When I found out I was pregnant with our first child I immediately knew I would breastfeed, it never really crossed my mind to do anything else or that it would be a challenge. I am thankful that I was kind of “naïve” about this because I think if I had known a lot of what I do now I might have been petrified, cautious, or reluctant. I, thankfully, had a great support system. My older sister successfully breastfed my nephew through his toddler years and was a great example of doing what is best for you and your baby. My husband fully supports and encourages breastfeeding as well – even when it infringes on our bed, our sleep, and our privacy, to name a few.
When I had my son, Noah, I immediately placed him on my skin and had him latch on. Although it was brief, he got it right away. I was so fortunate that the feeding process came pretty naturally to both of us. The first few weeks were a bit of a mess. When my milk fully came in I was engorged and leaking everywhere but eventually my body worked it out and amazingly seemed to know just how much my sweet boy needed to eat. It really is marvelous. I never really thought about weaning or had a timeframe for breastfeeding in mind. I just kind of went with my “new-mommy-flow,” and I was just focused on one day at a time and trying to feed my baby the best way I knew how. I stayed home from work for 12 weeks. I began pumping some to start saving up milk for when I returned to work, so I could have some for his nanny. I never knew what hard work pumping, in addition to regular nursing, was! And, I had no idea how hard it would be to increase your milk “bank.” At one point when my son was around 7 months we were going to go to a wedding for a couple of nights and leave him with family overnight for the first time. I was pumping around the clock just to get an extra ounce or two to leave behind while we were gone. Even though I had introduced solids by that point Noah was still eating a lot of breast milk. Alas, on the same weekend I lost my wallet and credit cards, a Hurricane rolled through and thwarted our travel plans. We ended up not leaving him overnight until he was 15 months. And, he did just fine without me. Noah just loves to nurse, and I love to nurse him. He wants to nurse when he’s tired, sad, or cranky and sometimes just to have some one-on-one time. If he’s bored and I am nearby he will want to nurse. He never liked a pacifier, a teddy or blankie. He just liked snuggles with mommy and “nursey”. I never pushed weaning on him. He self-weaned in some manner, he didn’t have to have a bottle to sleep at his nanny’s house for nap time. He really only wanted to nurse for comfort, but I did still produce milk. He would nurse in the morning and at bedtime (and really anytime he asked in between). My husband and I started talking about having a second baby and the topic of weaning came up because I hadn’t had a period and Noah was 18 months. We went to the doctor to see what we should do. They said to wait it out, that I was ovulating but just not having a period yet. Well, about 6 weeks before Noah’s second birthday I had my first period since giving birth. Noah was still nursing regularly with no indication of letting up.
He could now talk very well. He’s always been very verbal. He can tell me when he wants to nurse, he can pull my shirt down, unclip my nursing top and all. I am not going to lie, sometimes it is embarrassing when people look at you and wonder why your child who can speak in complete sentences is still breastfeeding. But, I really felt strongly that I was not going to stop nursing unless I disliked it or resented it and that this would be Noah’s decision. After all, this was something that Noah and I had done together every day of his existence (except for the few days I’d left him with family), several times a day for two years. Not only does Noah relax when he’s nursing but, in many ways, so do I. I can sit still and just hold him. Sometimes I get to watch an adult television show while he falls asleep nursing or check emails and other times I just get to revel in the smell of my baby boy’s hair and the touch of his soft skin.
Shortly after that first period I got pregnant. What can I say, it didn’t take much but that was exactly what we wanted. I now felt this pressure to wean Noah. It was a self-created pressure mostly. What will I do? I am having a new baby that will have to nurse, and Noah must stop. That was just what I had in my mind. I didn’t know anyone who had tandem nursed. I looked it up some and didn’t find a whole lot of info except in relation to twins. I would talk to Noah about it, explaining the baby in my belly and that mommy’s milk was important for the new baby. He seemed to understand and volunteered to share the milk. But, he didn’t volunteer to stop nursing. I just hoped and prayed that it would work itself out. I spoke to my doctors about it and they said as long as I was fine and my health was good that it was fine for me to continue to nurse him. I had concocted a plan in my head that he would surely wean himself by 2 ½ years old (the age he’d be at the time I gave birth). That plan was incorrect. Noah still loved to nurse with mommy. He went to his nanny’s house, he went to preschool a couple days a week. He did all these things totally fine but he still loved that bond nursing provided. He’d get giddy with excitement when it was time to nurse and have a huge smile. It got a bit harder the bigger my belly got. I sometimes had a difficult time getting comfortable holding him and nursing him. But, I did it and I cherished it. I knew that soon my time would be divided, and while I couldn’t wait to meet our daughter and start a new part of my mommyhood journey, I was sad to see life with just “us” go. I grieved it a little. I was scared a little. Could I love another baby as much as I love Noah? Could I balance two children’s needs, a husband, a job, a house? It is scary. I prayed to not feel anxious about things out of my control and to really be present in all the special moments that were happening in my life. And, I knew that the Lord’s grace would guide me through this new phase. This was all difficult for me, the person who is a planner and a doer by default.
Our sweet baby girl, Marna, was born four days after Noah turned 2 ½ years old. The first thing Noah wanted to do when he came to see me at the hospital (and meet his sister for the first time) was nurse. And, so I did. A few days after having Marna my milk came in. She latched on without issue as well and was a great eater. My body regulated it a bit better this time. It amazingly knew that there was a new life to sustain. Noah knew he had to nurse second and/or save a “side” for sissy. It definitely took practice, but I nurse them together every day. I stayed home for four months this time. I enjoyed every moment. Three days a week Noah went to preschool and for those days I could spend time with Marna alone. At night we would read books and they would often nurse at the same time, regularly holding hands, falling asleep intertwined with each other. It was the most precious, sincere love to witness between them. I wouldn’t change the path I’ve taken with Noah. Sometimes I do get tired of nursing everyone at what, for several months, seemed like every waking moment. It has not always been easy. I have had mastitis two times since having Marna and had horrible fever, aches, chills and was just plain miserable. But, I got through it. I could see how women gave up nursing when they had mastitis – I had heard about that. It rocked my world when Marna was just three weeks old. If I had not known that nursing a newborn gets easier then I might not have stuck it out because it was no joke.
So, here we are. Marna is now almost one year old. She loves her solids but still nurses for bed and whenever else she tries I oblige. I know that this season will end, and for right now this is what is best for my children. It might not be what’s best or doable for every family.
I didn’t do this to make a statement or to be different. I did it because this is where my children led me. Is it a bit rare that a three-year old boy who does all the “normal” boy things wants to nurse when he skins his knee or when he’s feeling tired? And, that he does so alongside his baby sister? I suppose we might be the exception. But, they both see it as part of his every day existence. He feels completely comfortable coming up to his mama and having milk that my body makes to sustain their little bodies. They feel safe, secure and loved when at my breast. I don’t feel a need to force him to stop and even when I’ve talked to him about when he thinks he will stop nursing he is just not interested yet.