On STILL breastfeeding. And doing it while pregnant. Part 2.
August 17, 2012

When Charlotte was an infant, one of the women I most deeply respect in my family told me that in her opinion when a mother is still nursing a child who can walk and talk, she is doing it for herself.  And not only that, but she is doing her child a disservice.

At the time, I did not have much of an opinion one way or the other on the matter.  My goal was to breastfeed my child for 2.5 years and I had made it quite clear to my relatives that this was not a topic that was open for discussion.  I watched her statement slide by and then I tactfully changed the subject.

Nursing Charlotte (3 years old) while 28 weeks pregnant.

But, of course, time passed.  Things changed.

The blue veins that once traversed my chest faded after our miscarriage last summer and they took with them the pleasure I had once felt at suckling my child.

Our loss drastically altered my breastfeeding relationship with Charlotte.  Where I had once been proud to have her at my breast, I found myself resentful that I was nursing her and not her sister.  Where I had once thoroughly enjoyed the sensations of nursing, I was now in excruciating pain every time she latched.

And it was all downhill from there.  When my milk supply dropped dramatically, my daughter began to experiment with biting to extract milk.  Nearly each day for four months, she bit me hard enough to draw blood.  As the wounds healed, they scarred.  I joke with people now that as long as I am alive Charlotte will never need dental x-rays; her mouth is etched in scars around my nipples.

Having a two-year-old who is fully capable of chewing a steak chomp down on your nipples day after day to the point of bleeding is a vastly different experience from having a teething infant on the breast, for the record.  Night and day, those two.  Night. And. Day.

It is no surprise, then, that breastfeeding is painful now: I receive less blood flow to my nipples, do not nurse as frequently as I once did, and am bitten repeatedly when I breastfeed.

But still we continue.  My belly has forced Charlotte to learn new breastfeeding positions.  My fatigue with this pregnancy has forced me to periodically turn her down.  My breasts are tender, my nipples ache constantly, there is nothing I want more right now than to wean.

But still we continue.

I think back to that moment in her infancy sometimes.  For a little while, I genuinely worried that my relative might be right.  But tomorrow morning when my child wakes up and immediately asks for milk, when she runs her hands up and down my torso in this muggy awful summer heat, when she presses her body against mine when I want to instill a hands-off policy…and then, when she sighs deeply and contentedly and smiles and thanks me…I will know that my relative was wrong.

Charlotte is three years old.  She is still breastfeeding.  And I have never been more confident that allowing her wean herself is a gift.

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  1. By missjoules on August 17, 2012

    Oh my gosh Sarah! Robin had a phase when he was teething where he would bite when he was drifting off to sleep, and those weeks were horrible! I felt really tense the whole time and kind of hovered my hand near his mouth to break the latch as soon as it happened. It was not at all what I wanted breastfeeding to be and I feel so sorry that you are having to go through this! I don’t know if I could do what you have done and I am impressed with your perseverance.

    I hope that being able to nurse Charlotte and the new baby together will help your relationship become more pleasant.

  2. By christy on August 17, 2012

    you have definitely persevered way beyond what i would have!  go you! this was written so beautifully, Charlotte is definitely a lucky girl.  i too had a family member say “moms who BF past 1 are only doing it for themselves” and she even called it “encouraging a bad habit” when i was still nursing past 1.  now that we are past 2, the comments have stopped thankfully.

  3. By Sarah Christensen on August 17, 2012

    Christy - I have the teethmarks to show it’s not for me at this point!  Ouch!  (Although I will admit to being sort of stoked about having Charlotte available to help with postpartum engorgement…) (Weird thing, I always wanted to tandem nurse but pregnancy really knocked that out of me.  Now I’m sort of dreading it a little.  I can’t tell if it’s just the pregnancy fatigue talking or what lol.)

    MissJoules - Ugh, those early bites are awful, aren’t they?  Charlotte used to do that right as she was falling asleep too and I *hated* putting her down on the breast because of it.  When she started growing out of that phase, I thought I might have a party =P

  4. By on August 17, 2012

    Umm…I don’t get it.  (I’m not a mother so I have a completely detached perspective on this and there are quite possibly factors in play that I don’t see.)

    But I honestly don’t see why it’s such a great gift to let your child wean herself. As a parent, you make major decisions for your child all the time: introducing solids, potty-training, setting boundaries for eating, sleeping, behaviour patterns. Why not simply choose a time to wean instead of leaving it to the erratic impulses of a three-year-old child?

