Monday, March 22, 2010

nursing a toddler while pregnant

Disclaimer: This post is about my history of breastfeeding my son and what has worked for us. I am not making judgments on how long others choose to breastfeed. Every mama must do what is best for her and her baby. My heart aches for those mothers who want to breastfeed and struggle.

Breastfeeding my monkey baby when he was just a few days old and still in the hospital for jaundice.

I am one of those lucky gals who never really had any issues breastfeeding. Asher latched on right away. My milk came in two days after he was born. I overproduced for months. I never had mastitis. I never had cracked nipples. I was sore at times, especially on my left side, but I've never had the toe curling pain some women complain of having. The only real hiccup we had was when Asher had to stay in the hospital because of high bilirubin. I would go back and forth to breastfeed him and pumped milk for him at night. (Not that he would drink out of the bottle.)

Breastfeeding is something that I never questioned. I always knew I would nurse my babies exclusively. Asher has only had formula once in his life. (When my mom accidentally spilled the pumped milk I left her for Asher while I went to a movie.) He's only drank out of a bottle two or three times. This is what has worked for us. For me nursing is the easiest method of feeding my baby. It's always there. No bottles to prepare or clean. Breast milk is free. Plus, it is of course the best thing for babies--nature's miracle food. Fortunately, I get to be home full time, so the only pumping I did was to keep from getting engorged.

When Asher was born my plan was to breastfeed for at least a year and then do whatever felt right from there. Asher and I have both really enjoyed our nursing relationship, and by the time a year came around I knew we wouldn't be stopping anytime soon. This became even more important to me since we decided to give up most dairy products. I wanted Asher to have the nutrition that breast milk provides. Plus, the thought of forcing him to wean is something I can't fathom. I just really can't imagine turning him away from something that brings him not only nutrition but comfort. Not to mention the immunity boost!

When we were considering the timing of getting pregnant again, I read a lot about breastfeeding while pregnant. I wanted to make sure it was safe, especially given my history of preterm labor. All the research shows that breastfeeding while pregnant is indeed perfectly safe. The only warning given is to those with a history of preterm labor, but there is not necessarily a direct link. For me, the plan has just been to continue to breastfeed as long as I can through the pregnancy unless there is a real reason to stop. So far so good in that regard. Breastfeeding has not triggered any contractions up to now.

Another area of concern is that the mother's milk supply often decreases or even dries up. I have seen my supply decrease--both because as Asher gets older he nurses less and due to pregnancy. I started to really notice a change around the start of the second trimester. I would hardly ever see milk and Asher went down to nursing only 2 or 3 times in 24 hours. The consistency of my milk became much more watery and I could tell it was more sour tasting because the smell changed.

However, just in the past few days I have begun to suspect that I might be producing colostrum already. Asher has been wanting to nurse much more frequently and actually seems to be getting something. The milk is nearly clear though. He's also acting more excited to nurse, which again makes me think he's getting more of something.

Another concern that comes up when nursing during pregnancy is soreness. Most women's breasts become much more tender during pregnancy. Mine have definitely been more sore. And having a toddler who is sometimes lazy about how he latches on and has a mouth full of teeth doesn't help either. The soreness has never been to the point of making me want to wean, but there have been times where I've cut a nursing session short. I don't let him hang out on the breast for as long as he wants. Fortunately, he usually doesn't want to nurse very long anyway since there are so many other things for him to do.

I honestly cannot imagine mothering Asher right now without breastfeeding. I love the chance it gives us to snuggle. I love the closeness. I love how he MUST play with my hair when he's nursing. I love that for those few minutes he's still my baby. I love that it rights all wrongs, cheers him up, and heals all hurts. I love that he's still getting this wonderful nutritious substance every day.

I have no plans on weaning Asher anytime soon. I will let him gradually wean himself. I have a feeling he's going to be really excited once the new baby is born and there is creamy delicious milk again. I am looking forward to seeing my two babies bond at the breast. I hope that it will help ease the transition for Asher and decrease any jealousy that may arise.

