Are you ready to try to conceive your second child, but still enjoying a breastfeeding relationship with your firstborn? Or perhaps you are breastfeeding your child over a kicking baby belly? If so you are not alone—far from it. In a study of 179 mothers who had breastfed for at least six months, 61% had also breastfed during a subsequent pregnancy.1 Of these, 38% went on to nurse both newborn and toddler postpartum, an arrangement known as “tandem nursing.”
If you are eager to avoid unnecessary weaning, you have good reason. Human milk provides important nutritional and immunological boosts for as long as a child nurses. Indeed, weaning before the age of two has been found to raise a child’s risk of illness.2 American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a minimum of one year of breastfeeding, and the World Health Organization calls for two years or more. Moreover, continued breastfeeding can be helpful to your toddler’s adjustment to a new baby. Besides, what better way to rest your tired pregnant body while caring for an active baby or toddler?
In contemplating the healthiness of an overlap you will want to consider how breastfeeding is fitting in with your needs for rest, adequate pregnancy weight gain, and your overall sense of well-being. You will do well to take into account that breastfeeding can be painful or agitating for many mothers for some or all of pregnancy, leading some mothers to push for weaning. The milk tends to dwindle by mid-pregnancy, some children self-wean in response, while others don’t seem to care.
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