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.
By the time my oldest son was 6 months old, the age at which I had assumed either he would wean naturally onto solids or I would wean him so that we could both be free from the “chains” of his dependence on me for food, all of our breastfeeding difficulties were long behind us. In addition, I had been doing a lot of reading. It seemed that the natural age of weaning fell somewhere between 2.5 years and 7 years of age
for humans. Child-led weaning and nursing toddlers and preschoolers, as I found out, also has a lot of benefits
. I was convinced. It made sense. 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.
There was one thing, however, that I found slightly frustrating about nursing for longer than the average American woman. In my hurry to meet all of my children, I was ready to have another baby. I wanted four children and I wanted them close in age. (Wasn’t I so adorable in my eagerness? Don’t try this at home, folks! As a mother of three children, all a little over two years apart, I would recommend at least a 4-5 year age gap between children for the sake of both your physical and mental health!)
By the time my son was 10 months old, my fertility had returned and I was ready to try for baby number two. I became pregnant on the first try and soon I was celebrating my son’s 1st birthday while wearing sea-bands and fighting the urge to sneak away for a nap.
I did not stop nursing my son when I became pregnant. I didn’t have a history of premature labor and, although my milk supply diminished greatly, he was still happy to nurse and I was happy to nurse him. However, about 7 weeks into the pregnancy, nursing became excruciating. I found that certain times of the day were easier than others, so I would limit my son to those times and we made it through. Within a few weeks, nursing became easier again and my supply began to increase. I was thrilled.
Unfortunately, during my 13th week of pregnancy my happiness vanished quickly. After some spotting led me to the doctor for a fetal heart check, an ultrasound revealed that my pregnancy would end in miscarriage. I was stunned and numb. I knew many women who had had miscarriages; I knew it wasn’t rare. But you don’t imagine these sorts of things happening to you until they do.
A few people who knew that I was still nursing my son asked if that was the cause. Mostly older women, who did not understand that breastfeeding while pregnant is safe
. I knew that nursing my son did not cause my miscarriage. In addition, breastfeeding was bringing some amount of comfort and consistency to our lives in a difficult time.
I walked around in a daze for a couple of weeks before recovering and refocusing on the positive. From that time I remember only two things: How deeply sad I felt and how incredibly beautiful my nursing relationship with my son remained, despite the sadness of my loss.
When I was on the verge of tears and couldn’t gather the energy to play or take him to the park, we could sit quietly and he would nurse. In the weeks after the miscarriage, when I felt intense grief, I would look down at his sweet face as he nursed and feel incredibly grateful that I had a child. I would think that even if I was never able to have another child, at least I had him and felt so thankful that we had worked hard to keep breastfeeding as a part of our bonding experience. This act that had given him so much comfort and nourishment over the past year was now comforting me emotionally and nourishing my soul.
Eventually, I went on to have two more healthy pregnancies after the miscarriage and nursed through both of them. I even tandem nursed through my last pregnancy, but that is another story for another time.
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