    “ Nearly each day for four months, she bit me hard enough to draw blood.  As the wounds healed, they scarred.“  Just….WHY? I know you feel very strongly about breastfeeding but you also come across as quite a rational person. This does not seem like a rational thing to decide to have in your day-to-day life.

  5. By Sarah Christensen on August 17, 2012

    Mouse - I think that every person probably views this in different ways, but to break it down from my perspective:

    a)  The reason that I continued nursing Charlotte despite the biting and scarring is because at that point in her life, I did not feel there was a suitable alternative.  Our miscarriage was hard on her - I was crying all the time, my milk supply declined drastically and the flavor changed, I was more detached from daily goings-on, and because of the complications it took me a long time to heal physically so we were not as active.  I felt that weaning her when I could just suck it up and keep going was unfair to her when she was already under stress.  She wanted to turn to my milk because breastfeeding had always been a source of comfort.  So I let her and just learned to wade through the biting because I thought it would be temporary.  By the time I had recovered and was ready to address the issue, we were dealing with whooping cough and I didn’t want to do anything that could alter her nursing relationship when the only relief I could offer her was at my breast.  And then, around the time that Donald and I decided that she was healthy and we were ready to address the issue, I got hit with really gnarly morning sickness and frankly didn’t have the energy to fight any other battles.  Now that the morning sickness has cleared up, the problem I have addressing this issue with Charlotte is that she’s spent the last year biting.  In the last month she has improved significantly because we’ve been so proactive about discussing it with her as my nipples become more tender during the pregnancy…but at this point it has been a year and a year-long habit is hard to break.

    b)  I tend to believe in allowing Charlotte to develop at her own pace.  I may give her a nudge, but I try not to force most issues.  For example, when she showed interest in toilet-training, I taught her how it worked and then I sat back for the next several months while she did whatever she was going to do.  I didn’t mention it, didn’t push it, didn’t encourage the toilet, nothing.  We never gave her bribes, never praised her for performing a fundamental biological function, none of that.  When she was ready, she figured it out.  The same thing happened with solid foods - we prepared a couple for her and showed her how utensils and food worked and then we stood back and let her go it at her own pace.  We gave her solid food at 6 months.  She was over a year before she began to consistently eat solid foods.

    My husband and I are both very big believers in the idea that children need to do things at their own pace whenever possible.  They learn to crawl without us pushing them to do so, right?  They learn to talk and walk and jump, etc, all without being pushed or praised.  So why should weaning not be the same?  It makes sense to us that she will wean herself when she is ready to do so.

    c)  We also believe that children are empowered by making decisions that govern their lives whenever possible.  I think that children are too often pawns in our society and that they are not listened to and respected as equals, which I do not personally feel is fair.  After all, we are raising ADULTS, not children.  If we want our children to grow up to become adults who respect other people, it makes sense to me that we need to respect them.  I believe that putting control over our breastfeeding relationship in her hands is, from this standpoint, highly beneficial.

    Charlotte has no control over her food supply EXCEPT with regards to weaning.  Naturally, when she is having difficulty accepting boundaries that we set and controls we place over her life, she tends to nurse more frequently.  And when she is comfortable with the give and take, she nurses less frequently.  I like to think that when Charlotte is older, her having weaned herself will be one layer among many layers in our relationship reinforcing our confidence in her, attachment to her, etc.  Every parents strives for this, I’m sure, and most build plenty of layers of their own.  I think any parent would look at all of those things they did to build solid foundations and strong relationships with their kid(s) and would say that they were gifts.  This is one of our layers and naturally, I too view it as a gift.

  6. By on August 17, 2012

    The breast feeding relationship between a mother and child is unique and special.  I praise any women who breast feeds for any length of time.  That being said, the benefits for extended nursing into toddlerhood are numerous for both mom and child. 
    I think that mouse’s thoughts are common and backed by Western society.  There is however a growing movement that reaches back to our primal roots, where children are not viewed as being a circumstance that needs handled.  They are an organic part of our lives that deserve respect and attention to their needs and abilities…not molded into what we desire.
    No matter where you stand, if a mother is capable (and most are) breast is best.  Good luck to you in your continued journey.

