Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Breastfeeding through pregnancy: My second-trimester experience

Several people have asked how breastfeeding is going while pregnant. I've wanted to share and yet shied away from it because it's, right now, kind of a depressing story.

In short, it's hard. Really hard.

I don't want to suggest that mine is the only experience. There are many voices out there discussing their own experiences, and some are a lot more positive — or are positive in the long term, looking back (so I will have to revisit this subject later on). I don't suppose my experience is any less valid, though I don't want anyone reading to think that this is how it will be for you.

I think that's what worries most women about going into pregnancy while breastfeeding, actually: It's all unknown. Will my milk dry up? When? Will my breasts hurt? How badly? Will my child react to the change in quantity or taste of milk? Will my child wean? Is that what I want? Will there be successful tandem nursing at the other end of it all? Is that what I want? And, of course, the questions start even before pregnancy, because you have to wonder if breastfeeding is affecting your fertility.

And no one can tell you, Here's what will happen for you and your children. They can talk statistics (70% of mothers experience a significant drop in milk supply during pregnancy; 26% of children seem to self-wean during pregnancy, and up to 69% wean, when mother-led weaning is included), but you can't know where you will fall within those statistics.

I had high hopes I might avoid the largest groupings, but…yeah. We'll see.

First off, breastfeeding during pregnancy hurts. It never used to for me, ever. Well, there was that one time I had a scratch on my areola that stung like the dickens, and I was always a little ouchy premenstrually when my cycles got back into swing, but in general nursing has been an easy road, once everything was established. I say this not as a boast but as an admission and a point of contrast. I always had sympathy for nursing mamas who felt pain on nursing, I truly did — but now I have empathy. When Mikko asks for nummies, it's seriously the last thing I want to do. And I never offer anymore. It's like if someone went around asking you at random intervals, "Hey, mind if I tweak your sore nipples again?" You really, really want to say no. Even when there's a cute and eager little face attached to the request.

Secondly, my milk? Pfft. Gone, round about the 15-week mark. I had such high supply leading up to pregnancy, I thought I might avoid the often inevitable consequences of pregnancy hormones, but no. I can't squeeze a thing, and Mikko has confirmed it: He's getting nothing. And the further downside is that dry nursing hurts even more. I'd hoped that the soreness was a first-trimester sort of thing, but it's not.

It's frustrating, because all my tricks to increase or maintain milk supply are useless now against the onslaught of hormones. Supply and demand means nothing to my pregnant body. My techniques to limit soreness, starting fundamentally with a good latch and no nursing acrobatics, keep the pain within (barely) tolerable levels, but they don't prevent it, and they don't solve it. I still flinch on every latch and grit my teeth throughout the nursing. I can no longer stay asleep during nursing in bed, because it's too uncomfortable; I have to try to wait until he's fallen asleep and then push him away so I can roll over and try to get some rest. I find myself trying to put him off nursing whenever I can, which is both an immediate relief if he agrees, but somewhat worrisome to me as a habit.

It's confusing, because I'm such a staunch breastfeeding advocate, a defender of extended nursing, a person who really, truly loved breastfeeding — and now I'm not even sure what I want. Do I want Mikko to wean? In the individual moments, I want not to be breastfeeding. When I step back and look at the big picture, I feel horrible that he might wean before he intended to or would have otherwise, simply because I'm pregnant.

There's this patina of guilt coating everything. I would never lay such blame on any other mother, but I can't avoid feeling it for myself. Our decision to get pregnant was, yes, a little carefree, but my son is three-and-a-half years old. He doesn't need to depend on breast milk for his nourishment. And bringing a new baby into the family is a good thing, not a cause for recrimination, no matter what the circumstances (I believe). I think, in the long run, that Mikko will be glad to have a sibling, and we will all be glad to have become a family of four — no matter what the transition means to Mikko's nursing relationship.

And, yet, I feel I would forever regret it if Mikko were to wean within the next months — because I would always attribute it to my choice to get pregnant, and to my negative reactions during the pregnancy, no matter how justified each element is.

This is how it's affected me, but how has it affected Mikko so far? It's been rough on him, too.

The decrease in breastmilk really has had an effect. First of all, he's constantly "hungry and thirsty." I know sometimes his asking for food and drink is a result of boredom (just as that has sometimes been his reason for nursing). But the fact is, he's no longer getting the calories and fat he used to from breastmilk, and it's had an effect on how full he feels throughout the day and night.

