13 March 2009

To wean or never to wean?

Disclaimer: If you're an early return of fertility girl, vaya con Dios.

Your humble blogresses have been negotiating off-blog the swampy terrain of lactational amenorrhea/anovulation. We have our reasons. :D Here are two ways I inform my approach (girls, this started as a reply to you, but I figured if all three of us are thinking about it, surely our tens of thousands of readers are too):

1. Way back when, my husband spoke to a Venerable Hausvater about such things. This VH shared that his CSPP-Professed nurses the current baby until she's pregnant again. I'm not sure I could promise to keep up that long if I went for a really long stretch without getting pregnant, but I find the overall principle, coming as it does from such highly Venerable types, reassuring. (Not much help for those who DO NOT get pregnant while nursing, though.)

2. My husband also reminded me when I went looking for his thoughts on the matter that in Starck's prayer book, the prayer for a mother of a newly weaned child begins with an explanation along the lines of, since the time of weaning is the time when the child begins to go out by himself . . . . Taking the long historical view is always of some (and usually of great) value, and child care is no exception. (Incidentally, Blessed Martin Luther is on record offering lactation advice to Katie [ctrl-f "weaned"; Baby Magdalena was 14 months old]. My husband has long maintained that any husband worth his salt is an expert on lactation and much more credible on the topic than anyone Board Certified.)

I don't think Concordian Sisters need to feel bad about hanging around in the frying pan for a while before diving back into the fire. Either way we're plenty crispy. In my own life, the fire has been the less infernal option a few times, and I went for it. (Hard to believe, since we all know breastfeeding isn't painful if you're doing it right you stupid idiot. At least I stuck it out for the requisite year to keep myself off the IBCLC's Maternal Failures list)

If Mom and Baby (especially Baby. And especially Mom) are both happy nursing, nurse. Better not to think, "If I nurse the baby until X I won't have another one until X+9." Better to think, "I think we'll keep nursing today" or "Maybe we'll try to skip that feeding today and see how it goes."

If your baby still wants to nurse, I don't think it's a good idea to wean just because you doubt your own motives for sticking with it. You go can go to confession, but s/he can't go back to nursing (if you're hard core enough to think s/he can go back to nursing, you probably aren't considering the weaning question to begin with).

This all makes me think we might be better called Concordian Sisters of Perpetual Lactation. We don't always have a baby countdown for you, but I don't think we'll ever have a time when that nursing sticker will need to come down.


Melanie said...

This got me thinking about a couple women I know (unrelated to one another in any way) who I regularly hear complain about how "my husband just looks at me and I get pregnant". gag.

You know, there are some of us loonies out here who actually *gasp* want to get pregnant again. Yep, I'm a crazy.

Well, these same two women also breastfeed for just long enough to have "done their duty" and then as soon as their little ones are clumsily stuffing food into their mouths, they commence weaning. And they wonder why they're pregnant between 6 and 8 mo each time.

Now, I'm not stupid. I know some women get pregnant regardless of exclusive nursing, and it's these women that usually smile a little nervously and pray for strength, but I think they are the exception.

So honestly, if one wants lots of kids, fine, great (hey, I usually get pretty tired of nursing early too and certainly don't blame anyone who stops early!), but maybe they can stop acting like a martyr when they *gasp* get pregnant AGAIN to those of us that feel guilty stopping nursing before 18 mo and cannot get pregnant while nursing.

Wow, not sure where that came from :) gotta love sleep deprivation and an 11 mo old that still wakes 3-4 times a night...argh.

Joy said...

I have friends who just kept on nursing their 1/2/3 year old while pregnant. One was nursing her newbie and a 2-year-old. I also have a friend who cut the 10-mo-old cold turkey when she conceived, and I think that was cruel and unncessary.

None of my 3 have ever had a drop of formula, thankyouverymuch, but I admit it pushes me to the edge. I don't enjoy it because I do it Every Bleeping Hour. At least. Rebekah once mentioned super-dependency, and I would be ever so grateful if she'd elaborate. I don't know how to avoid it when the baby won't take a pacifier and is too young for a sippy cup.

Rebekah said...

Joy, I'm a demand nurser too and am pretty much at it all the time in the first 6-8 months. The super-dependency business was in reference to the Kippleys' Ecological Breastfeeding rules, which are designed specifically to ward off fertility. They want you to keep the baby in bed nursing for years so you won't get pregnant again. Many babies are content to move on to other things if given the opportunity, and many aren't. The Ecological Breastfeeding rules don't permit you to find out.

