12

votes

What is an ideal birth interval when full-term breastfeeding from traditional societies' viewpoint? Is tandem nursing safe?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created July 29, 2012 at 8:57 PM

So, I had my first child about 19 months ago and he is still breastfed, he's probably a little out of the norm in that he probably still gets about 60-80% of his caloric load from nursing. I am not ready for another one (or pregnancy) just yet but the thought has been on the horizon lately. The Weston Price foundation recommends a 3 year birth interval, which would put conception at about 2.25 years after the last birth, However, how would this factor in to an "extended," or what I like to call full-term nursing relationship? Anyone have thoughts on ideal spacing in that instance?

I was thinking 4-6 months after weaning and a good nutrient dense pre-conception diet would be ideal. Does anyone know of any sources besides "nutrition and physical degeneration" that discusses this topic? I'm not completely against tandem nursing but I do believe that the currently nursing child should ideally be at least 80% on solid foods before starting a preconception diet. Seems a bit counter-intuitive to be siphoning off what is for the fetus into the first child if one can avoid it. None of my opinions are backed by any research, though, so I'm wondering if anyone has any insight. Does anyone here have any examples of birth spacing in traditional groups?

04293f705870e1837b8670d3c1cd5f67

(2261)

on July 30, 2012
at 10:47 PM

I first heard Dr. Cate discuss the most interesting topics related to birth order and spacing/nutrition. I immediately bought her book after hearing this podcast. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/undergroundwellness/2011/01/07/deep-nutrition-with-cate-shanahan-md

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 30, 2012
at 10:24 PM

+1 for Edit :D I did "believe" you but this is better!

8508fec4bae4a580d1e1b807058fee8e

(6244)

on July 30, 2012
at 09:08 PM

LOL so that is more certain than 15.9 months or 16.1?

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 30, 2012
at 08:44 PM

Wow so interesting. I have 3 kids, 3.6 and 3.8 years apart. It's what felt right.

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on July 30, 2012
at 07:04 PM

It could be because you are better nourished than your friends & hence he is getting more nutrition from your breast milk & he knows it!

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on July 30, 2012
at 03:27 PM

Some primitive societies practice infanticide if the mother has a child under 3ish, iirc. Three or more years apart seems about right.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on July 30, 2012
at 02:43 PM

I meant he seems to nurse MORE than other nursing toddlers I know. Most people in my circle nurse 2-3 years so it isn't that weird to me. Just seems like a lot of their kids skew more toward solids by now.

B8592e62f9804ddabae73c1103d6bcb9

(1956)

on July 30, 2012
at 12:30 PM

There was more to my answer than the first sentence.

5e63e3fa78e998736106a4a5b9aef58c

on July 29, 2012
at 11:53 PM

None of your opinions may be backed up by research, but they strike me as solid, rational, and well-thought. They make perfect sense to me, at any rate. I think you already have your answer. Trust it. :)

5e63e3fa78e998736106a4a5b9aef58c

on July 29, 2012
at 11:47 PM

"Nothing could be more certain." Uh-huh. Riiight, Steve.

6498694060d879a7960b35913539b75f

(1307)

on July 29, 2012
at 11:39 PM

Thanks for the link, Patrik. I like!

1296f5fecd084f101d7c5fbe013f07eb

(1213)

on July 29, 2012
at 11:11 PM

+1 Crowlover. Yeesh.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:38 PM

lol. blueballoon - we are on the same wave-length here.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:36 PM

"give it a try" Steve you are killing me here. We aren't talking about trying some new vegetable. Holy shit

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:35 PM

"Nothing could be more certain" is highly suspect.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:35 PM

Ashley with any luck Dragonfly will see this and have excellent advice for you. Perhaps email her - she has a link.

E36cb992cf0a5eba8b97a359c15f38b3

(4347)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:35 PM

Don't have an answer for you, but +1 for the question. I was going to say I read some stuff in Price's book, but you've already referenced that. Maybe Dragonfly will chime in? I know she knows a lot about fertility issues. I'd be interested to see other sources as well, even though I'm done having kids.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:34 PM

Steve what are you even referring to? Studies have show WHAT with such "absolute certainty".

59fa7cd87fb9d669adf21e5cf3e7ada5

on July 29, 2012
at 10:18 PM

In native cultures some women go as short as 10 months, you should give it a try.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:17 PM

I don't need contraception advice. I don't think you read the question.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:16 PM

La Leche League completely does not acknowledge these things. They barely skim over the importance of nutrition beyond the SAD "take a prenatal vitamin" advice. I've met la leche league members who are already breastfeeding two kids and are pregnant with a third AND eating vegetarian or SAD. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:08 PM

Do you have any of the links? I'd really like to read them. 16 months seems really short, though. I was reading something a year ago about less than two years increasing autism risk.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on July 29, 2012
at 09:45 PM

I'm not asking for contraception advice, I've got that covered. I'm asking for ideal birth spacing in years/months after the first child. Did you even read my question?

