Yep, I'm THAT mom: my story of extended breastfeeding one kid while pregnant with another

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Hunny
Toddler Nursing
Note: this isn't Hunny and her daughter, but it is another extended nursing pair. Photo by Stephanie.

My daughter will be two-and-a-half in November. She goes to gymnastics, attends preschool classes, and has been diaper-free for months. She also still nurses.

She doesn't nurse much, and she doesn't nurse long, but every few hours, up to a few times a day, she will ask for "a quick sip." We nurse at bedtime, nap time, and when she has an ouchie. I do the "No Offer, No Refuse" method of long-timeline weaning. I limit to a count of five seconds on each side, which incidentally has been a great way to teach her to rote count. Why 5 seconds on each side? Well, for one thing, it hurts — I'm pregnant.

At the time of this writing I've just entered my third trimester. My milk dried up in my first trimester. Nursing isn't HOLYCRAPOWTHATHURTS painful, it's just really… irritating. I don't hate doing it, but I don't get the rush of oxytocin with a letdown, since I don't let down. As a lot of breastfeeding mamas know, the oxytocin is what helps keep breastfeeding from hurting.

But I keep doing it for many reasons, and intend to tandem nurse when the new baby comes because it's important to me. In a few weeks I will begin to make colostrum, which will keep my daughter healthy during cold and flu season. When I have my new baby, my oldest can help me out with engorgement that would often gag a newborn, and she can help my milk to come in quickly after delivery. When I nurse the new baby, my nipples will all ready be accustomed to the use, and hopefully not crack and bleed. But truth be told, it's also in no small part because I am too lazy to put my foot down about weaning. It's a battle I choose not to pick. Nursing is still the fastest way to get her to sleep, still the best way to get her to stop crying when she is scared or hurt. It's a crutch, I will admit.

I get some well-intentioned remarks now and then from friends and family about weaning. People know me well enough not to lecture me about it, but also feel the need to "gently" prod me in the direction of cutting her off. They cite all sorts of rhetoric about how she will take advantage of me, be spoiled, not be independent enough, be jealous of the new baby, etc. I smile, nod, ignore. My child couldn't be more independent or secure. She doesn't run all over me, and she has firm boundaries and expectations.

As for what will happen when the new baby comes… I don't think anyone can accurately predict what will happen to our nursing relationship when that changes. One thing is for sure: having a new sibling is hard on a lot of kids, and it'll definitely be different. We talk about the changes to come every day and she loves to hug and kiss my belly. I hope that by allowing my oldest to keep nursing this will reduce feelings of jealousy and alienation instead of creating rivalry of some sort — but honestly I know I'm crossing my fingers on that. I don't know what's going to happen, I'm just doing what I hope will work for us.

  1. I am weaning by the "No offer, no refuse" method. I hadn't heard of it before or knew that it had a name, but find that that doing things this way is working for us. He likes nursing at night or when he's upset and it definitely keeps the crying to a minimum and we're all happy.

  2. Thank you for posting this! I am doing exactly the same thing with my 2 year old son, am just finishing my first trimester of pregnancy, and was looking for a little information from others in my situation. I'll look forward to reading about how tandem feeding unfolds for you. Good luck!

  3. It's all admiration, love and support from here! All of my children nursed – the last one received a mixed blessing and, because of his medical condition, I was able to be a stay-home mom (mostly) until he was 3 and he continued to nurse for all 3 years. There were challenges but he tapered off on his own and I couldn't be happier that we shared that experience.
    I also love your response to those well-intentioned givers of unsolicited advice: I smile, nod, ignore.
    You deserve nothing but support for being a great mom! Thank you for sharing.

  4. Great story. Thanks so much.

    I tandem nursed with my sons, one being 2 1/2 years older. It was bonding and wonderful for all of us. Yea nursing was very minimal until little brother brought the milk back. Yey!

    Both sons tapered off on their own around 3 1/2. Now they are 9 and 11 and still fondly remember nursing. Go mamas!

