Wednesday 25 June 2014

Breastfeeding Through Pregnancy and Beyond

I've been breastfeeding for 2 years and almost 10 months now. For 7 of those months I've been a tandem feeder, and for the 9 months before that I was nursing through pregnancy, dealing with nursing aversion for about 5 of those.

Breastfeeding a newborn second time around has been so much easier. Getting M to latch properly was straightforward, and I was able to tell straight away that she must have tongue tie, as her latch was perfect but it still hurt. Breastfeeding through pregnancy was much more challenging. I'd worked so hard for our breastfeeding relationship and I had always wanted B to self wean. Friends with older children had told me about how being able to nurse the older child when the baby arrived had been really helpful in dealing with jealousy, so I really wanted B to continue to feed for as long as she needed. I was prepared for my milk to dry up during pregnancy - it never having been plentiful in the first place - and so I was also prepared for the possibility that B might wean. Ruth at Mixed Bag of All Sorts has had a similar breastfeeding journey to mine, but she was several months ahead of me. I drew great comfort and encouragement from her blog and her friendship, seeing that it was possible to maintain the breastfeeding relationship through pregnancy and into tandem nursing even with chronic low supply.

When I got pregnant with M, B still nursed to sleep for all her naps and at bedtime and through the night, but a few months into my pregnancy I started to have the most horrible feelings whilst feeding her. They were particularly awful at night. My nipples had started to feel sore, but that wasn't the worst thing. I felt like my skin was crawling when she latched on. It coincided with my milk drying up, and I suppose the action of suckling was as much of a comfort to her as getting any milk out had been. But her latch also slipped. I could feel her teeth constantly and it was hideous. La Leche League has an interesting and helpful article on nursing aversion, or breast agitation, here. I read this and was relieved to find that what I was feeling was normal and I wasn't just an awful mother. In the end I had to night wean B, offering her cuddles instead of feeds during the night. I told her that mummy's beboos were hurting and needed to sleep. There were a few tears, but it took less time than I anticipated. To be honest, I think night feeds had lost their novelty with the lack of milk, and so night wakings really reduced.

The next thing I had to tackle was nursing to sleep. She could take a very long time to fall asleep nursing, and I would lie there, uncomfortable being pregnant, digging my fingernails into the palms of my hands, feeling myself getting more and more angry and trying not cry in frustration. It wasn't B's fault. The anger was completely irrational, and almost as soon as she unlatched I would feel better. We introduced some music at bedtime, and I would pick a song or two to get through. At the end of the song(s) I would announce '10 seconds of beboos now,' and slowly count down out loud. When the time was up I would unlatch B and cuddle her to sleep whilst we listened to the rest of the music. Again, the first few nights were difficult. She cried a lot, but I made sure to cuddle and hold her tight, stroking her hair or holding her hand. Eventually, she started to unlatch herself after the 10 seconds were up, and then a few days later she started to roll away from my cuddles and fall asleep. Knowing that I was only nursing through one or two songs really helped me to cope. I was able to focus on the end point, rather than the urge to throw her away from me.

Some nights were still difficult, and that was when the hubby started to take a turn at getting her to sleep. This was a real positive, especially as she would often go to sleep quicker for him. It was helpful to know that when the new baby arrived I wouldn't still be the only one who could get her to sleep.

Daytime feeds weren't such a problem. I didn't feel so irritable; B was easily distracted and I went for the don't offer, don't refuse method. I was worried that she would self wean, but she tended to have at least one nursing session a day, plus a short one at bedtime. The downside was that she gave up her nap though. Not what you want when you're pregnant and tired!

In the last few days of pregnancy B didn't feed at all, but once M and I were back from hospital, we all got into bed and I fed both of my little girls at the same time. All feelings of aversion had vanished and it was such a joyful moment for me. I felt totally oxytocined out! It certainly helped B with accepting her baby sister, and there are times when they both feed at the same time and hold hands.

B still has a feed or two most days, but we generally follow the 10 second rule, unless she's hurt, ill or in real need of comfort, as her latch - which was never amazing as a baby, and slipped during pregnancy - is a little uncomfortable. I also want to ensure that M gets the majority of my milk, it being in short supply. I am so pleased that I can say I have fed B to 2 years old and beyond, and I'm really hoping that I will still be nursing her on occasions when she's 3.

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  1. Not there yet - my first turns one next week.

  2. My little girl is just over a year. I'm hoping to self wean when she's ready. She's a milk monster though! Now that she's cruising and climbing when she inevitably tumbles, its instant comfort for her. She doesn't stay still very much so nursing is a nice opportunity to sneak in a cuddle x

  3. Not having to worry about fussy eating!

  4. I've never gotten past 4 months unfortunately as the only way our babies could get breast milk was through pumping and it's so time consuming to pump exclusively and my milk just started to dry up, I'm currently pumping for our 3 month old, we shall see how long it'll last this time :(

    (Pia S)

  5. I only fed to 14 months but the best thing was the cuddles which I still get from my girls now aged 7 and 5

  6. I only managed 2 weeks but my bestie fed my godson until he was almost 3 and their bond is incredible!

  7. i havent had that experience yet but i do know that there are lots of health benefits to toddlers

  8. Sarah Strickland27 June 2014 at 22:35

    I'll let you know - hope we make it!

  9. Lynsey Buchanan28 June 2014 at 14:48

    The health benefits are the main thing

  10. I haven;t got there yet, but I think the satisfaction of knowing I gave my daughter the best start I could

  11. only 4 months in but hoping to make a year at least