nursing, fertility and baby #2

Since I announced I’m pregnant with baby #2, I’ve received a handful of emails from other new moms asking about my experience with nursing and fertility. While I’m admittedly no expert on either subjects, I’ll happily share my experience in the chance that it provides insight for others.

Last summer, I started a series on Breastfeeding, but only managed to cover the first 48 hours and 0-3 months.  I waited until James Michael was 6 months old to start talking about it, but a couple months later, so much had changed that I ended up abandoning the series. Looking back, it’s much easier to talk about it now:

The No. 2 hardest part about going back to work after maternity leave is pumping if you’re a breastfeeding mama. Obviously, No. 1 is missing your baby. I pumped at work 3 times a day for James Michael’s bottles. I had a very small stash built up before I went back to work, so every pumping session was crucial for me.

When JM was about 7.5 months, I noticed a dip in my supply, and just a couple days later my fertility returned. I’ve heard it’s quite common to notice a dip around the time of your period, especially your first one post postpartum. My problem was even after my first cycle, my supply never bounced back. It was a super stressful time for me as I exhausted my small stash and pumped like my life depended on it. I sought advice from other more experienced moms, but I did not end up going the route of herbal supplements like fenugreek.

By the time JM was 8 months, I was forced to substitute one bottle a day with organic formula. After that, somehow my body just knew that I was supplementing and my supply began to decrease so that when he was 9 months old, he was completely weaned.

I’m sure many moms go through this, but I will tell you it was difficult. I had wanted to nurse JM until he was 1 year old, and I know that 9 months is pretty darn good. What’s difficult is that no matter your amount of willpower or the strength of your determination, sometimes your body just doesn’t cooperate. It was a very humbling realization for me, as up until then, my body (through pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postpartum) had done everything I’d expected.

Back to my fertility, I began paying attention to my cycles once they returned and noticed that they were irregular. Specifically, my luteal phase was too short (less than 10 days) to sustain a pregnancy, so I started taking B6 vitamins. It wasn’t until after JM was completely weaned that my cycles returned to normal and I was fortunate enough to get pregnant right away.

I know that some nursing moms have no issues with the return of their fertility, while for others, it takes more than a year. As much as I loved nursing, I know that it took a huge toll on my body. Some women say they can’t lose the final few pounds of baby weight until they wean, but for me, I actually gained a couple pounds once I stopped. Looking back, I’m not certain that I ate enough while I was nursing, and with baby #2, I plan to really focus on my food intake to ensure longevity.

I’m not sure I would have been able to get pregnant while nursing, or at least not while JM was still eating 7 times a day. Maybe if he was past the 1-year mark and he only nursed a couple times a day it would have been possible.

Even though I lost my supply much earlier than I’d hoped, I feel fairly certain that was the only way I got pregnant so quickly with baby #2.