I got pregnant with Dio when Zari was about 21 months old. A few months before that, she had started sleeping in her own room. This helped her sleep longer and better, sometimes the whole night through and other times waking up just once to nurse. Before then, she was still waking up every 2-3 hours to nurse. I think the near cessation of night nursing had something to do with my being able to get pregnant with Dio. My cycles returned at 17 months postpartum, and I had 4 or 5 more before I got pregnant again.
During my first trimester of pregnancy, nursing was uncomfortable. Some women have reported a creepy crawly sensation when they nurse during pregnancy, others say it's terribly painful. It wasn't that bad for me--just sore and tender at times. Fortunately Zari was old enough to understand when. during a nursing session, I told her it hurt a little bit and she needed to stop. During this time we were working on both her sleeping and nursing routines and there were some frustrations. I started having Eric try to get her back to sleep when she woke up at night, and for a few months she would cry for me and ask to nurse. If she became increasingly frantic, I'd come in and snuggle with her. But for the most part, I was done nursing her in the middle of the night. We talked about how "when it's dark outside, we sleep. When it's light outside, we can nurse," since she usually nursed when she woke up in the morning. I found some very helpful tips in Elizabeth Pantley's book The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers. I can't remember exactly how many times she was nursing at this point, but I'd say 3-4 times a day: when she woke up, going down for a nap, going to sleep, and maybe once more depending on the day.
I noticed a fairly dramatic decrease in my milk supply when I became pregnant. By the second trimester, I couldn't express any milk at all. I guess there may have been a few drops of milk when she was actually nursing, but nothing I could see. Zari didn't seem to mind at all, though. My colostrum started coming in around 7 months pregnant. By time Dio was born it was fairly abundant, definitely more than when I was pregnant with Zari.
Our nursing sessions during pregnancy were not very long, due to my decreased supply and the increased discomfort. I'd take Zari off after just a few minutes. And she'd often come off the breast herself and say she was done. By time Dio was born, she was nursing just twice a day: at naptime and bedtime. I definitely encouraged this pattern, because I knew that I'd be busy nursing the new baby after it was born. We talked a lot about the upcoming birth: how mama would make noise, how the baby would come out of mama's belly, how the new baby would nurse a lot.
For the first two weeks after Dio was born, my mom stayed at our house to help out. She often put Zari down for naps and bedtime, so I was nursing her even less. When she left, the adjustment period started. Every time Zari was tired or frustrated or hurt, she'd throw a fit and ask to nurse. If Eric tried to calm her down, especially at night, she'd scream and get frantic and irrational. Which was just a tad frustrating because I was also dealing with a newborn and now I also had to get up at night, sometimes several times, to calm Zari down. This lasted several weeks. Thankfully we're over it now, and she doesn't ask to nurse every time something happens.
I like having a nursing toddler; for example, when I am engorged and Dio has just gone to sleep, she's more than happy to nurse it off for me. Normally, though, I let her nurse for just a few minutes and then I take her off. If not, she'd keep nursing forever, and it's not the most comfortable thing with a full mouth of teeth. I've only nursed both children at the same time once or twice, and it was quite the circus trying to get them both positioned; I was lying down on my side, so that made it particularly challenging. I definitely prefer one at a time! Zari is really sweet when Dio nurses. She saw me doing breast compression in the first few weeks after he was born, so she began "helping" me by placing her hand on my breast or squeezing it gently. She likes to give me "nursing kisses" (kisses on my breast while Dio is nursing) or to kiss Dio's head while he's nursing.
I don't know how long I'll keep nursing Zari. I'm pretty laid back about it--as long as it's mutually enjoyable for both of us, we'll keep going. There has been some tension, though, between Eric and me over Zari continuing to nurse this long. He thinks she needs to stop, that she's too old, and that she will become too dependent and too attached the longer she continues to nurse. I'm not too worried about that. I've been around enough women who've nursed toddlers and preschoolers to know that they (the children) turn out just fine. And the moms seem okay too!
Speaking of extended breastfeeding, have any of you read the article in the July-August issue of Mothering by Ruth Kamnitzer about breastfeeding in Mongolia? Really fascinating.