  7. By Sarah Christensen on August 17, 2012

    Mouse - For whatever reason, your comment really stuck with me.  Lately I’ve been photographing some of the mothers in my mom group breastfeeding (by their request, not like in a crazy stalkerish way or anything weird) and I think one of the things that I’ve really noticed about doing so is that not only do the children run the gamut age-wise, but their mothers also all have very different attitudes when it comes to nursing - and certainly when it coems to documenting that relationship photographically.  Some women view breastfeeding as more intimate, some women view it in a more utilitarian manner, some view it as something they do akin to changing a diaper and therefore not really worth even talking about.  Some women schedule feedings and view the relationship as being maternally-driven, some women feed on cue and view the relationship as being child-driven, etc.

    I wonder if maybe a person’s perspective on this just boils down to how they personally view breastfeeding?  Since I went into this relationship with a minimum goal of 2.5 years, for example, right off the bat I knew that weaning would be a joint decision because I would be dealing with a walking, talking chatterbox of opinions and habits.  I knew that a habit forged over the course of three years with a child able to beg, plead, and blackmail would be a completely different ballgame than weaning a child who would never remember the process or the relationship.

    It is completely possible that one of the primary reasons that I view self-weaning as a gift is because I’ve spent three years knowing that this was coming down the chute.  If any part of my exposure to and education about breastfeeding over the past five years had been different - if, for example, my first introductions to nursing mothers had been to people who weaned at young ages (my first introductions to breastfeeding involved suckling toddlers and preschoolers), I would probably be more likely to view self-weaning as something only an undisciplined lunatic of a parent allows =P

  8. By on August 17, 2012

    When I read this I was thinking similarly to Mouse. I do believe breastfeeding is a wonderful bond (I do it too) but you need to take care of yourself too! It does not seem to be very helpful to either of you if you are in all that pain. I was also thinking that you will always have this wonderful bond with you even if you had to stop breastfeeding.

  9. By Sarah Christensen on August 17, 2012

    Kristine - My hope at this point is that when the baby is born and my blood flow increases, the tenderness will subside.  If it does not, Donald and I will reassess our situation.  Thus far, neither of us has felt that I am making too great a sacrifice - many women experience pain in breastfeeding and continue to nurse.  Why is it acceptable for that woman to persevere when her child is an infant but not when her child is two or three?

    I think it helps that I know from experience that breastfeeding can be a physically neutral or pleasant experience.  It’s much easier to tolerate pain when you know that there is another side to the coin.

  10. By missjoules on August 17, 2012

    I agree that it is a shame that parents of toddlers don’t get the support that mothers of infants receive when they are breastfeeding.

    I don’t have anything like what you have going on (although not 2 hours after that last comment Robin fell asleep and bit for the first time in months!) and people are already really unsupportive of our breastfeeding. He’s only 18 months! I generally try to put off feeding Robin when we are around them but he tugs at my shirt and the last time we saw Dave’s mom I fed him. All she said was “I can’t believe you’re still doing *that*!“ but the tone and look on her face made me feel really bad.

    I remember when I was pregnant my in-laws discussing a “weirdo” they knew who was still breastfeeding and sleeping with her 3 year old and I just didn’t know what to say!

    I’ve told them that the WHO recommends nursing to two at a *minimum,* but they all still think that it is weird. So we see them for short bursts and hope Robin doesn’t ask for milk, but it’s really not the best solution.

    Haha thank you for having a place for me to vent!

  11. By on August 18, 2012

    Well, I certainly don’t think that you are an ‘undisciplined lunatic of a parent’ !! Not at all! :-)

    And I appreciate your thoughtful explanation of your reasons for extended breastfeeding. Also, I strongly support breastfeeding in general and think it lamentable that anyone should find it uncomfortable (to see) or embarrassing.  It’s beautiful, it’s natural and it has been proved again and again to be the optimal form of nutrition for babies.

    But it seems from your explanation that you maintained the breastfeeding relationship with Charlotte beyond a period where it was comfortable or enjoyable for you in order to provide her with a sense of security and autonomy at times of stress: your miscarriage (I was so sorry to read of that), her whooping cough, your morning sickness. But there will always be elements of change and stress in life, even for cherubic and innocent toddlers. It will be stressful for Charlotte when the new baby is born, when her adopted sibling moves into the home, when she joins a new French class/sports club etc.

    And, given the toll it is taking, I simply wonder if you ought not consider alternative ways of providing Charlotte with feelings of reassurance, autonomy, and security. She could still, for example, have milk at any time she chose. Or cuddles, of course! But for her to cause physical pain to you, regularly, over an extended period of time….that seems wrong to me. It would be wrong in any relationship. And dedication to an ideal of self-sacrificing motherhood, while laudable in its way, seems to me to have a worryingly damaging element to it.

