Re-lactating: What am I going to do when my milk comes in?

Here are some musings about the nursing relationship: how it's been to be nursing a toddler, weaning a toddler, and what it might be like to also be nursing a newborn.

Sweet Baby James was exclusively breast-fed for the first 6 months of his life and didn't really start to consume much solid food until about a year old. He was a humungous baby, so that meant that we nursed almost constantly. It was rare to go more than an hour between feedings. It was a big part of our relationship. Since I carried him in the sling most of the time we were together, we got good at nursing in it and I was able to go about my daily life (shopping for groceries, talking with friends, hiking in the woods) while he suckled. Yes, being able to walk down the street nursing my baby made me feel like Superwoman.

I intended to nurse him until, "either he or I gets tired of or uncomfortable with it." Children's immune systems are not fully developed until about six years (not coincidentally, around the same time they lose their 'milk teeth') and I had no problem nursing him until then if it was still going well for both of us. But being pregnant, my milk has dried up completely - I'm now producing colostrum for the new baby, not milk for the toddler. My decision (which is actually our decision: mine, my husband's, and SBJ's) is whether or not to allow or encourage SBJ to nurse alongside the baby when my milk comes in. 

Part of me wants to because I think our toddler would like it, benefit from it health-wise, and perhaps bond with the baby a little better. There is no evidence to support the commonly held belief that a toddler will 'drink up all the milk - milk is produced on an as-need basis as hormones are released from the pituitary gland in response to suckling. The big birth blog that I write for ( also publishes a lot of beautiful photos of tandem nursing looking so maternal and sweet... I have a romantic notion about it, I guess. 

Part of me, however, does not want to. Up until a few months ago, I gave our son a LOT of boob. It's been nice to have my breasts back as my own. It's been a relief that I can change in front of him, bathe with him, sleep beside him, without hearing a fierce request (demand) for la-las. Being a toddler, he would pull my shirt down, grope me, and try to play with my nipples -- all of which I found annoying. And even some of my more natural-minded mama friends have said that once a kid is weened, it's best to just let sleeping nipples lie.

As always, my husband supports me in whatever I choose - but I know that he has appreciated being able to take SBJ for longer periods of time, bond with him in a closer way, and has enjoyed the benefits of having a wife who's not 'touched out' at the end of the day. To nurse or not to nurse, that is the question.

Tools over Toys

As you may know, my little tyke has some specialized interests.

Sweet Baby James doesn't like toys. He likes tools.

Tools for building, tools for destruction; tools for baking, tools for grooming. Anything that does something to something else resulting in a reduction in mechanical load is superior to him, and he would like one of his own, thank you very much.

The great thing about this interest is that I can satisfy it without actually spending any money or stepping foot in a Chemicals "R" Us toy emporium. We just scavenge the street (or papa's toolbox, or my art supplies) and find what we need. It's very eco-friendly.

But I am surprised at how persistent it is. It's not just hammers and blenders and saws. It's a subtle and pervasive inclination extending throughout every minute of SBJ's waking life. And when I look back I realize it's been like this for a long, long time.

Instead of playing with his toy animals, SBJ preferred to while away his bathing time by pouring water from one measuring cup into another. Over and over and over again. He's done it for at least 20 minutes a day, almost every day, for the past 18 months.

We took him to the Monterey Bay aquarium and he was most interested in the pedestrian gangplank they had recently built. It had rivets on it. Take that, jellyfish.

We took him camping and he would have spent all his time investigating a road gate with a lock on it if we hadn't decided to continue walking along the path to see how far we could get before he told us to wait up. We got pretty far.

When he was 10 months old he had a little dangly stuffed toy dog whom we called "Mr. Cratchers" (admittedly, a name better suited to a character in a horror movie, but new parents are funny like that). Mr. Cratchers was black and white and colourful all over. He had crinkly ears. He was designed to be attractive to humans with developing senses. He could be attached to any number of baby-holding devices through a green plastic claw. But to SBJ, the best part about Mr. Cratchers was not Mr. Cratchers himself. It was his tool of attachment.

We arrived in Palm Springs for a visit with my mom and step-dad last month. Within five minutes, SBJ had found the rental apartment's tool drawer, and was happily playing with their hammer, screw driver, and something styrofoam.

Just yesterday, I gave SBJ 1500 live ladybugs to disperse throughout the garden (they eat aphids and, hey, live ladybugs. From the internets!). He was kind of curious but so much more excited about the garden clippers I used to open the mesh sac in which they were delivered. So much.

And I was kind of sad about the ladybug thing. It's easy for me to get disappointed, especially when I've spent $75 on some stupid aquarium or harbored a romantic notion about looking up at the trees in wonder with my child. But it's just what parenting is. Constantly letting go of your preconceived notions. Meeting your kid where they're at.

Like, OK, so the only exciting thing about this paint set is that it can be broken up into small pieces and used as blender fodder. Fine. I personally would like to use it to paint something, but you see other, um, possibilities. The question is, how can I enjoy this game as it is, now?

And to appreciate the wonder that it is. Our babies growing into their personalities. SBJ with an artist mom, a physicist dad, a grandfather carpenter, two grandmother house-builders, and two great-grandfather engineers. His own genetic imprint coming to light, formidable and unstoppable.
He is the course of generations.

Yet also, entirely, himself.