Of more concern for me are the other elements of breastmilk he's now missing. Mikko, like many preschoolers, is a terribly picky eater. Some friends on Twitter and I were talking about how we used to pride ourselves on our adventurous eaters — and then they changed into their current incarnations, which we can only hope is a temporary manifestation. Basically, Mikko's diet is white. White chicken, carbs, potatoes, pasta, and whatever sugar he can get his paws on. We're lucky if we can convince him to eat some fruit or broccoli (his sole vegetable). I used to not worry so much about his limited diet, because I knew he was supplementing with all the nutrients in breastmilk. But now, I know anything he gets is from what he eats. I'm feeling a lot more pressure to encourage him to variety, and it's all of a sudden.

Another important element of breastmilk is the immune-boosting properties. Mikko had a fever the other night, and I was so sad as he was nursing to sleep, knowing he wasn't getting any antibodies anymore. I worry that he might get sick more often and not recover as quickly; plus, nursing during an illness was sometimes the only thing that would comfort and nourish him.

But where we've most noticed a difference is sleep. Ugh. We're night owls, anyway, so you have to translate the times a little. For instance, Mikko used to go to bed somewhere around 10 p.m., and we would stay up a few hours more to get some work done, then all get up around 10 in the morning. When I say that we were happy one night that Mikko fell asleep one night, without too much struggling, at 3:30 a.m., you can get a sense of the frustration we've been feeling — and the exhaustion.

The night before that, I had lost it. I'm not proud at all of how I reacted, and I had to apologize to him the next day. I had tried to go down to bed with him at 1:30 a.m., several hours past his usual bedtime, in hopes my presence would lull him to sleep as well. Plus, I was exhausted, too. His nighttime sleep had been horrendous for the past week or so. He was kicking me, waking up with dreams, needing to get up to go to the potty, nursing several times a night and for hours at a time, a big change from nursing to sleep and nursing a couple hours before he woke up — a rhythm he had fallen into in the past six months or so. Combined with my pregnancy-induced tiredness and other stresses, I was ready for sleep.

But Mikko was not. He was pinging off the walls, rolling on top of me, kicking me in the face, chattering to me, trying to climb over me to get to my nightstand. At 3:30, after two hours of unsuccessfully trying to sleep through this, groggy and livid, I roared. I started swearing. I told him he had to stay in bed and he had to go to sleep. He called me a monster, and I couldn't disagree. He cried that he wanted to go downstairs to his dad, who would be nicer, and I refused to let him. I think at that point I could have used the cooling off, but I stayed. I sulked and locked us both in the bedroom together. Half an hour later, through tears, he fell asleep. I stomped down the stairs. I was still too angry to sleep, so I tried to get some of the work done I'd been neglecting without my usual nighttime hours of adult time.

Sam looked over at me and told me he'd asked Mikko earlier that day if he was getting any milk. "No," Mikko had said simply, "the baby took it all."

I about cried. For what it's worth, that's not the language we've been using about where the milk has gone, but that's how a three-year-old interpreted it. Sam pointed out that Mikko has nursed to sleep his entire life and now, within the span of a week, he had lost his full tummy and the warm, sweet taste in his mouth as his cue to drift off. It threw us all for a loop.

I assume that this part of the transition is temporary — that Mikko will figure out how to get to sleep and stay asleep without breastmilk. But, for now, it's tough on all of us.

And the psychological conundrum is ever present. I was lying in bed last night, Mikko latched on with me unable to sleep, calculating the months left in my head. I wondered, Can I really do this? Can I really put up with the discomfort for that long? I tried to remind myself it's only scattered times a day, and I only have to endure each one as it comes — but it's still not something I look forward to. But what I do look forward to is having an abundance of milk after the baby arrives, and the joy I might be able to give Mikko then if he hasn't forgotten how to latch or lost interest. I also love the idea that tandem nursing might ease Mikko through some of those early issues of sibling rivalry and make him realize we're all still connected, even though he has to share his mama now.