    I think you are a wonderful mother. And I think Charlotte will never have any cause to doubt your love. But I don’t think she would have, even if she had been weaned earlier.  And I’m still not totally convinced that weaning is something that should be entirely in the control of only one partner in the relationship. Protecting yourself from pain and harm is worthwhile behaviour to model. Passive acceptance of biting hard enough to draw blood? Not so much.

    Please do not feel attacked by anything I’ve written. I just find it an interesting discussion and I am genuinely interested in your thinking on this subject.


  12. By elizabeth Mackey on August 18, 2012

    I tend to lean towards what Mouse is saying here. My first thought when I read your post, was concern for you, and your physical well being. Charlotte is a beautiful child, that will never have any doubts that you are an amazing mom. I’m just sad to hear that you have scars and so much pain.

    My breastfeeding days are in the rearview mirror, since my girls are now in their twenties. I nursed my oldest until she was 18 months old. I agree with you letting them wean themselves, but it can be a fine line between a habit, vs a true bonding experience. I also recognize though that we are all individuals and their isn’t a cookie cutter way to proceed with something so personal. Here is my experience.

    I think their personalities really play a role in how long they nurse, that is for sure. My oldest daughter, is extremely independent and to this day runs her life that way. When I decided it was becoming more of a habit for her, I decided to find other ways to replace the nursing with other nurturing situations, to transition her off. It took her not even a week, and she forgot all about it!
    Child number two, has the type of personality that is more reserved and clingy to me when she was little. She nursed until she was two. Then I could tell at one point again, it was becoming just a habit. She would nurse every morning when she first woke up. So, I felt it was time for a gentle nudge to move on.So, when she woke up I would greet her with a good morning and lets get some breakfast fixed instead. This only took about a week also, and then it was a distant, most likely pleasant, memory for her and me. Her personality is still reserved and we are extremely close to this day.
    I have a friend that is a lactation consultant, and is truly an angel in her field, compassionate, and dedicated. She said once they wean, wait a few months and then ask them if they want to nurse. Nine times out of ten, they run away and say noooooo and giggle. I tried it with my youngest, and she did just that. I wonder what that is??

    I’ve only given my two cents as a mom that can look back on it several years later. No judgement, just concern that you are experiencing such pain.
    I really hope that Charlotte can share when the baby comes.

  13. By Sarah Christensen on August 18, 2012

    Mouse - Don’t worry, I’m not offended or feeling attacked!  What’s the point of having a blog if you’re not open to different opinions, right?

    I think one of the interesting things about this situation is that I view breastfeeding first as a biological act, second as an emotional act, and third as a physical act.  The reason that I kept breastfeeding when Charlotte was an infant even though it was exceedingly unpleasant – MUCH worse than this last year – was because I felt an urge to put her to my breast.  It was like an instinct I couldn’t fight, not too different from sneezing, say.  It was like putting her at my breast was the only thing my brain could handle, like my arms moved independently of my body to accomplish that, without me even thinking about it.  I don’t really know how to describe it.  In time, nursing became emotionally rewarding and THAT became my primary reason for continuing when the instinct seemed to wear down a little (I still feel this way when she cries in certain ways, an uncontrollable urge to bring her to my breast and calm her, but it has lessened with time and is slowly fading, which again supports my overall belief in self-weaning even though it could be completely in my mind lol).  And then around three or four months in, breastfeeding also became physically pleasant.  I have a cousin who said that she periodically felt that breastfeeding was orgasmic…and I wouldn’t really say that was ever something I experienced.  For me, it was more of a sense of feeling very relaxed.

    Under our current circumstances, although the physical pleasantness has waned - I no longer feel relief or relaxation during nursing - the emotional and biological aspects have not.  I still feel emotionally gratified when I breastfeed Charlotte.

    Donald and I constantly re-assess the ongoing breastfeeding relationship.  Whenever I have said that I want to wean her, we have sat down and discussed it.  Why do I want to wean her?  Is it a selfish reason or is it because I think that this is best for her?  Do we believe that she is still benefiting from nursing?  Would I be open to pumping and providing her with milk in a cup instead if we still want to provide her with breastmilk?  Or would this be a final weaning?  How would we go about it?  Etc.  And at each turn, we’ve ultimately come to the conclusion that we do not feel it is in Charlotte’s best interest to wean at that juncture, so I’ve continued.  Donald has made clear that he is 100% in support of either path – weaning or not.