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10 Answers

best answer

2
F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on July 30, 2012
at 05:56 AM

According to many many many sources (believe me, I have researched) the ideal birth interval is 4 years old (you have another baby after the first one turns 4). So 3.5- 5 years are okay too. Neuroscience, anthropological and sociological research all support it.

Too many sources to list, including Helen Fisher and John Medina.

TRUST ME, I REALLY KNOW, I looked into it.

If you want to know why 4 (not 3, not 5) is because (from what I remember)

  1. At 4 years of age your brain changes its structure so the child starts to develop "the theory of mind" and the concept of self.

  2. For the first 4 years the mothers usually carry the kids using a sling/rope/whatever so they can gather food/roots/vegetables etc. for the family. When a child turns 4, he or she becomes too heavy to be carried on his mother's back. They can walk on their own for most of the time/ other kids can carry them - they are less dependent on their mother.

  3. At 4 years of age children start to explore the environment more and are more independent.

  4. Most divorces around the globe happen at the interval of 4 years - 4, 8, 12, etc. We evolved to stay together long enough to raise a child.

  5. If a child is born to a woman in a hunter-gatherer's tribe by accident (another child has not reached 4 yet) this child is sometimes is killed (infanticide) or not given enough attention that leads to death. Sad, but true.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 30, 2012
at 10:24 PM

+1 for Edit :D I did "believe" you but this is better!

8
93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:36 PM

Cate Shanahan of Deep Nutrition has been thinking about this for sometime now. http://drcate.com/

6498694060d879a7960b35913539b75f

(1307)

on July 29, 2012
at 11:39 PM

Thanks for the link, Patrik. I like!

04293f705870e1837b8670d3c1cd5f67

(2261)

on July 30, 2012
at 10:47 PM

I first heard Dr. Cate discuss the most interesting topics related to birth order and spacing/nutrition. I immediately bought her book after hearing this podcast. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/undergroundwellness/2011/01/07/deep-nutrition-with-cate-shanahan-md

5
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on July 30, 2012
at 12:48 PM

Ashley~ FWIW, you don't sound out of the norm at all for breastfeeding, compared to the moms I work with who regularly do baby-led weaning & tandem nursing (and you sound completely normal, compared internationally.) Katherine Dettwyler is considered the expert here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathy_Dettwyler

I don't have any references, but the 3-4 year birth interval in H/G cultures is also what I've read. I believe that abstinence from intercourse (though not sex) contributes to this interval, along with lactation amenhorrea in the first year.

I suspect that the interval could safely be shorter, from a nutritional standpoint, if mom's gut health is optimal, she started out her 1st pregnancy well-nourished & she has access to nutrient-dense foods year round.

From a child development standpoint (and to reduce mom's stress level!), I get that 3-4 year spacing may be optimal.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on July 30, 2012
at 02:43 PM

I meant he seems to nurse MORE than other nursing toddlers I know. Most people in my circle nurse 2-3 years so it isn't that weird to me. Just seems like a lot of their kids skew more toward solids by now.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 30, 2012
at 08:44 PM

Wow so interesting. I have 3 kids, 3.6 and 3.8 years apart. It's what felt right.

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on July 30, 2012
at 07:04 PM

It could be because you are better nourished than your friends & hence he is getting more nutrition from your breast milk & he knows it!

5
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 30, 2012
at 05:56 AM

I was still nursing my almost 3-year-old at the time I conceived our second child (no birth control was used in the interim, so I assume this was the spacing my body found acceptable). I was a little worried about the partition of nutrients thing, but most of what I researched seemed to indicate that the fetus would take priority, and that it was perfectly safe to keep nursing unless the stimulation was causing contractions. For some reason the nursing seemed to lessen the morning sickness a bit too. I did notice that several years into the breast feeding relationship that the nutritional toll seemed to have decreased significantly, and I had adapted to to nursing 6-8 times per day on less than 2000 calories with no problem with supply, and even putting on weight. I think our bodies might be clever enough to make these things work, and be pretty darn protective of viable embryos.

I don't have any personal tandem nursing experience because my older child self-weaned about 3 months into the pregnancy and the second one is still cooking. I have a number of friends who nursed through their second pregnancies, and continued with tandem nursing of 3 and 4-year-olds along with the newborn without any obvious problems other than the exhaustion of extra feedings, and a bit of jealously from the older child.

2
Ae3b7ea9f3755af32287825db8d98796

on July 30, 2012
at 11:35 PM

I became pregnant with my second daughter when my first was 9 months. I continued to nurse throughout my pregnancy and tandem nursed for a year. My youngest weaned when she was 18months. I know it's just one woman's experience, but my first daughter was 7lbs, my second was almost 10lbs. She didn't seem to be missing out on anything in the womb due to my continued breastfeeding. I didn't experience any contractions during my second pregnancy due to breastfeeding. My doctor wasn't worried about it, although everyone else I know seemed to be concerned. Both my girls were fine.