Melanie, those two girls are probably saying in the comments of some other blog how jealous they are of you. :D I've been there, too. Between all the trouble I had nursing (which probably made me look like one of those awful people who can't wait to cram her kid with French fries and refuses to nurse her 6-month-old more than 5 times a day) and having a body that bounced back faster in the early days, our rapid-fire pregnancies had me near despair, theological convictions notwithstanding. I probably still would be if the capacity I've acquired to nurse incessantly in combination with my increasing years hadn't slowed me down a bit.

I'm kind of shocked to see my name at the bottom of this post. There was a time when I could not WAIT to be done with breastfeeding. I still don't love it, but I can at least sort of acknowledge its usefulness now.

Melanie said...

mmmm, french fries :D

I once saw a mom giving a tiny baby pieces of french fries and was absolutely shocked...then my second child saw my first eating some while eating out and he got his first taste at around 8 mo...life is funny like that I suppose.

Joy said...

Thanks, Rebekah. She's 4 mos now and refusing cereal...arrgghh! Godspeed my release from this prison! I shouldn't complain--at least this one sleeps at night. #2 was up every hour at night until about 12 mos.

Liz said...

On a somewhat related note... my grandma called me about three weeks ago to talk to me about nursing. She mentors the young ladies in her church about housekeeping and stuff; and she noticed that they are nursing babies who walk. We had a really nice talk about nursing philosophies and how she can encourage her friends.

You're right Rebekah, there is a time when they'll eat solids, but once the supply is gone, you can't go back.

Beth said...

I really enjoyed this coversation. I've always been a "wacky nurser of the walking children" type, and have managed to surround myself with enough like-minded Mamas that sometimes I forget how I might be perceived, not only for nursing a 5 mo old in public! but also my (just turned) 3yo??!!

My 1st DD nursed through the pregnancy of my 2nd DD and I tandem nursed them for about 6 mo. She had a lovely "weaning party" at age 3 and that was it.

I took advantage of a couple of out of town absences to abruptly wean my 2nd DD at age 2 and have felt guilty about it even since. Not guilty about weaning her "early" (2 yo is early!?) but the sudden way in which I did it, through leaving town, instead of a gradual weaning that wouldn't have left her feeling abandoned (throat tightening...)

3rd DD is "still" nursing once or twice a day and I have 4th DD 100% BF'd at 5 months (And yes, I have miraculously held onto some baby weight! ;) I've avoided the embarassment of having said 3yo want to nurse in public by cutting out all but the bedtime nursing (sometimes good-morning nursing) and she knows it just won't happen.
She will wean soon, but I sure won't be leaving town to do it.

Beth said...

Oh BTW, I'm one who's fertility does not come back until nighttime nursing is over. That gives me at least 2 years before periods come back.
I don't nurse in order to avoid pregnancy, it just works out that way.
If I have anything in this department to go to confession about, it's the act of purposfully ending nightime nursing this last time so there could be a possibility of pregnancy.
I guess we don't have to be taking pills, shots, or patches to be guilty of meddling with our "production" and His timing...

Dakotapam said...

Even Though I am more CSPP Emeritus than full observer, for a variety of reasons, I will add my two cents. I nursed all of my babes, pretty much until they wanted to wean. I am the odd sort who really loved nursing, nearly most of the time. They got solid food when they began to snatch it from my plate. I hated baby food and slimy runny baby cereal that turned into cement. my fertility never returned until I weaned, and even then it took a few months. Hence my kids are spaced three years apart and then two years between the third and fourth child. I did not nurse as birth control, I nursed because it was good for me, and for my children. I can not imagine weaning for the sake for getting pregnant. I'm not sure where that would fit into the theory of allowing God to plan our families.

Of course I also think that God plans all of our families regardless of our feelings or intentions. I can try and get pregnant and God is still in control, it is ultimately up to him. Or I can avoid pregnancy, and He is still the deciding factor.

What I do know, is that children spaced three years apart, naturally, led to very little despair and frustration, though I still have my days. I also know my mental and physical limits, which is why, at age 37 with a family history of heart disease and a personal history of pre eclampsia, I am not attempting pregnancy, God, however, may have other plans.

Melanie said...

Dakotapam- I loved your thought about how "God plans all of our families regardless of our feelings or intentions." It is so true!

My cycle returned at 12 mo with ds #1. I charted and had a beautiful normal cycle from there on out. Well, after 8 months of rearranging my life and the life of my nursing son to time things "perfectly", I still was not pregnant. I finally got so irritated that I trashed my charts and we went on vacation. I let my son nurse whenever and however much he wanted on that vacation, but ironically, he decided he was having too much fun on vacation to nurse and began self-weaning. By the time vacation was over, he was only nursing once every other day or so. I was pregnant 2 weeks later... :D So as much as I would welcome another pregnancy, I have learned that no amount of perfect timing will produce a child that is only God's to give.

Pam said...