    With regards to the idea that there will always be stresses in her life: as she gets older, certain things do not concern us as significantly.  For example, the emotional upheaval that she will experience at the addition of two siblings over the next year does not worry me as much as the emotional distress she felt after the miscarriage did.  I feel that as she has become older and better able to understand abstract ideas and better able to seek alternate forms of comfort, it is easier for me to accept certain levels of emotional upheaval in her life and this supports the weaning process.  For example, right now one of her favorite ways to self-soothe is to grab a puzzle from her cabinet and spend some time on her bed.  She does this of her own volition - she determines that she is overstimulated or upset or what-have-you, so she grabs a puzzle, announces to me that she would like a few minutes of quiet please, and then spends some time on her bed puzzling alone.  But that’s not something she had the mental, physical, or emotional capacity to do a year ago when we miscarried, she could barely identify big emotions, much less resolve them independently.  My general feeling is that as she gets older and is more capable of doing things like this that she will naturally move away from breastfeeding because she will have other, favored ways of comforting herself.

  14. By Sarah Christensen on August 18, 2012

    Donald and I both believe that having autonomy over her breastfeeding relationship (only one aspect of our mother-child relationship) is good for Charlotte.  We both believe that she is gradually making progress weaning (if she stalled, we’d probably nudge her along), and we both believe that she exhibits a greater level of independence and a greater capacity for addressing her emotional needs as a result of knowing that she always has something she can fall back on.

    I also wouldn’t say that she has completely 100% autonomy over the relationship.  A couple days ago, for example, Charlotte fell off a stone wall and bit her lip.  She was understandably upset, but I had warned her of the dangers of what she was doing and was rather unsympathetic to her experiencing the natural consequences of her actions.  She immediately came to me wanting milk and I explained that this was not the sort of situation that warranted milk.  I said my nipples hurt because she bit me in the morning and they needed time to heal, for one.  And for another, we had discussed the potential consequences of jumping on the ledge, so could we please discuss what happened?  She thought about it, internalized the concept, and then explained that she wanted milk because her lip hurt.  I pointed out that milk wouldn’t heal her cut lip, but ice would help reduce the swelling, would she like to try that?  She agreed, so that’s what happened.

    I would say that this illustrates that I do have some input into the state of the nursing relationship - I just prefer to give her most of the power most of the time.

    As well, I should point out that the first four months of constant biting and bleeding and scarring ended before my pregnancy began.  We still have periodic problems, but right now the breastfeeding experience is mostly only painful because my nipples are tender from pregnancy.  Outside of that, it’s a much more physically neutral experience than it was immediately following the miscarriage.  I’m not completely convinced that a woman should give up something she believes in on the grounds that it isn’t a pleasurable experience, but I do think that the fact that the pain diminished drastically just before my pregnancy began is another factor into my continuation throughout the pregnancy.  It’s like a little shred of hope that things can get better again! =)

  15. By Sarah Christensen on August 18, 2012

    Miss Joules - I’m really sorry to hear that you’re going through that.  It sounds like a very difficult situation to weather.  I’ve been lucky to have so much support for extended breastfeeding among family and friends - and I’ve found that, like you, I avoid nursing or discussing nursing around people in my life who are bothered by it.  I have one person who doesn’t want his sons exposed to it and the person I mentioned in this post who really strongly feels that nursing is only for the mother’s benefit after 18ish months.

    Actually, Mouse’s comment made Donald and I started talking about the various children we know who were breastfed and we realized that my first introductions to nursing were with five children who weaned at: 2 years, 2.5 years, 3 years, 4.5 years, and 6 years (not in that order, obviously).  Then when I became a mother and people talked to me about breastfeeding, I found out that two of my very close friends had nursed until 6 and 8 years old, and my first “mom-friend” if you will was nursed until age 3.

    When I look at it that way, I’m sort of surprised that anyone in my life has reservations about full-term breastfeeding at all lol.  I don’t know if I personally have the stamina to stand up to naysayers, even if there are only two in my life, for five or six or eight years.  It’s like my life was full of closet hippies and I had no idea until my 20s =P

    Elizabeth - It sounds like your weaning processes were both smooth and peaceful, what a gift! =)

  16. By Weekend Cowgirl on August 18, 2012

    It is a good thing that you are doing what is best for you and best for your child. People should not pass on their ideas to others. It is up to every family to do as they want. Yay for you!!!!