I am so grateful that I can give this gift to my children. I'm grateful that we are designed so perfectly to allow us to nourish our babies in this manner. I'm grateful that my body has cooperated and been healthy and able to nurse this long. I'm grateful that I am still enjoying it! I remember I used to think that if a child could ask to nurse, they were too old. Well I certainly don't think that anymore! I truly believe we were designed to nurse our babies into toddlerhood. They receive so much benefit, as do we as mothers.

For more resources:
Adventures in Tandem Nursing by Hilary Flower
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding


  1. Nice post Katrina! I really enjoyed it. I, too, was blessed to breastfeed both of my children. However, my first was MUCH more difficult than my second. I struggled to nurse my first baby for 9 months and then had to wean him. :( He had really bad reflux so if he wasn't crying at the breast, he was vomiting. I was nervous about my second, but thankfully she took to it right away and never had any issues. I was so glad because even though I had nursed my son for 9 months, I felt like I had missed out on the experience since it was always a battle from the time he was about 6 weeks. Poor kid just didn't want to eat because it hurt. I agree it is so nutritious and it's so nice to know that you are giving such a gift to your baby! And the bonding is wonderful.

  2. I'm curious as to whether you've found any research on breastfeeding through pregnancy on a vegan diet while at risk for preterm labor. :-) Quite the combination of specific factors, right? But I've wondered how the vegan diet might affect breastmilk production while pregnant.

    I applaud you for your commitment to nursing. It's not something I enjoy, so it's a real struggle for me to make it to a year with my babies. But now that we're not eating dairy, I haven't decided what I'll do when Isaac hits the year mark...

  3. Asher drinks combinations of rice and coconut milks and loves it.

  4. Amen sister :) I remember how Parker laughed in delight when my milk came in with Evan, and how nice it was to not have to worry about getting engorged because I had another little one. We've noticed it's made a difference with how healthy they are. We're also hoping it will help Evan outgrow his peanut allergy! Good luck, and bon continuation as the French say

  5. Rach, good question. Because I'm not producing tons of milk right now and because Asher is old enough that he doesn't rely on it for calories, I don't feel like I've had to eat differently than i would if I wasn't nursing. For info on eating a vegan diet while pregnant here is a great link:

    And as Jared mentioned Asher does drink milk, just not cow's milk. In the past couple of months he's started drinking rice milk mixed with coconut milk. It gives him some good fat and calories that he needs. We sometimes splurge and buy the expensive carton coconut milk drink. But only when it's on sale. Soy milk and almond milk are other options. Coconut milk just has the highest fat which is good for little ones.

    Email me if you have more questions!

  6. LOVED this post. I feel like I could have written it because I agree with everything you said. And I think it's funny how our ideas evolve over time...I certainly NEVER thought I would be nursing a toddler AND an infant, but I'm happy that I am.

  7. Katrina, this idea is intruing to me. I am hoping to be able to have another baby sometime soon, but I do not want to wean Dana. I weaned Levi at 16 months only because I wanted to get pregnant, and it was a sad day. :( I'd heard it increases chances of miscarriage. Anyway, I was wondering if the different pregnancy hormones affect the nursing baby. I know one thing they say is bad about cows milk is that they milk cows before they give birth, so when you drink milk, you're drinking the pregnancy hormones, causing lots of things, like acne - and other things people are prone to during pregnancy.

    I do remember, though, right after I weaned him I felt like running miles and miles. I had so much energy! I didn't even realize I was more worn out nursing, I suppose because compared to being pregnant, I didn't feel worn out. I wonder if nursing and pregnancy combined can make you more tired.

  8. Oh, this kind of makes me sad. I nursed Aedan for a while (19 months) (my last two self weaned between 12-14 months), and intended to through at least part of the pregnancy... but I got more and more worn out, and he started demanding (rudely!) more than I could give, so I just explained that it was "all gone." He was sad, and sometimes still asks, but after he stopped, I had enough energy to function again! I miss it terribly, though, and look forward to having another little one... I applaud your photography project!