Breastfeeding and Trying Again

OK, here’s the thing… we are three weeks away from my son’s first birthday.  There are many amazing things to reflect on at the end of this first year.  I am acutely feeling the parenting cliches: on the one hand, it feels like only yesterday that I was holding my wide-eyed newborn son in my arms, and on the other hand, it feels like he’s been with us forever, and I can hardly remember my life without him.  There are many more things I hope to write about as his first birthday approaches and passes, but another thing I’ve started thinking about as his first birthday approaches is our strategy for conceiving the  living sibling we hope that he will one day have.

Surprisingly for me, my thoughts on trying to conceive our third child are all tangled up with my feelings about breastfeeding my son.

Conception and pregnancy have never been easy for us.  It took 2.5 years from the time we started trying to conceive to the birth of our son.  There were two pregnancies along the way, including the loss of our daughter in the middle of the second trimester.  Both pregnancies involved consultation and testing with a reproductive endocrinologist, and the second time around the RE had recommended moving onto IVF due to tubal factor infertility, which we were in the process of preparing to do when I became spontaneously pregnant with my son.  I am not expecting conception or pregnancy to be easy the next time around either.  Tubal factor infertility (in my case, due to the infection and scarring that occurred after the loss of our daughter) does not tend to get better with time, and it might have gotten worse since the birth of our son.  It is likely, though not definite (we might get lucky again!), that IVF is in our future.

What does all of this have to do with breastfeeding?  For one thing, breastfeeding influences menstrual cycles.  My period returned when my son was 10 months old, but it’s been irregular.  While I’m breastfeeding, it may remain irregular, but I won’t know whether the irregularities are due to breastfeeding or some other hormonal imbalance.  Muddying the waters, I had wildly irregular periods for 11 months before conceiving our daughter, and then clockwork regular periods for 8 months before conceiving our son.  We’d like to try for a while on our own before going back to the RE, but it’s trickier while my periods are irregular.  There are also some data indicating that breastfeeding might impede implantation and reduce the likelihood of pregnancy.  Finally, most REs make a blanket recommendation that you should cease breastfeeding before starting fertility treatments, although it’s not clear how evidence-based that recommendation is.

Many women think of it as a tension between their living child and their hoped-for child: do I prioritize the breastfeeding relationship with the child I have and love, or do I wean in order to maximize the probability of conceiving the child I hope to have?  I suspect there’s a middle-of-the-road option I might be comfortable with, but I’m not yet sure what that looks like.  My breastfeeding relationship with my son is still going strong as his first birthday approaches, but he doesn’t seem to be as attached to breastfeeding as some of my friends’ children.  He doesn’t really ask to breastfeed very often, and he’ll often refuse when I offer because he’s much more interested in seeing what’s going on in the world around him and doesn’t want to take any time out to nurse.  So a bit of mama-led weaning might be well received.  At the same time, I love our breastfeeding relationship and am not sure I’m ready to encourage its end, plus I know that my son derives comfort from it, especially when he is sick or tired.

So, what does our plan going forward look like?  When he was first born I thought “We’ll start trying when he’s a year old, and go back to the RE at six months.”  Now, with no end to breastfeeding in sight (and, honestly, with sex still kinda uncomfortable thanks to the breastfeeding hormones), I’ve started to think “Maybe we’ll start trying when he’s 18 months and go back to the RE when he’s 2.”  I don’t want to wait too long, because I’m not expecting the road to be easy, and I’m not getting any younger.  I’m turning 34 next week, and staring Advanced Maternal Age squarely in the face.  I know that timing can make a huge amount of difference in IVF cycles, and that waiting to even go back to the RE until I’m already 35 (when my son turns 2) might be risky, especially since we’d love to keep the option of a third living child open if we are lucky enough.   I feel sad contemplating the end of our breastfeeding relationship.  But the experience of having our son in our lives has only made our desire for another living child stronger, and my husband and I don’t want to wait too long.