  17. By on August 18, 2012

    I think you are right when you say your experiences with breastfeeding have shaped your beliefs. Growing up I NEVER saw anyone breastfeeding or heard anyone talk about it. My mom and grandma were the only ones who breastfed at all and it was for a very limited time. If I ever heard anything about breastfeeding it was that it’s “gross”.  I had no clue how to begin and never enjoyed the experience with my first daughter.  I was embarrassed to breastfeed her at relative’s houses- most the time I was alone in a different room while everyone enjoyed the party. It has been going better with my son but I still don’t really feel like myself (like my hormones are still effecting my moods) and I hope I start to soon.

    You asked me why it’s ok to persevere with a baby and not a toddler. I guess to me breastfeeding is optimal nutrition, and protects a (vulnerable) infant with immunity and supposedly helps allergies. I guess I don’t feel there are health benefits of nursing a toddler, even though there are emotional benefits. Also, I feel like your body adjusts to a baby, but your post made it seem like you were going through severe pain that is not typical with breastfeeding.

    Mouse can put it into words much better than I can. I guess I follow the same line of thinking. Of course I think you are a wonderful mother and you should do what you think is best for your family. I just piped in because I was worried you weren’t taking care of yourself and you were really sacrificing too much. Some mothers sacrifice their whole selves for their children but I think mother’s need to take care of themselves, too.

  18. By on August 18, 2012

    Did that sound too dramatic? LOL

  19. By on August 18, 2012

    I already want to take part of my comment back. This is why I don’t comment on blogs. :) Of course there are health benefits to nursing a toddler.  I’m going to stop talking now!

    The whole breastfeeding/extended breastfeeding/using formula debate stresses me out. There should be acceptance no matter how you choose to feed your baby/toddler. I find the most judgement comes from other mothers and I’m certainly not trying to do that.

  20. By Sarah Christensen on August 18, 2012

    Kristine - No worries!  My feathers aren’t that easily ruffled; I knew what you meant =)  I tend to be of the opinion, like yourself (I think) that the primary benefits of nursing an infant are nutritional and that as the child ages those benefits transition into the emotional.  That’s not to say that nursing an infant isn’t emotionally beneficial or that nursing a toddler isn’t nutritionally beneficial, but let’s face it: Charlotte eats many other foods more frequently than she drinks my milk at this point.  She’s not nursing because she’s hungry; she’s nursing because she wants comfort, etc.

    To put the pain in perspective, I had much worse pain starting out breastfeeding - pain which I was told was normal.  In the first few weeks of breastfeeding, I bled multiple times a day and for the first several months anytime I pumped, my blood was mixed in with the milk.  Even lactation consultants told me that this was “not abnormal” which I assume means it’s on the spectrum of normal even if it isn’t an everyday occurence.  I didn’t scar at that point, but I also wasn’t dealing with teeth.  I very strongly feel that the support I received at that point is responsible for my continuation of breastfeeding - a relationship which I grew to appreciate and enjoy as time passed.  This situation has endured longer than that one did, but it isn’t as severe, and since I know that I got through it once, I’m more patient going through it a second time.  Whenever it gets to be too much, I use that as an explanation to Charlotte for why she needs to wait.  And my husband and I already have our weaning plan of action in place should any complications arise with the pregnancy as a result of nursing.  I don’t believe in sacrificing my overall well-being (i.e. if the pain were stressing me out on a daily basis, that would be pretty bad, but it wasn’t, it was just exasperating and frustrating) or health for something that isn’t absolutely necessary - and as much as I think that extended breastfeeding and self-weaning are gifts, I also do not think they are absolutely necessary.  But I simultaneously do not believe in sacrificing something I believe in, something I’ve worked hard to accomplish, over a few bites.  Charlotte can see that biting causes me pain and she can understand that biting causes me to withhold milk later so that my nipples can heal.  As with other aspects of parenting, I find that this takes time and persistence to address - on both ends.

  21. By on August 18, 2012

    Well said!

  22. By on August 19, 2012

    What I am wondering about is kind of a technical point. I have read that a mother’s milk is unique to an infants need. The milk is different for a preemie, a new born or an older infant. How does tandem nursing a toddler affect that?

  23. By on August 19, 2012

    Yes I am curious about Mitzi’s point too!  One of the biggest things that was stressed to me when I had my son was the benefit of the colostrum for him.  Will you still have that if you’ve been nursing all along?  Do you feel that you would in any way be depriving your new child with the absolute best you can provide health wise in favor of Charlotte’s nursing? 

    Just curious!