An interesting thing about tandem nursing...it really helped when my youngest was born. She was having some tummy issues from what I think was too much foremilk. She also struggled because my letdown was too strong. Both of these issues were fixed my having my oldest breastfeed first for about 5 minutes before my younger daughter did. My letdown wasn't as strong after she nursed and my youngest got the hindmilk that helped her tummy.

2
6fece842bd1bcf5724f458a302a2156e

on July 30, 2012
at 09:18 PM

I fed all 5 of ours including twins for 1 - 2 yearts but all gaveup feeding . I never gave up on them. I would have been happy to do it longer. Our birth intervals were 2 year 2 months 1 year 8 months

The twins were after a 10 year gap

Having the 3 children under 4 was quite hard work but now they are a lovely unit with lots in common. There are lots of social reasons to have chidlren about 2 years apart and it can make child care easier and it can also means if you both work full time as we did things are more efficiently done.

I also read that a natural spacing in some older societies was about 4 years but my fertility always returned after about 4 - 6 mnoths even though ours all woke every night for 3 or 4 years.

I would have liked to have tried tandem nursing and am an LLL member etc but none carried on beyond 18 months to 2 years old breastfeeding. If you can feed twins as I did exclusively on breastmilk ie make enough for two you can do the smae for a baby except I think the composition of the milk changes in pregnancy - some toddlers don't like the taste and also I suspect what you produce for a new born is different from what is fed to a toddler from the breast.Certainly worth trying if you want to. I am probably glad I did not as it would have been an extra demand really.

1
9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

on July 30, 2012
at 05:05 AM

Just a data point for you, my kids are almost exactly two years apart, and were breast fed for 18 and 20 months. Like you said, outside the norm, but this worked great for both kids and mom, and at ages 7 and 9 my kids are super healthy, and i attribute some of this to the extended breast feeding.

What stopped my wife from breast feeding the first kid when she was pregnant with the second was some spotting and hormonal imbalances. The first kid was 15 months old when she got pregnant. She kept breast feeding, but when she was about 3 months into the pregnancy, she got some spotting which her midwife suggested might be due to the breastfeeding, and we weaned the first kid, and sure enough the spotting stopped and everything proceeded normally.

I am not aware of any studies sugggesting ideal intervals or anything like that, but it seems like common sense that trying to breast feed one kid while pregnant with another is tricky. I am sure it is doable in a pinch and might be common in primitive cultures, but if you have the choice you would probably not do it.

1
Cc3ce03985eac5ebcbb95fc2329f13b0

on July 29, 2012
at 10:06 PM

Have you asked the La Leche League? Do you have access to a trained midwife?

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:16 PM

La Leche League completely does not acknowledge these things. They barely skim over the importance of nutrition beyond the SAD "take a prenatal vitamin" advice. I've met la leche league members who are already breastfeeding two kids and are pregnant with a third AND eating vegetarian or SAD. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

0
B8592e62f9804ddabae73c1103d6bcb9

(1956)

on July 29, 2012
at 09:28 PM

The most important feature for breastfeeding to be contraceptive is breastfeeding at night. The recommended interval between children is a MINIMUM of 3 years, ideal is 3-6 years.

Another good book to read is Healing Our Children by Ramiel Nagel.

When you become pregnant the breast milk changes taste to encourage the previous child to wean.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:17 PM

I don't need contraception advice. I don't think you read the question.

B8592e62f9804ddabae73c1103d6bcb9

(1956)

on July 30, 2012
at 12:30 PM

There was more to my answer than the first sentence.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on July 29, 2012
at 09:45 PM

I'm not asking for contraception advice, I've got that covered. I'm asking for ideal birth spacing in years/months after the first child. Did you even read my question?

-5
59fa7cd87fb9d669adf21e5cf3e7ada5

on July 29, 2012
at 10:05 PM

16 months, absolutely, studies have shown this time and time again, nothing could be more certain.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:08 PM

Do you have any of the links? I'd really like to read them. 16 months seems really short, though. I was reading something a year ago about less than two years increasing autism risk.

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:36 PM

"give it a try" Steve you are killing me here. We aren't talking about trying some new vegetable. Holy shit

4ef079c57d2140bba4dbf4e30240a645

(4413)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:34 PM

Steve what are you even referring to? Studies have show WHAT with such "absolute certainty".

5e63e3fa78e998736106a4a5b9aef58c

on July 29, 2012
at 11:47 PM

"Nothing could be more certain." Uh-huh. Riiight, Steve.

1296f5fecd084f101d7c5fbe013f07eb

(1213)

on July 29, 2012
at 11:11 PM

+1 Crowlover. Yeesh.

59fa7cd87fb9d669adf21e5cf3e7ada5

on July 29, 2012
at 10:18 PM

In native cultures some women go as short as 10 months, you should give it a try.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on July 29, 2012
at 10:35 PM

"Nothing could be more certain" is highly suspect.

8508fec4bae4a580d1e1b807058fee8e

(6244)

on July 30, 2012
at 09:08 PM

LOL so that is more certain than 15.9 months or 16.1?

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