  5. I hope it works out well, too… sibling relationships and reactions are unpredictable, as you said; but you obviously love both your kids and are trying to do your best for both of them. That is what they'll see in the long run!

  6. You rock. Thanks for educating us :o) I had wondered if we would end up tandem nursing but, eight weeks into my second pregnancy, I just realized that Miles isn't nursing anymore. Huh. guess not!

  7. My son is about to be 3 in December and we are still nursing as well. I love your advice for people who give advice about weaning. I have also found that to normally work. Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy, and tandem feeding. I hope you write a follow up post and let us know how it is going.

  8. Thanks for this! Yesterday someone asked me how long my now-four-month-old daughter will breastfeed – and I was completely stumped. All I could say was "hmmm…I really don't know…" It's not something I've thought about yet, and it was disconcerting to a certain extent. I like the idea of "no offer, no refuse."

    • People always ask this but some do in a way that feels like you are doing something unusual. You're a good mama and nurse as long as the two of you want to.

  9. My son is fifteen months and I also get the "how long" question. I don't know. I plan on letting him nurse as long as he wants. I did this with my older two and ended up tandem nursing for about 5 months or so after the second baby was born. I think it really helped with reducing jealousy. My older son could nurse right alongside the new baby, and he would touch the baby's hair or hand or my hair. I always felt like it was a sweet love fest among the littles.

  10. Love this! I laughed at the part about being too lazy to deal with weaning…I feel the same way. My kid is only 9 months old and I've been getting "How long are you going to nurse for?" for months now. My answer is always, "I have no plans to wean him." It's such a weird question to ask someone…why does anyone care if my boobs are lactating? I love breastfeeding, it works for us and I plan on letting my son quit when he's done. I am also a somewhat lazy parent…I pick my battles. I'm sure my son will be weaned and sleeping in his own bed someday.

    • Yeah, it's a super weird thing for other people to be concerned about. Just as I don't care if a woman chooses not to breastfeed (or is unable to breastfeed), I can't imagine why anyone would give a crap how long I breastfeed.

      • You know… I nursed Jasper for 15 months and dealt with a lot of questions also. I honestly think since breastfeeding after a few months is fairly outside the norm in the US, a lot of people don't know much about it and are simply curious. There's a lot of conflicting information about breastfeeding out there, and I think people are just wondering what it's like to keep going with it, honestly.

        • I'm really glad that the people in your life seemed to be asking in in that purely curious kind of way. The tone people ask me about breastfeeding is more "Oh my god, you're STILL doing that?" (he's 5 months old). Glad to hear it's not that way for everyone/everywhere.

  11. There can sometimes be problems with allowing your child to decide for themselves when to stop nursing. My little brother insisted on being breastfed until he was nearly six. When he started school he would have tantrums when he couldn't have breast milk (seeing as mum wasn't there). My mum just couldn't bring herself to say no when he asked to nurse. He did end up stopping himself (mostly due to being at school away from mum, as I said) but it did lead to some issues and difficult conversations with teachers.

    • I had tantrums because I couldn't have my pacifier at school… I think tantrums are not necessarily caused by nursing specifically. 😉

  12. I'm THAT mom, too!

    I'm nursing a 17th month old and am 4 months pregnant. Man, it hurts sometimes! But, yeah, overall it's easier than weaning. 🙂

    I'm reading "Adventures in Tandem Nursing" right now. It has tons of information and support about nursing during pregnancy and beyond. It's especially good if, like me, you don't know any moms going through the same things.

  13. Oh wow, this is us!
    I'm 7 months pregnant and my just turned 2 year old is still nursing. She doesn't do it everyday, but at least every third day (everytime I think she's given up, she has another go!). She wants it particularly when she's tired and we're at home and she wants it to get off to sleep, or if she's hurt or sad.

    I let her stay on until it gets too sore – usually cos her teeth make contact for a little bit too long! I'm not really sure if there's any milk there, I guess the colustrum will start being produced soon.

