Author Topic: How long did you breastfeed?  (Read 14088 times)

Offline Eric

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How long did you breastfeed?
« on: June 26, 2011, 06:39:39 PM »
We're thinking about having another child, but our first is around 1 and still breastfeeding.  For various reasons I hear this can prevent/hinder pregnancy.

Any thoughts?  Also, someone commented here recently about a 3-4 year separation between siblings as the natural gap; a link to info would be appreciated, cheers!

Offline Jean

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Re: How long did you breastfeed?
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2011, 07:02:05 PM »
My kids weaned themselves at 14, 16 and 15 months. They just seemed to lose interest.

Most of the people I know whose kids are still wanting to feed at 3,4,5 years old are vegetarian or vegan. This leads me to think that the kids are probably using the breastmilk to make up for something they are not getting in the rest of their diet. But then no doubt there are probably some who keep feeding for the comfort and oral gratification, too.

From what I've read, the best outcomes in terms of ease of birth and maternal health are with an average gap of between 2 and 3 years, so I think that may be what we evolved to handle. Certainly I think repeated gaps of less than two years are probably not ideal. I know several women who did it that way - like four kids 18 months apart - whose last pregnancy didn't go well, stressed foetus, premature births, failure to thrive, etc. By the time they got to the last they had been pregnant and/or breastfeeding continuously for five or six years, which logically must deplete a woman's reserves. (Besides running around after three other kids and being exhausted during the pregnancy!)


Offline Warren Dew

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Re: How long did you breastfeed?
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2011, 07:50:14 PM »
We breastfed our first child to about 10 months, and kept her on stored pumped breast milk to 12 months.  We only stopped because we were required to stop in order to start the IVF process for our second child, and since my wife was in her late 30s and we wanted a total of 3 chidren, we felt pressed for time.  Even then, had we known that the second child would take only 1 three month IVF cycle rather than the 4 cycles and more than a year that the first child took, we would probably have delayed by six months or so.

My wife is still breastfeeding our second child, the paleo since implantation one, at 16 months.  My wife also just got pregnant naturally, so paleo seems to have cured her infertility.  And, she is 40.  So you don't need to wean in order to have a child, and it's possible that women on the paleo diet have a little extra time.

I think it's best to wait for the child to wean naturally.  I think this most likely happens when the child has enough teeth to eat enough solids, and as Jean says, the right kinds of solids, namely meat with fat.  Our children get their teeth late - probably my Asian genes - and our second child has all his incisors but no other teeth yet, so he can eat fruit but can't really chew meat yet.  Jean, I'm thinking your kids probably had more than just incisors when they weaned?

With respect to child spacing, I posted some statistics on hunter gatherers - 38 months average spacing for the Ache and 48 months average spacing for the San - here:

http://cavemanforum.com/research/data-on-hunter-gatherers-ache-hadza-!kung-etc/

That post cites the source but doesn't provide a link; you could probably google on the article name and authors to find it if the article is on the web.  Note that the San live on marginal land, while the Ache at the time of the study lived in undisturbed rain forest, which might explain why the Ache were able to have children on a shorter spacing.

I have seen some articles that cite a neanderthal birth spacing of 3-4 years, but I don't have cites or links at my fingertips.

Based on my personal experience, I definitely recommend a spacing of at least 3 years if your wife's age and your family plans permit.  Basically, prior to 3 years, an older sibling is a potential threat to a younger sibling, and having them both greatly increases the adult supervisory burden, because you have to have an eye on them at all times.  After 3 years or so, children are mature enough to understand better about not hurting others, and also better understand things like not using a choke hold to "help" retrieve a younger child who is straying.

To put it another way, our two children at a 20 month spacing seem like much more than twice as much work as one child was, as we have to supervise their interaction as well as supervising both children.  I'm convinced that if we'd waited for, say, a 40 month spacing, our older child would actually have been able to help significantly instead of being a hindrance - she already wants to help, she just doesn't know how yet - and the two children would have been significantly less than twice the work for us parents, instead of more.

Of course, I don't know how old you and your wife are and how many children you want.  And of course, there can be some economic advantages to spacing the children more closely since you'll have fewer years with a preschooler in the house.  While 3-4 years is probably ideal from a paleo standpoint, there may be modern considerations that dictate otherwise.

Offline Jean

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Re: How long did you breastfeed?
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2011, 08:08:05 PM »
Yes Warren my kids had all their front teeth when they weaned. Also, unlike most of my contemporaries, I didn't wean them on cereals - they got stuff like pureed liver and pears, which they lapped up.

I agree about the spacing and workload! I had a big gap between DS and DD1. Since I already had two children, I thought I knew all about it. Then I had 2y3m between the girls, and found it was very different! And DD1 was a very "easy" 2-year-old, with advanced speech and naturally eager to please. If she'd been a monster 2-year-old like DS I think I would have gone mad. It was a constant juggle.

