To Wean or Not to Wean?

When I found out I was pregnant with our second child, my heart went out to Baby T, my firstborn. My first thought was, “But Baby T is still my baby! How can I have 2 babies at the same time?” My second thought was, “What am I going to do about nursing Baby T?” After all, Baby T was only 13 months old, and still a picky eater, with breast milk his #1 source of nutrition at the time.

There were a few things I was sure of:

1) It is completely safe to nurse during pregnancy; and
2) I am extremely open to the idea of tandem nursing once the baby comes

But one thing totally freaked me out:
I had never spoken with a real, live mama who had nursed a baby throughout her pregnancy and/or tandem nursed. Or so I thought.

I had heard about them from my midwives, La Leche League leaders, and in online parenting forums. My midwives assured me it would be no problem to continue nursing throughout my pregnancy; in fact, I could even nurse Baby T to help encourage my contractions during labor. At LLL meetings, I was the odd one out: I was pregnant AND had a nursing baby. I was given suggestions for books (or, rather, ONE book) to read: Adventures in Tandem Nursing. And women all over the world talk about how they nursed through pregnancy or tandem nursed on the Mothering or KellyMom boards. But I felt like an alien. Had no one in my town actually nursed throughout her entire pregnancy?

I was now 5 months into my pregnancy, Baby T was gobbling down solids due to my decreased milk supply, and I was struggling with the question of whether it was right to keep nursing him. Every mama I knew who had started nursing her toddler during her pregnancy had ended up weaning because she said she had “dried up.” I knew my milk supply was drastically low, but I also knew that Baby T still frequently asked to nurse, and he was still getting some milk, even if it wasn’t very much. But was it wrong of me to nurse when there was barely any milk? Was that strange? No one else I could find had kept nursing with a dwindling supply. I started to consider weaning Baby T. I figured I wouldn’t offer, but wouldn’t refuse, either. And then one morning, after Baby T had nursed about 3 times in one hour and I knew there was nothing left, I refused him. He was frantically doing the sign for “milk,” crying, and beating the nursing chair with his hands. I offered him the sippy. I convinced him what he really needed was his truck book. I cupped a hand of cereal in front of his face, in hopes that he was just hungry. But no, he just wanted to nurse.

And then a few friends came out of the woodwork. I got the support of 3 women who I actually knew—in flesh and blood—who had nursed throughout their pregnancies and then gone on to tandem nurse. Just knowing a few women who had done this helped me realize that nursing my toddler was still ok. As another friend put it after I questioned whether it was wrong to continue nursing a toddler simply for comfort: would you refuse your child a hug when he or she needs to be comforted?

That solidified my decision. As long as Baby T still wanted to nurse, I was going to keep nursing him. This was going to work out. I know there are more challenging struggles in my future, but for now, we are both comforted in the way things are going.