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My Experience with Breastfeeding During Pregnancy
When my oldest son was born we had a lot of newborn breastfeeding difficulties. Although we got through the challenges I decided early on that I would only nurse him for about 6 months. I assumed he’d be eating solids pretty well by then and wouldn’t need much formula.
My Decision to Practice Child Led Weaning
Imagine my surprise when I read that the natural age for a child to wean from breastfeeding is between 2.5 years and 7 years of age. I was skeptical at first but interested to know more about breastfeeding and child led weaning.
I quickly discovered the benefits of child led weaning. It made sense and I was convinced. My son was nearing 6 months old, nursing was easy for us now, and we were both healthy. I couldn’t think of a single reason other than societal pressure for us to end our nursing relationship.
Child Led Weaning and Fertility
Even though I was sure of my decision to practice child led weaning, there was one drawback to nursing for longer than I’d originally planned. I was ready to have another baby. I’d always wanted my children to be around 2 years apart, which meant I’d start trying for baby number two when my oldest was around a year old. I was concerned that nursing my son into toddlerhood would delay the growth of our family. (In hindsight, I should’ve spaced my children further apart for health reasons.)
As it turned out, my fertility returned when my oldest son was around 10 months old. I became pregnant on the first try and soon I was celebrating my son’s 1st birthday while wearing sea-bands for morning sickness and fighting the urge to sneak away for a nap.
Breastfeeding While Pregnant
I chose to continue nursing my son when I became pregnant. I didn’t have a history of premature labor and, although my milk supply was diminished, he was still happy to nurse a few times a day.
However, about 7 weeks into the pregnancy, nursing became very painful. I found that certain times of the day were easier than others, so I limited nursing to those times and we made it through.
Within a few weeks, nursing became easier again and my supply began to increase.
Breastfeeding and Miscarriage
Unfortunately, during my 13th week of pregnancy I began spotting. An ultrasound revealed that my pregnancy wasn’t viable.
I was stunned and numb. I knew many women who had had miscarriages; I knew it wasn’t rare. But you don’t imagine it happening to you until it does. (Here’s how I coped with my miscarriage.)
A few people who knew that I was still nursing my son asked if breastfeeding caused my miscarriage. The questions came mostly from well-meaning older women who didn’t understand that breastfeeding while pregnant is safe.
I knew that nursing my son didn’t cause my miscarriage. In addition, breastfeeding brought comfort and consistency to our lives in that difficult time.
Eventually, I went on to have two more healthy pregnancies after the miscarriage and nursed through both of them. I even tandem nursed my oldest and middle sons while pregnant with my youngest.
Each subsequent pregnancy began much like my second pregnancy. Breastfeeding was painful through most of the first trimester, so I limited nursing sessions to what I could handle. My milk supply diminished, but returned to adequate levels in the second trimester.
I was certain my toddler would wean during my pregnancy, but he didn’t. When his brother was born, I began tandem nursing.
If you’d asked me two years earlier if I’d be a tandem nursing mom someday I would have said no way! However, it was the next natural step for our growing family, so we forged ahead.
Read about my experience tandem breastfeeding a toddler and an infant.
Important Note: I share my breastfeeding experience to offer encouragement and celebrate my triumph over personal struggles, not to judge or condemn other moms whose stories are different from my own. If you feel like a breastfeeding failure you have to read this article to moms who think they failed at breastfeeding. You’re not a failure, mama.
My breastfeeding experience spanned a continuous 5 years and 9 months. In this series I 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 well into their breastfeeding experience.