Offline sparrow

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Re: How long did you breastfeed?
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2011, 06:51:30 AM »
Any thoughts?  Also, someone commented here recently about a 3-4 year separation between siblings as the natural gap; a link to info would be appreciated, cheers!

The combination of calorie restriction and on-demand nursing can suppress ovulation, but if you're wife's body is getting enough nutrients to nurse and support ovulation/pregnancy, she may be able to do both.  From what I understand, the "birth control" from nursing is somewhat limited for many mothers when there is a surplus of food available.

Here's the abstract for one study on the !Kung that gives the 4-year number.  If you google "interbirth intervals hunter gatherer" you'll get a fair number of hits with google scholar. 

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0162309586900026

In the book Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman, Marjorie Shostak mentions something about !Kung mothers sometimes getting pregnant and nursing the older child through the pregnancy. 

My experience with spacing has been as a sibling, not as a mother.  My younger brother and I are less than two years apart in age, and fought non-stop growing up, although we get along great now.  Our younger sister was intentionally spaced out 4 years after my brother, and we never fought with her.  Both of us adored her and loved "helping" our parents with the baby.


Offline greenchild

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Re: How long did you breastfeed?
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2011, 07:09:15 AM »
our story is different - exclusively pumping rather than BF'ing - that I can't really answer that part.  But I definitely can attest to that women CAN get pregnant while breastfeeding!  Many of my friends have!  ;D

and congrats Warren!!

Offline C C G

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Re: How long did you breastfeed?
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2011, 07:44:23 AM »
  My wife also just got pregnant naturally, so paleo seems to have cured her infertility


congratulations Warren!

My sister and I were 22 months apart and just 1 year different in school (I skipped a grade).  I think it's a bit too close - she literally wanted to kill me when I was born, and my mother had to deal with a newborn and a toddler whose tantrums were only made worse by having a lot of adult attention go to her new sibling.  When we were growing up we were very close but fought, and being so close in school years made things very competitive.  I always felt that whatever I did/achieved was less significant because often she'd already done it the year before, she probably felt threatened by a sibling just one year below her very slightly out-performed her academically and whom she thought had things easier.  By the time I was 18 and she was 20, people who met us assumed that I was the older sibling.  To this day she remains very sensitive to any kind of perceived favouritism.

My two aunts are also less than 2 years in age, were competitive with each other when young and now don't speak as adults.

I think 2.5-3 years gives kids a bit more chance to be become more independent and grow into themselves a bit, meaning that they handle it better when a sibling comes along.


Offline thinknice

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Re: How long did you breastfeed?
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2011, 11:56:51 AM »
Not sure I understand the question.  If she's getting her period, she is ovulating and could definitely get pregnant.  You can basically start ovulating at any point while breastfeeding.  I got my first period when my baby was only 3 months old, my best guess is I started ovulating about a week after I went back to work and started pumping during the day, probably not a coincidence.  Some women take a lot longer.  But if she hasn't gotten her period, she can still get pregnant because she will ovulate before her first period.  You can definitely nurse while pregnant, and then tandem nurse, but many mom's lose their milk or the baby dislikes the new taste of the milk and weans during pregnancy.  I have read that the average age a child self-weans is about 4 years old, not sure the source on that.   

Personally, I have a 13 month old and would like to wait til closer to her 2nd birthday to start trying for a second.  I might wean her around then anyways. And I think its just too much to ask of my body in such a short time.   But obviously its a personal decision and I don't know your age or how many children you plan to have.  Or if you have a support system of family around that would also probably help to influence a decision to have a child sooner.

Offline avelin

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Re: How long did you breastfeed?
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2011, 12:17:57 PM »
Can't get pregnant while breastfeeding? False.

Natural gap? That's how long it takes to get pregnant again (for some a while for others almost immediately)

If you have control of when next pregnancy occurs, then for goodness sake do it when it suits you and not when some 'authority' says you should. One of the very best things about not actually being paleolithic or natural is that we have birth control. It is you two who will lose sleep, juggle needs and finances and take the responsibility for parenting in your own style. I know you want the best for your children but good enough parenting is good enough (and probably more beneficial anyway).

If you have two placid or easy personality types then one after another is great. If you have kids who are more challenging then sometimes forever is too soon.

BTW - don't go thinking that challenging personality types are in any way related to diet or anything else - sometimes it's a family trait, sometimes high intelligence, sometimes an individual personality (like strong willed etc) and sometimes it's a fragile personality or developmental disorder or bad luck or ill health. Sometimes a challenging child is going to be the cleverest, most creative and most original thinker and sometimes a challenging child is going to need every ounce of protection, patience and perseverance you have. So for goodness sake, no matter what kind of child you have, have him or her when it's best for you. The rest will work itself out.

