“I have a 26 month old son who has always breastfed enthusiastically and still breastfeeds frequently. My menstrual periods returned when he was approaching two years old and I’m now thinking about trying for another baby. However I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to conceive with such a keen breastfeeder! Is it likely that I will be able to get pregnant without weaning my son? He is really not ready to give up his beloved “nunu” and I don’t want to rush him.”
Nicole Evans, Whangarei – My son has always been an avid breastfeeder too, we started trying for another baby when he was two and a half.
I did have some difficulties conceiving our second child. Breastfeeding delayed ovulation so I wasn’t ovulating mid-cycle, and had a short luteal phase (the phase after ovulation until menstruation starts) so there wasn’t long enough for an egg to implant.
It would be worth charting your cycles to pinpoint when you ovulate, as my daughter was conceived on day 22, and I think this may be fairly common. I took vitamin B6 to lengthen my luteal phase and it worked the first month I took it. It also might be worth you reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, as this book helped me no end.
I breastfed throughout my pregnancy with no problems (I was really nervous about it being painful), and am now tandem feeding and finding it easier than I ever imagined.
Adith Stoneman, Kelston Auckland – Isn’t it wonderful that you do not have to wean at all. . The return of your menstrual cycle indicates that you are able to conceive. When you do fall pregnant you may notice a real tenderness in your breasts, which for some women is so strong they need to limit breastfeeding time. It is also true that some women feel emotionally unable to keep breastfeeding their toddler.
Sometimes it is our toddlers who wean completely during our pregnancy as the milk tastes different and is not quite as abundant as before. This helps to move the breastfeeding relationship along to get ready for the new baby. And then of course there are many mums and toddlers who keep breastfeeding quite happily which may lead into tandem nursing both baby and toddler.
As with so many things related to birthing, breastfeeding and parenting, nothing is a given. Each mum and baby dyad is unique. Be prepared for the physical and emotional turmoil that a pregnancy can bring and always know that La Leche League Leaders are able and willing to provide you with correct information.
Claire Hargest Slade, Timaru – The return of your fertility can be affected by the frequency and intensity of breastfeeding your adorable little one. In cultures where babies and toddlers are given free access to the breast, they may feed briefly several times per hour round the clock. Exclusive and intensive breastfeeding followed by gradual introduction of solids and continued breastfeeding day and night has been reported to delay ovulation for up to four years.
The LLL mantra of “don’t offer and don’t refuse” might be useful to space feedings a little more so that ovulation isn’t suppressed. Usually an eight hour gap between feeds at night is enough to let ovulation begin again. But as we all know not offering the breast to a fractious and very put-out toddler in the middle of the night is easier said than done. I remember being told not to breastfeed my 20 month old son during night hours, and I wondered what parallel universe that advice was coming from!
Offering plenty of nutrient dense food, frequently throughout the day and water for thirst may decrease breastfeeding frequency just enough to help your fertility return.
Mother Nature is so clever in naturally spacing our children, giving number one the chance needed to become more mature, and to let our bodies recover from childbirth and lactation and build up nutrient stores. Further discussion with your GP regarding hormone levels may be useful also.
Robin Jones Greif, Blenheim – Of course you can have another baby while still breastfeeding; every mother who tandem feeds has done just this! Once you are having regular periods, it would be unusual to not be ovulating as well. Remember all the warnings that new mums are given about not relying on breastfeeding as a contraceptive?
At 26 months breastfeeding is highly unlikely to interfere with an ability to become pregnant. You may find he weans himself during your pregnancy as the taste of your milk changes and the quantity diminishes, but this may not bother him at all. You may also find that nipple tenderness makes you encourage him to cut back on his feeding, but once again, this may not happen to you.
There is certainly no need for premature weaning in order to add to your family. I wish you all the best on your breastfeeding journey; long may it continue!
Sandie Fransen, Te Awamutu – My first was a relatively keen breastfeeder. When he reached 14 months and I still hadn’t had a menstrual period I worried that I might have to wean him in order to have another baby (which we were keen for soon). I decided to wait until he was 18 months old and see if anything had changed, then maybe I might think about weaning him.
However I got my periods back when he was 16 months old and after a few cycles we discovered we were pregnant. As baby number one was still having his milky-milks, he wasn’t too impressed when my supply dropped when I was about seven weeks pregnant – but that didn’t deter him that much at all!
When number two reached toddlerhood, and was much more attached to his milky-milks than his older brother had been I thought; this will be interesting… He was about 20 months old when my menstrual cycle returned, and after only two periods we are expecting again! Baby number two still loves his ‘milks’ but has naturally cut back on how many ‘feeds’ a day he has – however if it’s what he wants – nothing will stop him!
My suggestion is to start trying for another baby, and if after a few cycles you haven’t conceived start noting your ‘mucus’ daily as it changes throughout the month – then take these notes along to a natural fertility advisor/Billings teacher or your family doctor who should be able to help you work out if you are actually ovulating.
If it turns out you that you aren’t, then I’d just gently try to cut back the amount of ‘nunu’s’ your son is having for a while to see if that makes a difference. I definitely wouldn’t wean him outright before trying the other options first. My first ‘baby’ only gave up feeding when I became pregnant with number three (just as he turned four). Perhaps after the drop in supply this time he decided that it wasn’t worth it? All the best with trying for baby number two.