    I'm not really sure how we'll deal with the arrival of number two, but since we talk about the baby in mummy's belly and how he will drink mummy's milk, I don't think it will be a big deal.

  14. Perhaps a bit off topic, but does anyone have any experience with breastfeeding while sharing custody of a baby/toddler? Especially custody that is truly "shared", like the kid is gone for longer than 1 or 2 days?

    • I would suggest a lot of pumping on the off-days. I'm talking 6-7 times a day pumping, and on a regular schedule (wake up, every 3-4 hours, then right before bed). Your milk can replenish itself within 2 hours, and the number of times you let down is more important than how much you get out.

      My daughter gave up the breast at 3 months, but I pumped for her until I dried up at 11 months, and she was exclusively breastmilk fed until 6 months old.

      I would highly recommend talking to a lactation consultant, and contacting La Leche League might be helpful.

  15. I am curious, what is the deal with breastfeeding older children? This is NOT ment as critique, it's just something new to me. I saw a documentary once with a woman nursing her 8 year old daughter and personally find it a bit…strange. How old is too old and why do you breastfeed older children? Again, NOT critique, just want information.

    • The world wide average age of weaning is…..

      4 years old. Yup..

      While I dont think we will nurse until 3rd grade, and I dont know anyone who does, I think its up to each nursing pair to make that call for themselves.

    • "The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) emphasize the value of breastfeeding for mothers as well as children. Both recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. The AAP recommends that this be followed by supplemented breastfeeding for at least one year, while WHO recommends that supplemented breastfeeding continue up to two years or more." (yes, this is from wikipedia, but it said it best)

      There are TONS of benefits for both baby and mother with breastfeeding. It's the best thing for your baby if you can do it and it works well for some families to extend breastfeed. I personally want to breastfeed as long as possible, I have no time limit. Then again, I haven't had my baby yet… so we'll see if I even CAN breastfeed. I just hope I can…

  16. I personally don't think that something you do to nurture and comfort your baby is a crutch. You are doing what works. My son is only 10 months old and I get the weaning questions, too. It can be awkward depending on who is asking. Usually I say something like "Oh, until he is in high school." just to get a laugh, then drop the subject.

    I would like to recommend a good source for breastfeeding information. http://www.kellymom.com She does share some personal stories, but most of the information is fact based, and she cites her references, and provides links to other resources.

  17. It's actually really common to breastfeed children for quite some time in Mongolia! Here's a fabulous article about it http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/ruth_kamnitzer.html

    She talks about how fabulously effective breastfeeding is in staving off toddler tantrums. That isn't a crutch, it's a good strategy!

    Another interesting person to check out is Sierra Black over at childwild.com . I think she weaned her oldest when the oldest and her toddler started getting in slugging matches over her left breast, which was their favorite, for some reason.

  18. Yay for this post!! I'm a mama to a 21 month old and 5 months pregnant with my 2nd child. My daughter still nurses at least three times a day, particularly at naptime and bedtime. We get asked CONSTANTLY when she's going to stop nursing. I say we'll stop when we're ready. We fully intend to tandem nurse if shes still interested in mama milk when the baby comes. I still have milk and she still seems to like it so I'm very curious as to how she will react when the colostrum comes in a couple of months. Thanks for this! I feel encouraged and excited to keep on keeping on with our breastfeeding journey!

  19. I was breastfed until I stopped asking for it- I was almost four.

    I certainly turned out alright!

    I can remember breastfeeding, and by the time I can remember nursing, it was a comfort if I was sad, hurt, or super super cranky. I only had to ask, and was never refused.

    I'll try the same thing with my kids. My mom weaned my brother when he was 6 months old because the pediatrician (1970) said it was unhealthy, dirty, and wrong to nurse longer than that. My mom felt guilty about that, and for her next three kids, (over the next 18 years) she let us self- wean (all between 2.5-4).

    • Wow that's so sad for your mom! I can't imagine being told that by a doctor! : ( Nursing is such a natural and beautiful thing!!!

