by Jill Madison
When we learned, two trimesters ago, that I was pregnant with our second child, along with my joy came mixed emotions about what would and should happen to my breastfeeding relationship with my toddler son, Colm. Colm has always been an
enthusiastic breastfeeder, and, at 2.5 years old, nursing remains a central part of our relationship.
I felt I needed to determine, quickly, how best to prepare Colm for sharing me with a new baby. I wondered: do I need to wean him early in the pregnancy so that he’ll have time to adjust before the baby arrives? If we continue nursing, will he have increased antipathy toward the baby from having to share his “milka”? And what if, after the baby arrives, we discover tandem nursing isn’t working, and we have to wean then, causing more instability for our toddler in his time of transition?
I had heard experiences of friends who became second-time moms before me. Some planned to tandem breastfeed but were forced to stop nursing during pregnancy due to pregnancy complications, nursing aversions, or because their milk dried up. Others weaned before becoming pregnant again, but were hopeful it would make their lives simpler to only have one tiny mouth asking for milk. I had no way of knowing if my milk would eventually dry up (it didn’t) or if I would have a nursing aversion (I didn’t). I knew that neither Colm nor I were ready to end our nursing relationship, but I still lay awake at night wondering if continuing to breastfeed Colm might make things more difficult.
A few days later, I attended a LLL toddler meeting, where I brought my worries to Leader Annie. Annie, who has breastfed a toddler and a newborn, thoughtfully listened to my concerns, and shared many benefits of tandem nursing. She pointed out tandem nursing can actually help siblings bond. It could also be a great way to stay connected with Colm after the newborn arrived. Annie acknowledged that there can be bumps along the way, but she helped me realize weaning Colm before our newborn arrived wouldn’t make things easier overall for him or me. Weaning Colm wouldn’t likely erase any jealously he feels when the baby nursed, but it would mean no longer having access to the endless comforting, sleep-inducing, calming powers of breastfeeding. I had a revelation that breastfeeding might not be the cause of all the problems I had feared, but could be a solution to them.
Most helpfully, Annie reassured me that it is acceptable to wait and see, to adjust as needed as we go along. The pressure I placed on myself to make a choice at the beginning of my pregnancy that might possibly affect the outcome nine months down the road and beyond had been my greatest source of anxiety, and when I let go of that pressure, the “problem” didn’t seem like much of a problem anymore.
After leaving the meeting, a huge weight was lifted. I had regained the confidence I needed to follow what felt right for our family, which, for now, is to keep on as usual. Our discussion also conjured a mental image of how tandem breastfeeding could work.
Now that I am nearing the end of this pregnancy, I am still grateful for the gifts that breastfeeding continues to bestow on Colm and me, and for the wonderful LLL community. As always in parenting, I have no idea how anything will play out. Breastfeeding helped fulfill so many baby and toddler needs before that I look forward to discovering how breastfeeding will assist me in nurturing both my children.
About the Authors
These posts were written by nursing moms (sometimes with their support persons) who attend(ed) LLL meetings in Manhattan. All stories were originally published in our newsletters.