If you’re still breastfeeding and either hoping to become pregnant, or currently pregnant, you have to ask: do I want to wean…or am I willing to tandem nurse?
The answer isn’t the same for every mom. But if you’re nursing-while-pregnant, it’s a choice that you’ll have to make. It’s not exactly common these days — I can probably count on one hand the number of people I know personally who’ve tandem nursed — but it absolutely is a viable option, for those who would be interested.
So, should you wean or tandem nurse?
First, it’s important to understand that most women who end up nursing for a long time, and tandem nursing, do not intend to do so. I don’t know any women who sat down before their first baby was born and said, “I’m going to breastfeed for three years and definitely tandem nurse when my next baby comes along.” No, most women who tandem nurse simply found themselves faced with the situation, and chose to just “go with it.”
I wasn’t determined to tandem nurse until I got pregnant (happily, planned) when my daughter was still just 10 months old. I was terrified I’d lose my supply before she was a year, but I didn’t. And then I felt uncomfortable with the idea of weaning before age 2…and apparently, so did she. She is still nursing today! (Even though, to be frank, occasionally I wish she’d wean…but I won’t force her to, because I love her and don’t believe in ‘making’ children do anything developmental until they are ready.)
I sure never thought I’d be tri-andem nursing, which is breastfeeding three children of different ages at the same time. But come this summer, that’s almost certainly what will happen. Unless either of my children abruptly weans in the next couple of months, I will be. I’ve been asked if I’ll try to wean them before baby comes…no. Because they don’t stop being my babies just because another has come along.
This is not for everyone.
I’m telling you my story so that you know that even if you’ve never considered this until now, you are not “weird” or in the minority. Most women don’t consider it until they find themselves in the situation. And many feel a bit weird or uncomfortable about it initially. One of my friends (also tandem nursing) said to me the other day, “A year ago I never would have thought I’d be doing this.” You just don’t know until you’re there.
But assuming you are, and it’s decision time…here are some things to think about:
1. How attached is your child to nursing? If the answer is ‘very,’ weaning might be more trouble than it’s worth. If ‘not too much,’ perhaps weaning would be fine.
2. How old is your child? If your child is under a year or barely over, weaning may not be advised just yet. If your child is quite a bit older (2 or so), weaning may be more appropriate.
3. How do you feel about tandem nursing? Some moms just cannot imagine continuing to nurse a toddler when they have another newborn, and that’s okay. When you are nursing an older child, it is absolutely a two-way street. If you are not comfortable, then you have the right to say so and make changes. (I’ve used nursing as one way of teaching my children to respect another person’s body.)
4. Do you, or can you have other “special” times together? That is, does your child enjoy cuddling, reading a story, or another way of connecting with you that doesn’t have to do with nursing? Can you slowly substitute these times for nursing times, if you intend to wean?
5. What is your thought on the sibling dynamic? Most women experience positive sibling bonding through tandem nursing, but not all. It depends, too, on mom’s attitude towards how nursing will affect the sibling dynamic. If you expect the older child to wait and it becomes a jealousy issue over whose “turn” it is, or the baby “stealing” the milk, it might not go well. But if it’s a time they can enjoy together, it may go very well. (My daughter always says “This is my milk, this is his milk” and they enjoy sharing and snuggling with me together.)
6. How close is it to birth? If it’s less than 6 weeks until the baby’s birth, you may need to tandem nurse for awhile. Many nurslings choose to nurse more often in the final weeks because they sense something’s about to happen. Also, most experts recommend not making any major change to your child’s life so soon before adding a new sibling. If you’ve got months yet (or you’re not even pregnant), then you have time to wean easily, if you want.
This is about you, and your child. Are you okay with tandem nursing, or is it something you’d prefer not to do? No one can choose for you. Whatever you choose, make sure you talk to your child a lot about the upcoming changes, and be the loving parent that you are. It will work out no matter what!
If you’ve faced this, did you choose to wean or tandem nurse?
Top image by Daquella Manera