  20. I offer and I refuse, haha! I'm nursing a 2 1/2 year old and a 7 month old.

    Sometimes my toddler wants to nurse when I don't feel like it so I refuse and other times I have a little extra love and patience so I offer. She's such a nursling – I don't see her weaning any time soon!

  21. So, I have a question for all you extended-breastfeeding mamas, and I just to want to preface it by saying that I'm asking out of genuine curiosity, and I sincerely hope I don't offend.

    My question is: how do you manage to continue breastfeeding so long after maternity leave? Or do you work in the home/ from home?

    Due to infertility, I'm not yet a mother, but I hope to be soon. I'm also a teacher who loves her job and can't imagine staying away from the classroom for more than a couple of months. I'm genuinely interested in how women with demanding jobs manage to continue breastfeeding after returning to work.

    • I pump when I can and we supplement with formula. When I'm home, I breastfeed. It's all about compromise and just doing the best you can. For me, that means I breastfeed as much as I can and my daughter gets formula when the supply runs out. It's definitely not all-or-nothing.

    • I have a friend with a 2.5 year old who works full-time and has since her daughter was 3 months old. She also is still breastfeeding. She does it in the morning and night now.

    • I went back to work 12 weeks after my daughter was born. Our childcare provider (home based) was just minutes from my workplace so I would nurse before I went to work and return at dinner time (I worked 4 to midnight) to nurse again. We could usually make it home after I was done with work, but occasionally there was a time when I'd have to nurse before driving home. My daughter wouldn't take a bottle and we didn't have to try to get her to change her mind this way.
      We nursed on demand the rest of the time, which worked very well, and I didn't have to pump or supplement. With my second child, I didn't go back to work until he was almost 6 months old, and my sister in law cared for him at my house for the couple of hours between when I left for work and my husband came home from work. I did pump for him but had the same philosophy of nursing exclusively when I wasn't at work.

    • I'm not there yet (my son is 5 months old and I still have 5 months of mat leave) but I have heard that some women (hoping I am one of them) are able to not pump during the day and still breastfeed on evenings and weekends. Your body just adjusts to producing milk in the evening only and not in the daytime.

      • This totally seems like it could happen to me! I know that when my son gradually started nursing less during the day my body adjusted — maybe if you get both of you on that kind of schedule before you resume working it would help? I'm not an expert, but I think with breastfeeding it seems like the best way to change things up is gradually.

  22. 21 years ago, I was still nursing my 2.5 year old while pregnant with our son. I had to have my appendix removed when I was about 13 weeks pregnant. My milk totally dried up at that point, and I had no interest in nursing after I recovered from surgery (!), but as I told my daughter, "the milk will come back when the baby comes out." Sure enough, she was right back to nursing when the baby was born! I never had imagined that I'd be tandem nursing kids who are 3+ years apart, but it worked wonderfully well for us. It's funny how worked up people get about how long a child is "allowed" to nurse; you're doing the right thing if it works for all of you!

  23. I was that mom for years, lol I had a doctor badger me about nursing my oldest son when I was pregnant with his brother. She got a lengthy speech about how I was glad she felt she could share her unwanted opinion with me, but shut the hell up…I was usually in an ultra mama bear mood when pregnant, lol!!

    My oldest sons tandem nursed. The oldest was 4 when he weened himself. The next one weened at 3 after he tandem nursed with the next one. The third son weened at 18 months, fourth son around that same age, and my baby, child 6, son 5, just nursed for the last time about a month ago and despite my efforts to the contrary, my milk has dried up…so after lactating for about a decade on and off, I'm really sad about having no baby to nurse.
    What made me decide to let the boys ween themselves was my oldest (our only girl) was switched off to bottles at 3 months old due to moving in with a very pervy-minded FIL who stressed me so badly by bursting in on us while she nursed that I stayed a nervous wreck and our nursing relationship was starting to suffer. So to those of you who get weening questions, or are put in awkward situations, you're not alone!

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