*Melanie said: I know some women get pregnant regardless of exclusive nursing, and it's these women that usually smile a little nervously and pray for strength, but I think they are the exception.*

(Pam, jumping up and down, waving hand in the air)

Pam said...

After reading all this, friends, I believe my prior conclusion about bfing/weaning/conceiving is affirmed in a HUGE way.

God made us all different, and He blesses us all differently. From women like Beth and DakotaPam, who have more time with each child before the next comes along, to someone like me, who doesn't wean in order to 'encourage' God to send me another baby (LOL), and yet He seems to think I am capable since He grants them to me fairly soon anyway. (Or that I am a hard nut to crack and need that much humbling!)

But then there's the rest of the story... some have more health issues than others, and some babies require more maintenance than others. My children all sleep through the night well, and I have not been able to continue to keep up a supply to exclusively nurse beyond seven or eight months. My 8mo has been on solids three times a day plus nurses three to four times a day for a couple of weeks now.

But even so, my cycle returned early enough that a child was conceived (and miscarried) in January-- current baby was 7mo and exclusively nursing at the time.

For some reason, I am physically able to handle pregnancies well, which I know not all women are, I deliver uneventfully, and I recover well, also not something all have going on.

But that's me. And my children are all healthy, and other than what I lamented on my blog recently, so am I.

If we all worked the same way on these matters, wouldn't it be boring? ;D

MooreMama said...

Pam - nice to see your lovely face!

All the rest of y'all - this is a question that I've had on the brain (and asked the Sisters about a while ago).

I love nursing. It's the first "womanly" thing that has come easily to me. I started Callie on "solids" (oatmeal and avacados so far) only because I am caving to the fear that she'll somehow wind up behind if I don't. I'm good with the foods just being a new dinnertime game, and if we're still nursing as her prime source of nutrition in a year, I'm okay with that. :)

As far as nursing impacting my fertility - um, yeah. I couldn't get/stay pregnant when I was charting and doing everything "right", and got pregnant with Callie when I really shouldn't have, so ...

Anne said...

With baby #5 I was so determined that I would keep my cycle away for a long time through ecological breastfeeding. "Haha" she said as she slept through the night the first night and every night for 6 weeks. Nothing could be done to get her to night nurse. AFter that she started nursing during the night and is still at 10 1/2 mo. nursing 2 or 3 times a night. But it was too late. Since about 8 weeks I enjoyed random cycles and at least 1 month of continuous spotting. Fun! I think now my hormones have finally evened out and I have had a couple regular and I think ovulatory cycles.
She is now also eating 3 meals at the table and she gets very mad if she doesn't eat. I haven't noticed her cutting back on nursing at all.
Funny thing that my longest bout of lactational amenorrhea resulted in my closest spaced children:) So I don't know why I even bothered to try to make anything happen this time. Weaning or not weaning seems to make no difference to me since I've conceived both ways. I will just enjoy my mostly enjoyable nursing relationship and come what may!

Gauntlets said...

This is good. Thanks.

I end up feeling (and being) evil whatever I do, so . . .

Lauriinnc said...

OH ladies you talk about all of my favorite subjects! :)

I'm one of those moms who is too lazy to feed her kids baby food cause it is such a horrible mess and I hate dealing with all that and the waste of them not eating what I decided they should. Didn't have a nursing-supportive pediatrician with #1 so after that, I didn't care what the drs said about how big or small the kid was at any age with the rest of them.

I've weaned cold turkey (it was only traumatic for ME -OWIE!), and this last one was 2 1/2 before he finished. 14yo dd thought this was too long. I let her rant. Someday, she'll see..or not. I don't care. My baby and I were happy about the arrangement. :) Some things just cannot be explained. YEah, and I got pregnant shortly thereafter.

I've nursed while pregnant against the advice of my different drs at the times. I smile nicely and do what *I* think is best. I have not tandem nursed though. I can't say I would NEVER do that cause God has a way of showing me just exactly what I will or will not do when I tell Him stuff like that..if you get what I mean.

I think that is the best thing of all about nursing...it works in all sorts of circumstances for momma and baby and we can all do it differently and still make it work for our family. God gives what is best and we thank Him and feed our children. It is a highly personalized endeavor!

Reb. Mary said...

My first two weaned around 11 months--#1 because I was so ready to be DONE that I strongly encouraged his interest in other things, and #2 mostly because he got too busy to stop long enough to nurse. I used to think it would be "weird" to nurse a baby who could walk over to me. Guess what? Babyboy just started walking, and last time I asked him, he wasn't planning on quitting the nursing anytime soon :P As usual, joke's on me.

Reb. Mary said...

Lauri, I'm increasingly with you on the too-lazy-for-baby-food thing. It's all a big mostly pointless mess till they finally reach Cheerio Age, which in my book is still more about them being able to entertain themselves for a few minutes than about actual nutrition ;)