from the descent.Anyway, normal curves were not the intended topic of this week’s diary. At the end of last week, I borrowed a book from Cambridge La Leche League (LLL) group’s library called ‘Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding during pregnancy and beyond‘ by Hilary Flower. Of course I haven’t had time to read it all yet (if I ever will), but by flicking through the bits I was most interested in and was drawn to the most, it’s given me lots of information and things to think about. Let me try and trace my thoughts back to a while ago…

There was a point in the breastfeeding journey that Andrew and I undertook when getting to 15 weeks seemed like a big achievement, let alone 15 months! For the first 6 months of Andrew’s life, I never for one moment imagined that I would still be breastfeeding him when I would find myself pregnant again. As the months went by, Andrew was still keen to breastfeed, in fact even more so than he had been just before he was introduced to solids around 6 months, presumably because he wasn’t so hungry for the milk. So I continued to meet his need, and never thought about me being the one to wean him – I wanted him to carry on until he initiated the weaning himself. Then an embryo-sized spanner was thrown into the works of this plan. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good spanner – obviously this was my own doing (with help from Tom), and we’re extremely happy that I’m pregnant again – we just weren’t sure how quickly this would happen. One of the first things that crossed my mind when the tests showed up positive was ‘now I’ll have to wean Andrew – how will I do that, and how will he take it?’

So far I’ve had mixed feelings about breastfeeding during pregnancy. Andrew still feeds for around 20 minutes first thing in the morning, around 20 minutes before bed, and wants a few other shorter feeds during the day if it’s just the two of us at home (he’s usually too distracted when we’re out, and has been since about 4 months old!) He hasn’t woken in the night to feed for a few months. The hardest thing about this feeding pattern has been any feeds in the afternoon and evening when I’m so sick. I’ve only been able to feed him lying down at any time of the day, but the nausea and sickness has made it incredibly hard to stay motivated. That said, I generally still enjoy the morning feed, as it slowly wakes us both up and I get to lie in bed for a bit longer, and in some ways giving in to the top-tugging, milk signing and whinging in the afternoons is actually by far the easiest option – it keeps him happy and in one place for 5 or 10 minutes, and again I’m lying down during that time.

Mummy resting and Andrew feeding before going to bed

At least I didn’t have the added complication about worrying whether breastfeeding was even compatible with a healthy pregnancy, as one might think, because I’d heard that it is perfectly possible, and I even know a couple of ladies who have done it, through going to lots of LLL meetings over the past 15 months. Indeed this is exactly what the book Adventures in Tandem Nursing confirmed when I started to read it. Although one might think that breastfeeding could lead to complications, particularly miscarriage in the early weeks, because of the hormones involved, research gives little indication of how this could happen from a molecular biology point of view, though more research could be done on this. Of course complications do happen in pregnancies with an older nursling involved, but it is not clear that this is due to the breastfeeding itself and it wouldn’t have happened anyway.

It is lovely to read a well-researched book that paints a picture of breastfeeding during pregnancy being ‘normal’ in the sense of ‘natural’ (even if not the ‘norm’ in our society) and not something to worry or feel weird about – it’s nice to know that I’m ‘normal’ in some respects even if not all 😉 In fact the picture painted is not only of breastfeeding during pregnancy being a natural thing to do, but also ‘tandem’ nursing – i.e. breastfeeding two children of different ages simultaneously (either literally with one on each breast, or one after the other within the same period of time). However, the book does point out that tandem nursing is a big commitment and not for the faint hearted! … and that choosing to wean your older nursling (I adore that term, it’s so cute!) before baby’s arrival does not make you a bad mum – every mum needs to make her own decision taking into account the needs of her newborn, her toddler and (believe it or not) herself.

I have known from the start of this pregnancy that weaning my current nursling  is the only option for us. My milk supply was low with newborn Andrew (you can read our story here), and it is unlikely that this will dramatically change to the extent that I would have a sufficient supply for two nurslings. In ‘normal’ supply cases, it is perfectly possible to produce enough milk for two, but given my breastfeeding experience so far, I am not convinced that this is me (again I’m showing my abnormality). It is likely, however, that by feeding Andrew for this long, I’ve increased the amount of milk-producing breast tissue that I have, and so I may have a better supply than last time (given also that we’ll get any potential tongue-tie issue sorted asap this time). This is also one of the reasons that I have been motivated to feed Andrew for this long – every extra day that I feed him will hopefully lead to more milk production for his sibling. Whether I’ve done enough to be able to exclusively breastfeed without the need for formula supplements remains to be seen – I’d say I’m optimistic that it’s made some difference, but realistic that exclusive breastfeeding probably won’t happen.

The next step is actually doing something about weaning Andrew. Part of me is still hoping he will self-wean. According to my trusty borrowed book, it is fairly common that a breastfeeding toddler will wean her-/himself whilst her/his mum is pregnant again. In a couple of scientific studies on breastfeeding during pregnancy cited in the book, around a quarter to a third of the toddlers who started off breastfeeding in their sibling’s pregnancy self-weaned, and a similar number were weaned by the mum, leaving around a half to a third who continued to breastfeed alongside the newborn. There are certain changes that occur in the make-up and quantity of the milk during pregnancy, and these are thought to be a trigger of self-weaning. In the first few months of pregnancy, the milk is likely to become more ‘salty’ and less ‘sweet’ as the proportion of various salts and sugars changes in the composition – this is sometimes called ‘weaning milk’ (this name bodes well for us then). By around 20 weeks (half way through the pregnancy) the milk supply often declines considerably, so there is much less available for the nursling. These two factors may convince Andrew to give up on his own…..

Not looking much like giving this up yet....

If not, there will have to be a plan B, involving input from me! But so far, thinking about weaning is as far as I’ve got, so there isn’t currently an action plan B, just a metaphorical plan B. I’ll have more of a read of this book and talk to my LLL friends to get some practical ideas, and update you when I have more to say.

This pregnancy feels like a journey for three people, not two, and I’m aware that it’s my responsibility not only to look after and out for the baby inside me, but also to do the best I can for my nursling. I didn’t think I’d be the one to wean Andrew, but in the interests of all three of us, I know that is now the best option (if he doesn’t do it himself!) I’m sure Andrew will cope with standing aside and letting his brother/sister take over the role of nursling, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to help him cope and be the best mum I can be to him.