Dinner for Two: Nursing through Pregnancy and Tandem Nursing
Mary Hensel never planned to nurse two children at once. In fact, when she became pregnant with her second child, she assumed her then 18-month-old son would wean.
It didn’t happen. Hensel, of Waukesha, Wisconsin, nursed through her pregnancy and began tandem nursing—breastfeeding siblings of different ages contiguously—after her second son was born. It wasn’t always easy, but she has no regrets. “When nursing works, it can be part of an amazing bond between you and your children, and between your children themselves,” says Hensel.
“We tend to think of breastfeeding during pregnancy and tandem nursing as a bizarre and rare thing,” says Hilary Flower, author of Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond.
The social stigma against extended breastfeeding makes women unlikely to disclose the fact that they are nursing a toddler at all, let alone nursing through a pregnancy or nursing two siblings at once, notes Flower. “It’s a hidden but common experience, and it’s only going to become more common, as more and more women heed the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines about the importance of nursing at least up to—and ideally beyond—the one year mark.”
Why Many Moms Keep Nursing
“The major incentive for moms to tandem nurse is to avoid weaning the older nursling unnecessarily,” says Flower. Breast milk can be a wonderful source of nutrition for toddlers, full of important nutrients and fats. Breast milk also boosts a toddler’s immune system, providing antibodies to disease that are available from no other source.
And breastfeeding is about more than food. “Breastfeeding is a relationship, a give and take between a child and his mother that is special,” says Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC, a pediatrician and the author of The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers.
Krissi Danielsson, of central California, agrees. At 30 weeks pregnant, she is still nursing her two-year-old daughter. “I don’t want to forcefully take something away from her that she is deeply bonded to,” says Danielsson. “To her, the act of nursing seems like snuggling a precious blankie or teddy bear for other kids … and I doubt any reasonable parent would force a young child to give up a treasured comfort object.”
How Pregnancy May Affect Nursing
Breast milk usually decreases in supply as a pregnancy progresses, and some women will notice a reduced supply as early as the first month. Toward the end of pregnancy, supply often picks up as the breasts begin to produce colostrum. After the baby is born, mature milk comes in within a few days.
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