  24. By missjoules on August 19, 2012

    I’m no expert by any means, Mtizi, but I’m fairly certain that your milk reverts back to colostrum towards the end of your pregnancy even if you have been feeding a toddler. I am actually interested to see what Charlotte makes of that change, as anecdotally I have heard that many toddlers self-wean when the milk changes.

  25. By missjoules on August 19, 2012

    I just found this, which you may find interesting: http://kellymom.com/pregnancy/bf-preg/16milkchanges/

  26. By Sarah Christensen on August 19, 2012

    Mitzi and Jessica - Everything I’ve read suggests that information on the KellyMom link MissJoules provided is valid.  One of my books also cites a study where a woman who was tandem nursing produced two different milks, if you will.  The theory was that because she always nursed her infant from one side and always her toddler from the other that her body learned to make infant-appropriate milk in response to the infant saliva and suckling pattern and toddler-appropriate milk from the toddler saliva and suckling pattern.  That said, a theory based on one woman who was not well studied is obviously flawed in about five billion ways, but it’s an interesting thought - maybe the human body can do more than we realize?

    Or maybe not, who knows?!

    At any rate, I’m actually signed up within my mom’s group to pump and provide milk for a local mother with breast cancer whose infant is due the same week that our baby is.  Donald and I have already discussed our options with Charlotte and our new baby - if, for example, it seems that I am not producing enough milk for both of them or it seems that my milk is not infant-specific, then we will forcibly wean Charlotte in favor of the infant’s breastfeeding needs being met.  We’ve also discussed that as much additional milk as possible will be donated to the local family in need - and if this strain is too great on my body then we would probably wean Charlotte in favor of the other woman’s infant, depending upon how great her need is and how close to meeting that need my mom’s group in conjunction with other local mothers can come.  It sounds unfair to Charlotte in both circumstances, but we both tend to believe in favoring the breastfeeding needs of a younger child simply because the need is greater nutritionally - and the child of a woman with breast cancer will benefit from as much protection against future breast cancer as possible.

  27. By Sarah Christensen on August 19, 2012

    P.S.  Jessica - I CANNOT BELIEVE LOCKE IS ONE!  This completely blows my mind.  Congratulations to all three of you!  (a little late…)

  28. By Jill on August 19, 2012

    This post was good timing for me.  I thought I had met a new mom-friend at my daughter’s swim lesson. But after the lesson, she came over and whispered that she was horrified at seeing another mother nursing her daughter in the pool - that breastfeeding is fine, but people should cover up!  I was taken aback… I don’t think I’ve ever gotten through so much as a trip to the grocery store without nursing my 11-month-old (and I don’t use a nursing cover!), and it’s just luck that she hasn’t asked for milk while we’re in the pool.

    It seems to me that a lot of the pressure I feel to “cover up” or not nurse my child in public comes from mothers who have chosen to do that, not from other people.  It’s funny, I’ve never offered to UNcover one of their nursing children, so I’d rather they didn’t offer to cover mine.

    Anyway, it was so nice to read your post about nursing Charlotte and to have it reinforced that I should do what is best for my child and I - no matter what other people think.

    And I guess I should go make friends with the woman who was nursing in the pool.

    Thanks, Sarah!

  29. By on August 20, 2012

    Thank you missjoules and Sarah. Fascinating information.

  30. By on August 20, 2012

    Thanks Sarah and good luck—may the milk be plentiful!  We are not too far apart with our #2’s either—mine is coming Jan 1 :)

  31. By on August 20, 2012

    Thank you so much for the time you’ve spent writing this post and all you’ve written in the comments here. I read this post when you first wrote it and have been thinking about it every day, and am just now getting the time to write my thanks! Thank you for being so open to share this. I am currently nursing my 17 month old twins, very consistently 4 times a day, sometimes 6-8 times a day depending on teething or trouble sleeping. Since my period started back a few months ago, I’ve become very irritated by their nursing for a week or so before my period (which happens to be right now). I don’t even know if “irritated” is the right word to use, but I almost cringe at their touch while their nursing. Not the actual sucking, but one of my boys strokes my face and hair while he nurses, the other pushes on my belly. Usually it doesn’t bother me, but for this one week every month I feel like I’m being mauled by wild animals; it drives me up the wall! I’ve had to start wrapping my belly up with a blanket so my one boy can grab at me. So at this time every month I consider weaning, but I know it’s not the right choice. I hadn’t even thought it through enough to articulate why it wasn’t the right choice, but your post has helped me to feel like I am making the right decision, even if I struggle through these weeks. I love what you said in the comments: “Under our current circumstances, although the physical pleasantness has waned - I no longer feel relief or relaxation during nursing - the emotional and biological aspects have not.  I still feel emotionally gratified when I breastfeed Charlotte”. That’s exactly where I am. I am still so emotionally gratified that I am maintaining this relationship, and that is enough.

