My life has taken me plenty of crazy places I never expected- living in Germany, eating vegan for several years, working at a trendy denim boutique in central New York and later for a Jewish non-profit agency. Now I have another activity to add to that list- nursing while pregnant.
It was something I had never even considered until close to the end of my pregnancy with Tye, when I was reading our birth class instructor's resume online. There, she listed tandem nursing among her experiences. Clueless, I Googled the term and found this Wikipedia site, which explained that tandem nursing is "feeding two children at the same time who are not twins or multiples." (By the way, when I searched the term today, many non-Wikipedia sites came up before the Wikipedia site did. Is it possible the term has become more common in the past two years?)
I hadn't even known tandem nursing or nursing through pregnancy were possible. I certainly didn't see myself tandem nursing in the future. I was still unsure what my own breastfeeding relationship would look like with Tye. Like so many aspects of parenting, I was leaving it up to what felt right in the moment, hoping I would follow my instincts and make the best choice for Baby Girl.
So here we are, two years later. Tye is still nursing, which feels right to me. On a normal day, Tye nurses upon waking, before nap, and before bed, and usually one to two super-short sips at night. Now, when Tye is hurt or upset, she usually copes with her emotions without nursing, though nursing is still the best way to calm her when she's overwhelmed by a new situation (brave little Tye, though, is far more likely to overwhelm others than become overwhelmed herself!). When Tye sees me changing, she'll point to my breasts and mumble something about na nas (our nursing code word) while she shakes her head "no" and giggles, as if she's saying "I don't need to have those any more." If Tye does ask for na nas during the day, it's more likely a sign that other needs aren't being met- she's hungry or thirsty, or needs some cuddle time.
Before I became pregnant again, I read a fabulous book titled Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond by Hillary Flower. It's full of relevant science, cultural studies, and best of all, personal experiences from hundreds of women who have tried tandem nursing (not all successfully- an aspect I especially appreciated). I decided when the time came, I would listen to my body rather than weaning Tye automatically.
That time came a little sooner than I really expected (I unknowingly finished the book after this little one was conceived), and I was grateful for my timely preparation. The first few weeks of nursing Tye were barely different for me, and didn't seem to be any different for her. Then I went through about two weeks when I seemed to have more milk than before, followed by a sharp decline in supply (what a tease!). Tye began to switch sides during nursing more quickly and more often. During my second month of pregnancy, I began to feel really uncomfortable with Tye nursing for a long period of time- for example, if she nursed longer than 30-45 minutes before falling asleep, a rare occurrence but a possibility. I began keeping Tye's water next to our bed so I could offer her a drink in the middle of the night, which has been a lifesaver. Instead of nursing to quench her thirst, now she wakes and asks or reaches for water when she wakes at night (that made me wonder how much of Tye's nighttime comfort nursing in the past was actually for thirst!).
So far, nursing during pregnancy has been easy and felt instinctively right. I wouldn't have chosen to wean Tye at this age if I wasn't pregnant, and breastfeeding is going well for us, even if it does look a little different. I'm consciously listening to my body, and I expect things to change, especially as my colostrum comes in when I'm further along. With my history of early contractions, the thought of contractions during nursing has crossed my mind, but I've decided to deal with challenges when/if we get there. I'll continue to listen to my body and follow my parenting instincts, whether it leads to weaning or tandem nursing down the road. One lesson I've learned well through my unpredictable life is that it's not worth stressing over hypothetical situations. I rarely end up where I thought I would be anyway.