I haven't nursed a child in over five years, but my breastfeeding experience spanned a continuous 5 years and 9 months. In this series I'll share my breastfeeding story, with all of its ups and downs, for the purpose of inspiring and encouraging both new moms and those who are years into their breastfeeding experience.
As my son reached 18 months, our nursing relationship was still going strong and I was pregnant again. I experienced the same excruciating pain while nursing during the 1st trimester, only it didn't stop after the first 7 weeks because my pregnancy was continuing instead of ending. It was both a blessing and, well, a pain.
I employed the weaning method of "don't offer, don't refuse" with my son, and prepared myself for any emotions that might surface when he weaned. Except, he didn't wean! He kept on nursing, two or three times a day. By about 22-24 weeks into my pregnancy, my supply returned and nursing was no longer painful. I knew then that I would be a tandem nursing mama when my second son was born.
When my oldest son was 25 months old, my second son was born. When I experienced the same latching struggles that I had faced with my oldest son, I panicked. He only failed to latch correctly two or three times before I began to cry and tell my husband that I could NOT--no,would not--go through this again. I was giving up before we had even gotten started. Within a week or so, however, my son had learned to properly latch and we were off on our breastfeeding journey.
I was nursing both boys, or tandem nursing. Those days I felt as if all I did was breastfeed. Within a few months, I had set boundaries with my oldest. Three times per day was all was I was willing to nurse him. Again, I prepared myself for his weaning. Again, he settled into his morning-noon-and-night pattern and continued to nurse.
When my middle son was diagnosed with reflux around 3 months of age, I realized that my older son had likely experienced the same thing based on certain similar difficulties we had early on. One thing I didn't experience with my second son was nursing difficulty due to an overactive letdown. My oldest was there to take care of the worst of it and my youngest could nurse comfortably. My supply settled in and my baby grew healthily.
When my oldest was three and my middle son was 19 months, I became pregnant with my third son. I contemplated weaning my oldest son and even wrote and illustrated a cute handmade book about a boy his age who weaned and had a weaning party. I thought it was brilliant, but he was not convinced. Because I believed in the benefits of child-led weaning, I dropped the subject and continued to tandem nurse.
During the 1st trimester of my pregnancy, my oldest was nursing only once or twice per day and my youngest, who had never nursed for comfort, but only when hungry, was nursing only three times. I was grateful for the break (although nursing during pregnancy wasn't as painful this time around).
About a week before his 4th birthday, my oldest spent a few days with my mother-in-law. When he came home, I expected him to nurse before bed that night, as usual. Instead, he talked to me while his brother nursed. I didn't offer to nurse him and he didn't ask to nurse. Eventually, a few days after his birthday, I asked him if he would ever nurse again and didn't even stop playing long enough to give me more than a nonchalant, "Nah. I'm all done." And so he was. Four years after our rough start and our eventual glorious triumph, he was done.
Several months later, about two months before my youngest son was born, I sat down to nurse my second son to sleep for a nap. He shook his head and pushed away from me and laid down to sleep. He never nursed again, although I offered daily for a few weeks. At 27 months, he was done. As I mentioned before, he wasn't a comfort nurser and once my supply dipped in the third trimester, breastfeeding held no appeal for him.
I was both surprised and relieved by how quickly weaning had happened! In just two months, the final chapter of my breastfeeding story would begin.