When I got pregnant with baby #2, Avery was 2 years and 3 months, and we were still in nursing bliss.
In fact, it was absolutely my favorite time in my nursing journey, and neither of us were interested in stopping anytime soon...
But I didn't know anyone else who had continued breastfeeding into pregnancy and beyond, so was very much in uncharted territory.
I've had numerous clients this week reach out because they are either currently pregnant or trying to conceive and not sure how this works with extended breastfeeding.
Or they message me because they feel conflicted because their goal has been child-led weaning, but don't really want to continue nursing and for a variety of reasons cannot wait much longer to try for their next child.
But this can produce feelings of guilt and grief because it can be hard to feel like a not-yet-existent sibling is impacting your relationship with your current nursling.
In this post I will break down things to consider before trying for another baby while nursing, breastfeeding while pregnant, and deciding what comes next. Hopefully these points will help make your decision to begin gentle weaning or continue nursing as you TTC.
1. Before you begin to try for another baby
One common misconception moms have is that they have to wean in order to get pregnant.
This is not universally the case, and even if your period hasn't come back yet, I suggest reflecting on other factors that might be at play before starting the weaning process.
For example, did you have a regular cycle before your last pregnancy? Do you have any other health conditions that could impact your cycle?
If other factors could be at play, be sure to talk to your doctor so those additional issues can be addressed at the same time.
Additionally, if you plan on using IVF or have had a history of miscarriage, then your doctor may encourage you to wean as well.
All that said, I totally get it if you don't want to nurse while pregnant! And if the timeline you have to grow your family does not allow for child-led weaning, then starting the gentle weaning process now can help your body be fully ready to focus solely on creating your next child.
Even though many women get their period while breastfeeding, it is also possible to take a few months for your cycle to return after weaning. This is because it takes time for your hormone levels to regulate, specifically your prolactin levels, which create milk, but can also suppress ovulation.
If this is where you are at, then I highly suggest checking out my Gentle Toddler Weaning course HERE.
But if you already have your period back, aren't concerned about pregnancy risks, and want to continue nursing, then jump on down to point 2!
2. Breastfeeding While Pregnant
Breastfeeding while pregnant has its pros and cons, but first and foremost I want you to know that it is perfectly safe to nurse while pregnant as long as you do not have a history of pregnancy complications such as miscarriage or pre-term delivery.
The reason for these exceptions is because breastfeeding can increase hormones that contribute to contractions. But again, for the vast majority of situations, breastfeeding will not do harm to your new little bundle in your belly.
- Continued breastfeeding will help you stay connected to your older child. Especially if your extended nurser is your first, you may have grief knowing that you will have less time to spend with them once the new baby comes.
- It gives you a way to keep your toddler still and quiet if you aren't feeling your best. Being pregnant with a toddler is no joke! Keeping the nursing tool in your pocket for a few extra months can really help get you through that first trimester exhaustion.
- It may be harder to get your child used to relying on someone else, especially for naps and bedtime.
- If you don't feel well and your child is still used to nursing on-demand, you may get burnt out quick. Setting breastfeeding boundaries can help with this.
- You may experience nursing aversions and develop sensitive nipples. If this happens, it is completely appropriate to readjust your nursing plans and begin the weaning process.
While many women are able to nurse throughout their entire pregnancy, others may notice a dip in their supply around the second trimester.
And in the third trimester, the milk may change in flavor, consistency, or color as the body prepares to make colostrum for the newborn once more.
All of these changes can impact your toddler's desire to nurse. So even if you plan to tandem feed, your toddler may decide on their own that they are no longer interested in the milk. If this happens, it's perfectly normal and you can begin to mentally shift into celebrating the nursing journey as it comes to an end.
Story time - This is what happened to me. My milk began to dry up in my second trimester. First my right side, which was my slacker boob, and eventually my left; but I still planned on re-latching my daughter once the baby was born!
I told her, "the baby will bring back the milk." It helped both of us be less sad when nursing ended sooner than we thought it would.
Interestingly, after only a couple months without nursing, when I came home from the hospital after delivering baby #2, Avery seemed to have forgotten how to latch! I would let her try when she asked, and after a couple days she figured it out again and we continued on for over another year.
3. Is Tandem Nursing For You?
I'm not going to sit her and pretend that tandem nursing is easy. But I think that evaluating your parenting goals can help you decide if it's something to try for your family.
- It is a game changer having a talking child help you figure out what is going on with your supply! I once asked Avery how the milk was coming out and she said the right side "Blasted Out!" So no wonder Luca was unlatching at letdowns.
- Your toddler will help keep your supply up, so less need for pumping in the early weeks.
- You can choose to nurse both at the same time, or use it as individual bonding with each child separately. This can be especially useful when you are not ready to be active with your older child but want to stay connected to them.
- You will be spending A LOT of time nursing. Setting a nursing schedule for your toddler well before baby comes can help keep things manageable, because on-demand toddler nursing just doesn't work with a newborn.
- You will be producing a ton of milk. Be careful with extra pump sessions because it will be easy to tip into an oversupply, which can cause extra problems with clogged ducts.
- Burnout is real. It is vital that you take time for yourself and also look at breastfeeding in the first weeks as your full-time job. You should not worry about cooking, dishes, laundry, pick up or dropoff at childcare, anything. Have conversations with your partner, family, friends, or a postpartum doula about helping you. Tandem nursing will be much harder without support.
If you have gotten this far and are still seeing more positives to tandem nursing than negatives, then I highly suggest the book Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond by Hilary Flower.
It taught me so much and helped me prepare for everything to expect, as well as discussing possible nursing positions, and more.
So what do you think? Are you leaning toward weaning before TTC, weaning once you are pregnant, or continuing on into the "Beyond"? Comment below!
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