I have 3 grown up (lol) children - 28, 25 and 22.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2011, 12:45:44 PM by avelin »

Offline Chantelle

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Re: How long did you breastfeed?
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2011, 03:36:43 PM »
I am tandem feeding a 30 month old and a 2.5 month old. Though I have cut back my toddler to about 2 feeds a day just so I can get things done around the house. I was anovulatory for 17 months with one warning cycle before I got pregnant when my eldest was 18 months old. Attachment parenting (the co sleeping, and regular baby contact), as well as nursing on demand are all supposedly part of the suppression but even that does not last forever. Especially once the first child starts spending more and more time trying to be independent.

Offline Warren Dew

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Re: How long did you breastfeed?
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2011, 12:38:00 AM »
and congrats Warren!!

congratulations Warren!

Thanks!  However, it's still very early.  As I mentioned in another thread, I figure there's about a 50/50 chance of its sticking.

Offline sapphiremoon

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Re: How long did you breastfeed?
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2011, 03:09:08 AM »
OK perhaps a sensitive subject but I will tell you honestly what my mother who is a psychotherapist (with over 20 years experience) has said on the matter of the age gap between siblings.

Basically babies need the attention and devotion of their mother for the first years of their life. Once the child gets to 4 years it is then more able to deal with it's mothers attention being on another baby but until then it is not good for a child to have to share it's mother with another child... to go even further it may very well cause psychological damage to a child under the age three or possibly four if it it has to share it's mother's attention with another baby.

Now I am only passing on what she has told me but I do think at the end of the day if you have to divide your attention between two very important priorities then it is hard to do anything well. Same goes for women who have babies then go back to working a fulltime job in the early years of the child's life. Ultimately the parents find themselves less able to enjoy the children as they become things which have to be 'palmed off' on childminders as opposed to being enjoyed.

It is better to focus on the quality of the raising of one child rather than on focusing on the quantity by having another. And please forgive me if I offend anyone but I have to say even though the woman's body clock may be running out I do not think that validates jeopardising the happiness of a child to have another baby... I mean surely it is the parents who chose to leave it that late to start having children... Is that the child's fault?

My advice is wait for another 2-3 years and enjoy every moment with the child you already have... after all they grow up so quickly :)

Offline Jean

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Re: How long did you breastfeed?
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2011, 04:18:08 AM »
It makes me wonder when children became so "delicate". Looking at my family tree, five or six generations ago most of my forebears had 10 or more children, usually within 20 years. I don't have lots of family stories of them suffering terrible psychological damage as a result. What happened?

Offline Warren Dew

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Re: How long did you breastfeed?
« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2011, 08:25:38 PM »
Basically babies need the attention and devotion of their mother for the first years of their life. Once the child gets to 4 years it is then more able to deal with it's mothers attention being on another baby but until then it is not good for a child to have to share it's mother with another child... to go even further it may very well cause psychological damage to a child under the age three or possibly four if it it has to share it's mother's attention with another baby.

Cool!  I can now blame my antisocial tendencies on getting a little brother when I was only 14 months old.

Of course, my brother is one of the few people I really do get along with well now.

Quote
I mean surely it is the parents who chose to leave it that late to start having children... Is that the child's fault?

Years of infertility is not really a "choice" - any more it's the "choice" of the egg that eventually becomes a child to wait longer before it forms a maturing follicle.

Also, while children do need attention, they also need many other things that in the modern world cost money to provide.  I'd regard having children before one can afford to take care of them as a greater fault.

It makes me wonder when children became so "delicate". Looking at my family tree, five or six generations ago most of my forebears had 10 or more children, usually within 20 years. I don't have lots of family stories of them suffering terrible psychological damage as a result. What happened?

I wonder how many of those children actually survived to adulthood.  Agricultural diets did allow or cause women to recover their fat more quickly after pregnancy and have babies at shorter intervals, but that usually only made up for the fact that those babies were more susceptible to disease.  My paternal grandmother did have 8 biological children who all survived, but antibiotics probably helped with that - and one could argue that not all of them were completely healthy psychologically.

Offline sapphiremoon

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Re: How long did you breastfeed?
« Reply #14 on: July 01, 2011, 11:27:36 PM »
lol... well I guess it is all relative. Having a sibling close in age may cause the elder sibling to develop some attention seeking tendencies but then again these would not be called psychopathic tendencies which one could say do indicate "serious psychological damage". 

One of the problems with western society is that it is modeled to work around male fertility as opposed to female fertility where really it should be the other way round as it is female fertility that has the timer. But then it is difficult to work out how to ensure all women have been educated well and are in a stable financial and familial situation in which they can raise children without having to work by the time they are in their early twenties. I have managed to do this as I am 23 with my first baby but am definitely an exception.

Thus, like you say, most people in western culture choose to have children when they can afford it which I am not debating is not sensible. Of course I do not think that it is the parents fault if they are infertile either. That is very sad and it is a blessing if they manage to have a child. I still question in both cases however whether this justifies having more than one child in a shorter space of time if you know it is risking affecting the other child's psychological development negatively.