Re-lactating: What am I going to do when my milk comes in?

Here are some musings about the nursing relationship: how it's been to be nursing a toddler, weaning a toddler, and what it might be like to also be nursing a newborn.

Sweet Baby James was exclusively breast-fed for the first 6 months of his life and didn't really start to consume much solid food until about a year old. He was a humungous baby, so that meant that we nursed almost constantly. It was rare to go more than an hour between feedings. It was a big part of our relationship. Since I carried him in the sling most of the time we were together, we got good at nursing in it and I was able to go about my daily life (shopping for groceries, talking with friends, hiking in the woods) while he suckled. Yes, being able to walk down the street nursing my baby made me feel like Superwoman.

I intended to nurse him until, "either he or I gets tired of or uncomfortable with it." Children's immune systems are not fully developed until about six years (not coincidentally, around the same time they lose their 'milk teeth') and I had no problem nursing him until then if it was still going well for both of us. But being pregnant, my milk has dried up completely - I'm now producing colostrum for the new baby, not milk for the toddler. My decision (which is actually our decision: mine, my husband's, and SBJ's) is whether or not to allow or encourage SBJ to nurse alongside the baby when my milk comes in. 

Part of me wants to because I think our toddler would like it, benefit from it health-wise, and perhaps bond with the baby a little better. There is no evidence to support the commonly held belief that a toddler will 'drink up all the milk - milk is produced on an as-need basis as hormones are released from the pituitary gland in response to suckling. The big birth blog that I write for ( also publishes a lot of beautiful photos of tandem nursing looking so maternal and sweet... I have a romantic notion about it, I guess. 

Part of me, however, does not want to. Up until a few months ago, I gave our son a LOT of boob. It's been nice to have my breasts back as my own. It's been a relief that I can change in front of him, bathe with him, sleep beside him, without hearing a fierce request (demand) for la-las. Being a toddler, he would pull my shirt down, grope me, and try to play with my nipples -- all of which I found annoying. And even some of my more natural-minded mama friends have said that once a kid is weened, it's best to just let sleeping nipples lie.

As always, my husband supports me in whatever I choose - but I know that he has appreciated being able to take SBJ for longer periods of time, bond with him in a closer way, and has enjoyed the benefits of having a wife who's not 'touched out' at the end of the day. To nurse or not to nurse, that is the question.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm, some things to add to your ponderings:

    Mamma milk changes over time, so the "health benefits" of drinking newborn milk when a toddler are questionable. Is there really a benefit to being exposed to the same kind of nutrients and antibodies a second time? Dose a double dose really add anything? I don't actually know the answer, but it's worth thinking about/looking into.

    If you were touched out nursing one child, what will it be like when nursing two children? Are you prepared for the resurgence of demands for lalas and everything that comes with it?

    Teaching children the concept of "no", and that they can't have everything they want is actually really healthy and productive. Trust me, I work with the "I've never heard "no" generation", and they are crippled socially and from a mental health perspective. When they get out on their own and actually start being told no, the crumble at the concept. Toddlerhood is about learning healthy limits, this could be an opportunity to teach that.

    Nursing allows for the closest and most comforting of cuddles. Its a feeling between mother and child that comes second to none. It has all sort of great physiological effects beside immune system function (e.g. calming the nervous system).

    Nursing is one of the greatest and most effective strategies for quelling a toddler meltdown.

    Have a been balanced enough? I hope so, or at least that this has been helpful :)

    Hugs to all of you.