9 thoughts on “Breastfeeding and Trying Again

  1. jwhitworth7

    It is clear you are thinking all of this through. I can really relate to the timing discussion. Like you guys we’ve met our fair share of bumps in the road (9 months to get pregnant the 1st time which ended in a miscarriage, then the loss of Oliver, two more miscarriages and then Luke). So we knew we wanted to try pretty soon for all the reasons you stated but we wanted breastfeeding to take priority. I got my period at 6 months PP and had regular cycles. (I haven’t posted on this yet but we are expecting) and I did continue to breastfeed. It is so much harder with irregular cycles and I can understand why you’d want to wait until you are weaned. It sounds like S is doing a good job at weaning himself and that’s so good as it’s the natural way. Luke did the same thing and it was like one day it was over (he was about 10.5-11 months). I think it made it easier that it happened on its own. There wasn’t a highly emotional “last feeding” like I thought there would be and while I do miss it SO very much i know that the natural thing took place. I wish you guys the best of luck in all aspects of this! And I can’t believe he’ll be one in less than a month!!!!!!!

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Oh my goodness, what amazing news! I’m so incredibly happy for you! Luke will be such a wonderful big brother — I’m just remembering him hugging that stuffed giraffe and imagining him being so sweet with a little sibling. 🙂 Congratulations, and I hope that everything goes very smoothly from here on out!

      It’s really good to hear that he weaned himself and it wasn’t too emotional for you. I’m curious, did you supplement with formula, or go straight to cow’s milk? Since we’re only 3 weeks away from S’s first birthday, I think it’s pretty clear that we could switch straight to cow’s milk, especially if we’re only moving towards daytime weaning, but I’m always curious how others handle it.

      1. jwhitworth7

        Thank you. I’m going to do a post on it soon with some details. As always any positive pregnancy test makes me nervous so I’ve been hesitant to update but all is well so far.

        We did switch to formula but it wasn’t for long and honesty I think we could have skipped it and gone to cows milk. I would skip to cows milk with S since he’s so close to being one. How does he do with a sippy cup? We still give a bottle before nap and bedtime but it’s only a couple of ounces and I’m SO hesitant to stop because I’m afraid it will mess with his sleep cues but I know we need to do it sooner rather than later.

      2. lyra211 Post author

        Ha ha… S never ever took a bottle. 🙂 He went straight to a sippy cup at six months. So, that’s one association we don’t have to break, although it caused us MUCH consternation when he was little!

        I totally hear you on the feelings of being nervous with any positive pregnancy test — it’s completely natural after everything you’ve been through. I hope that everything will keep going smoothly, and that you’ll be able to keep your anxiety to a minimum. It’s so hard when you know from experience that even making it past the first trimester isn’t a guarantee of a healthy baby. I’ll be thinking of you, and hoping for the best for your new little one!

      3. jwhitworth7

        Oh yes I remember something about how he would refuse a bottle. That’s good you won’t have to break that habit. I haven’t been too hard on myself with the three bottles a day thing as I figured if I was still breastfeeding it would be like the same thing. Thankfully he takes a sippy cup well during the day.

        And thank you! Your words and support mean a lot!

  2. Dani

    Oh wow I never considered the whole breastfeeding when TTC issue until reading your post. I’m only 6 weeks into breastfeeding and I love the closeness it brings. So I can only imagine how hard it must be to consider weaning after a year of it (which BTW I can’t believe he’s almost a year old!!!). I wish for you that Both weaning and TTCing come naturally as you go forward X

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Yes, exactly, it’s something I just never thought about at the start of our breastfeeding relationship, and it kind of snuck up on me! I’m so glad that breastfeeding is going well for you (six weeks! That’s awesome!). Thanks so much for your good wishes, and here’s hoping that things keep going well for you too!

  3. RJ

    I love breastfeeding but I also can relate to thinking about trying again and how that will affect breastfeeding. It’s already on my mind. I absolutely do not want to give up that relationship but it took us awhile with several miscarriages to get here and I don’t want to take too long to think about trying again.

    I wish you luck in whatever you decide. Also, thank you for talking about sex still being uncomfortable. I find the same thing but don’t really know if that’s normal!

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Thanks so much. And you’re welcome for the straight talk — I wouldn’t worry yet, though. It’s so early for you! There’s still a lot for your body to adjust to. Things are already way, way better than they were at that point for us. 🙂


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