    As for providing enough milk for up to three babies (children), your body could definitely do it! My boys were 3 months premature (which means they’re really only 14 months old, another reason I really don’t want to wean them yet!) And so I pumped for the first 4 or so months before they were exclusively breastfeeding. I would pump almost 100 ounces every day…when I woke up in the morning I would pump 20 ounces in about 10 minutes, and that was after pumping in the middle of the night, too! These boobs of ours can do crazy things! :) (I donated over 1,000 ounces to a milk bank, since my preemies didn’t really need 50 ounces a day!)

    thanks again for sharing and helping me along.

  32. By Sarah Christensen on August 20, 2012

    Jessica - That is incredible news!  Congratulations!!!  How cool for Locke to have a playmate so close to him in age =)  I can’t wait to hear what you name the new arrival; I love your son’s name times one thousand!

  33. By Sarah Christensen on August 20, 2012

    Rachel - Thank you for your kind words, and also, 100 ounces for brand new infant twins, that’s amazing!!  You have super-boobs =)

    When I had my period back, I felt the same way at different points in the cycle.  For a couple days right before my period would start and a couple days around ovulation, I really didn’t want to be touched during nursing.  In pregnancy, it’s actually very similar, although in neither case was I as sensitive to it as you are.  But right now, I actually try to hold her hands in one place if I can because OH MY GOSH, STOP TOUCHING ME.  It doesn’t bother me any other time, but it’s like nursing and touching simultaneously during pregnancy is too much overstimulation for me or something?  I don’t know.

    I’m glad to hear that you know you’re not alone in this struggle between whether or wean or not.  It’s very difficult to want to wean for Reasons 1, 2, and 3 and not want to wean for Reasons 4, 5, and 6 - what to do?!  Sigh.

  34. By on August 21, 2012

    I fed my first formula (I know, gasp! I was young and dumb and had no clue what I was doing. It’s probably one of THE greatest mistakes as a mother that I have) then 7 years later I had another daughter and knew from the get go I wanted to nurse her as long as possible. It hurt BAD but became EASY by 6 weeks then 6 months was a breeze then next thing I knew we were at a year and 18 months was flying by and we were still at it. She nursed til sue self weaned at 2 1/2 years old. I was amazed and shortly after I became pregnant with her brother. He too was breastfed (obviously) and I became pregnant shortly after he was two and he was still nursing. He continued. It hurt. I was SENSITIVE but we continued. It was his comfort. His security. He didn’t ask for a baby in mommys tummy. I wasn’t going to take that away from him. My milk supply dropped dramatically through my pregnancy but we continued as he still wanted to nurse and still asked for it. Once his baby sister was born just before he turned 3 my milk came in in abundance. I fed the baby first and he nursed after receiving tons of colostrum as well. I was so happy to give him that. Shortly after he turned 3 he realized that he was done with nursing and that “was for babies” but what an amazing journey it still was to let him self wean even when I wanted to stop. My youngest is almost a year and I’ll let her do the same. We will nurse until she is ready to self wean.

  35. By on August 21, 2012

    Yes, it’s totally “OH.MY.GOSH.STOP.THE.TOUCHING!!“ haha :) and I’ve thought the exact same thing - that the nursing and touching combined must just be too much? Because the touching all day loing buy 6 little hands doesn’t bother me unless I’m nursing. very interesting. I nursed while I was pregnant with the twins…my older son was 22 months old when the twins were born and he nursed until he was 19 months old. He weaned himself because my body couldn’t keep up with growing twins and making very much milk. I hadn’t thought back to that, but now that you mention it I definitely had some very similar feelings!

  36. By tara pollard pakosta on August 26, 2012

    it’s hard to believe now, but my Ava nursed until right before her 3rd birthday, everyone thought I was crazy, but I did what was right for US, not anyone else….I still think she would have kept nursing if my mom hadn’t said to her, “if I see you and your mom nursing one more time, I will spank you both” she was just kidding, but ava didn’t know that, so she started to think something was wrong with it and then gave it up within a few weeks, actually was right when she was turning 3 poor girl! LOL!





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