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Brother and Sister 13 Months Apart

Denae Fielder
Apple Valley, MN, USA
From New Beginnings, Vol. 28 No. 3, 2009, p. 18

Tommy and Maria are exactly 13 and a half months apart. Although my second pregnancy -- which began only four and a half months after the birth of my first child -- was absolutely welcome, it brought significant challenges to my first year of motherhood.

I was committed to nursing Tommy for his first year -- and averse to the idea of introducing formula -- but I was unsure of how being pregnant would affect my milk supply. I introduced baby foods, commercial rice cereal, then homemade purees, when Tommy was five months old. He was interested in being spoon-fed and he took a liking to new foods right away, so I continued to increase his intake of solids. I did not fully understand that "breastfeeding for the first year" meant that solids were more for practice and that human milk actually supplied most of what a baby needed nutritionally. I might have nursed him more often than I did but my milk supply was diminishing -- not only because I was encouraging solid foods but because I was pregnant.

To complicate our situation, Tommy refused the bottle and would not take my milk in a cup. This was problematic because I was working part time and was away from him for up to five hours, three times a week.

When Tommy was thirteen months old (two weeks before my daughter's birth), nursing became very painful for me; and I elected to stop breastfeeding him altogether. I feel very sad that our nursing relationship ended so abruptly and unintentionally. I also feel guilty that I wasn't able to make better choices for Tommy's nutrition in his first year.* It is only in my experience of nursing my second child, Maria, for her first year that I have come to see all the things that I wish I had been able to do differently for Tommy.

If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't have gone back to work at all. Being at home with Maria full time during her first year has been invaluable -- I wish I had made that choice for Tommy. And I would have relied more heavily on information from La Leche League -- I now know that it is a trusted source of information on breastfeeding and baby's nutrition.

Tommy is now two years old and is a busy, active, happy toddler. He enjoys a wide range of foods and I am committed to giving him a balanced diet of whole foods. I try to use words like "strong" and "healthy" when I talk to him about how big he is -- I want him to grow up feeling good about himself, inside and out.

Maria is a year old and is still nursing. She has gradually increased her intake of solid foods, but her interest in them has been much slower to develop than Tommy's was. I expect that she will continue nursing for some time, and will gradually increase her intake of table foods when she is ready.

I guess that part of being a mother is learning from experience. I have learned much about breastfeeding and a baby's nutrition during my first two years of motherhood -- for these things, LLL has been an invaluable resource and I am very grateful.

* Most mothers notice a decrease in milk production by mid-pregnancy. For some mothers, milk production can reduce substantially. For a mother who is nursing during pregnancy, changes in milk production mimic those that occur during gradual weaning. These changes occur despite continued or even an increased frequency in nursing. By offering solids to supplement her decreasing milk supply, Tommy's mother was making a good decision for her baby's nutrition and not one she should feel bad about.

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