Let me first say that I love breastfeeding. And I love that I have been able to nurse my son for 17 months now. I never thought we would make it this far. I was happy to see six months, then a year. Then a few months after he turned one I found out I was expecting. It wasn’t a shock; we weren’t trying but we weren’t preventing either. I didn’t even have my first postpartum period until 5 days after my son’s first birthday. With extra long cycles I had only had two before I took that test. I feel very fortunate that we were able to get pregnant while I was breastfeeding at all! I do not take my fertility for granted one bit because I know others who struggle.
After the idea of being pregnant settled into my brain it hit me: my son is still nursing like a fiend. I knew weaning wasn’t an immediate option, though not out of the realm of possibility. I had already hit my earliest set goal of one year. I understood making it to two years is what is recommended and I fully expected to reach it. When I found out I was pregnant my son was nursing on demand 3-8 times a day and sometimes at night. He had reached a stage where he was mobile and would walk over to me and lift my shirt. If I were bra-less (usually this was normal early in the morning before I had a shower) he had free access to “milkies.”
Frankly, this wasn’t my style. I was happy to nurse him but being treated like a buffet, and not as gently as one would like, was wearing on me. Also, the fact that he would paw at my shirt in public wasn’t my style. I did (and do if needed) nurse in public and will never shy away from that. However, I didn’t want this behavior to continue.
I finally decided I had to take it back a notch. No longer was my son going to saunter over and latch on forcefully with his 8 little teeth, then hear a tune and rip away to dance, then hook back on when finished. I decided to restrict his nursing to certain times: Mornings (my favorite!), naps, and night time. Also, if ever there was a need for comforting, I would nurse then as well. This turned out to be a challenge. He has gotten very used to walking up to me and reaching for them, or signing for “milk.” It was very hard to see him sign for me, and I caved many times. My tactic was to distract him when he was bored and just wanted milkies. I would either offer him a sippy cup of milk, or play with him, or cuddle him. In 1-2 weeks he had gotten used to the new routine and all was well. Since most of our nursing coincides with going to sleep (I nurse him to sleep for naps and nights still, mostly) he now signs for milk when he is tired too!
That has been going on for a few months now. I had originally intended on paring him down slowly until he is weaned. My son has other plans. He would actually wake up once a night every day that I had only nursed him twice. He demanded his third feed come hell or high water. Eventually that changed, mostly because he started sleeping in our bed again! Oy!
So what am I to do? I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I am likely going to be tandem nursing. Ask me 2 years ago if I thought I would be nursing a toddler and a newborn and I would have asked if that was even possible, then maybe laughed at you. Now I know that many mothers have done it. I will be buying and reading “Adventures in Tandem Nursing” soon. Is this how I want to go? Frankly, no. I would also like my son to fall asleep without nursing. This is the big stumbling block. He sleeps a few hours in his big boy bed, then walks to our room where he either nurses and falls back asleep, or just cuddles and falls asleep.
What would you do in my shoes? Push the weaning? Or accept that he loves to nurse and prepare for double duty?
***Update. Since I wrote this a few days ago we have dropped the morning and afternoon feeding, but he still nurses 1-3 times at night! I might not have to tandem after all, but nights are going to be hard to get rid of. Any ideas?