I watch him latch as he dry nurses, and it's still perfect for now. But I struggle, mentally, with allowing him to nurse so very much since he's not getting anything physical from it and since, no matter how often he does, my supply is going to stay the same. It's one of those weird contradictions again, because I'm a huge encourager of "comfort" nursing, both because breastfeeding is an act of comfort — but also because all suckling, in a non-pregnant situation, encourages milk supply. In this case, that second motive is lost, and I find myself feeling justified cutting nursings shorter and shorter, or distracting him at times.

I was hoping that maybe my colostrum would come in early. I seem to remember it coming in around 20-ish weeks when I was pregnant with Mikko, but I don't have it written down anywhere. At the time, it was a curious and interesting fact, a harbinger of what my breasts would be able to do, but there was no point to it other than that then, so I didn't remember the timing exactly. I've been thinking maybe if Mikko got some colostrum, (a) he'd be more likely to keep nursing, and he'd get some of those antibodies I like to pass on, and (b) it would hurt less. But I asked on Facebook and Twitter, and the responses were quite varied. Some tots like the taste of colostrum, and some really don't. Some mamas noticed a decrease in pain, and some did not at all. So even that's no true hope.

The good news in all of this is that, as mentioned before, I have an intensified sympathy for any other mamas struggling with low milk supply or tender breasts while breastfeeding. I've always considered women who persevered past such problems heroines, but now I can really feel it. I mean, the optimism inherent in a situation like that in early breastfeeding is that it often can be overcome, with help from a lactation consultant when needed. In my case, the only light at the end of the tunnel is birth.

My takeaway message from all this? Well, first of all, don't let me discourage you from trying to breastfeed through pregnancy. There's no reason not to give it a shot if you have an older nursling and are expecting already. Don't beat yourself up if you're already pregnant and are now in this situation; children can adapt, and you can figure out a way through that works for you and your little ones. See how optimistic and tolerant I can sound when it's not my kid and my discomfort?

If you're trying to decide when or whether to start trying to conceive while breastfeeding, all I can recommend is thinking about it carefully, acknowledging that, statistically speaking, you'll likely have to supplement nutritionally (donated breastmilk or formula for infants under a year, increased table food and drink for babies of an age to be eating solids). You also need to consider how you feel about the heightened possibility of weaning, whether because your child chooses it or because nursing becomes too uncomfortable for you. If your child is prone to illness or is under two years of age, you might also consider the effect on health of losing the supply of antibodies that breastmilk brings. For most women, there's no danger with nursing during pregnancy, in terms of miscarriage or preterm labor, or diminished nutrition for the expectant mother or unborn baby.

In the end, only you and your partner can decide if trying for another baby now is right for you and your current nursling — after you weigh the benefits of adding to the family with the drawbacks of what might happen to your present breastfeeding relationship.

I would also suggest, whether you are pregnant already or seeking to become so in the near future, that you prepare your older nursling for the transition as well as your child is able to understand and adapt in advance (depending on your child's age and maturity). It can help to be matter of fact and positive about it, at least outwardly, so you're not projecting your own fears onto your child. For instance, I started suggesting to Mikko early on in the pregnancy that the milk in my nummies might go away, but that it was all right — he could continue to have nummies, and if he was thirsty or hungry, we could find him other drinks and food. I've also kept reminding him that the milk will come back when the baby's born, and he and the baby can share, which he seems to understand and look forward to. If you know you want to wean (or night wean), you might start gradually cutting down on nursing sessions in terms of frequency and length now so that it's a gentle process. Even if you don't want to wean, you might consider finding methods of putting your child to sleep at night that don't involve nursing, perhaps getting a co-parent to help you. If your child will have a tough time transitioning to eating more solids or drinking other fluids, or eating a varied diet, you might try increasing exposure to foods and encouraging frequent snacking. We did some of these transitional techniques, but if I could go back in time, I would work harder on the sleep angle!

I started writing this post before Christmas, and just getting my thoughts out has given me a clearer vision on what I want, and how blessed we already are that Mikko and I have had this attachment for so long — and that we'll continue it, no matter when breastfeeding stops being involved. I'm going to try to be patient and less grouchy, and just look forward with him to the new baby's arrival, because he truly is excited about becoming a big brother. He'll be fine, I'll be fine, and the baby will bring us all joy. Eventually.

I'll stop back in with you next trimester.

Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and BeyondSome helpful resources for you from kellymom.com and Hilary Dervin Flower, the author of Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond:

What have your experiences been with breastfeeding and pregnancy? Did you wean beforehand, cut down during, or go on to tandem nurse? Or are you in the same boat of trying to conceive or already expecting and wondering what your course will be?


seekingmother said...

Such a thorough and fascinating account of this process. I was completely absorbed and look forward to hearing how this works out for all of you. I am amazed by the clarity of your writing despite your lack of sleep.

Anonymous said...

I did not nurse my older one while pregnant so I really have no advice, except this. Trust your body. Good luck and I hope your families transition from 1 to 2 is as peaceful as ours was.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

What an incredibly informative post! Thank you especially for all of those links at the end. Still keeping my fingers crossed that I will be joining you in this new adventure soon :)

dulce de leche said...

I love this post! So honest and so informative. I've nursed through three pregnancies and am triandeming now. You have my full sympathies, admiration and encouragement.

Jessica said...

I feel your pain. We (my older nursling and me) are going through this as well. I believe that there is still some milk but not much. Only occasionally do I hear him gulp and more times than not he asks for milk or water after he stops nursing. I too am having the torn emotions between being glad to introduce a new baby into the family and a sadness of taking from one for another. My plan is to do the best I can and roll with the punches. It's really all we can do one this roller coaster.

TopHat said...

The uncertainty is the worst. Just the other day someone asked me about how nursing through pregnancy was and I responded, "Well, it hurt. And I wanted to throw Margaret across the room sometimes." They were a little shocked, but it's the truth.

I don't know if I'll do it again. The moms I know who have done it have done it once and made sure they weaned before the next one. I might do it again- I mean, I made it through one pregnancy, so I know I'm tough. ;) Of course, maybe my next nursling will react differently to the changes. Oh more uncertainty. What fun!

Michelle said...

Overall, I have had a very positive experience with tandem nursing. My nurslings are now 15 months old and 3.5 years old. However, I would like to have a bigger spacing between my 2nd and 3rd children - like 3 years - , and have my 2nd child *mostly* weaned when I get pregnant again.

Anonymous said...

I haven't actually experienced nursing a toddler while pregnant yet, but I have heard a lot of women talk about it in LLL. Even if he does wean, apparently a lot of toddlers start nursing again once your milk comes back. I've actually heard of toddlers who stopped nursing before mom even got pregnant that wanted to nurse again when the new baby was born.

I've also heard of moms telling their toddler "you can nurse until I'm done singing a song" and you determine which song you want to sing depending on how long you want to nurse.

Hang in there mama! Congrats on the babe in your tummy btw!

Hyacynth said...

I felt the same exact way guilt wise when I lost my milk around 16 weeks pregnant with number two and number one still wanted more mommy milk. Sadly, he verbalized around week 22 of my pregnancy that he was done because nothing was coming out anymore.
I let the guilt overcome me when he'd react terribly to a situation after the baby was born and I thought about how he might not be feeling that way if he were still nursing. BUT as my boys have grown {now 3.25 years and almost 16 months} I see how much we've added to their lives by having them close together. They are such good friends. And he has a life-long buddy now. I think that it's been worth it. Best of luck continuing the nursing relationship.

Audra Michelle said...

I found out I was pregnant just two days before my son's first birthday. We were able to nurse three months. My milk dried up nearly instantly as well, but he dry nursed most days. It was also quite painful and his latch got really bad. One night, he sort of chewed on me and I had a major contraction. That was the last time we nursed. He was a premie and I knew I needed to be extra careful with this pregnancy. I cried for quite awhile at the change in our relationship. I struggled with PPD/anxiety with my first. Through the pregnancy and early days with two boys, I struggled with the changing relationship with my oldest more than anything else. It took awhile, but we found our way! I have tried since I gave birth to get him to latch again, but he won't - even with a nipple shield (we've used them before and he still has bottles). I love giving him a cup of "momma milk" and watching his grin and hearing a big, "mmmm! Momma milk!" when I am able to pump for him. Things have changed, but they've gotten sweeter with two! Hang in there!

Jenn said...

Great post, thank-you. I am 20 weeks pregnant, and my 19mth old weaned about 6 weeks ago. It was really, really tough for me, as I was hoping she would continue nursing through-out the pregnancy. I really feel that 17months is so so early to wean, but like you, I did everything I could to continue, but nothing was stopping the hormones decreasing my supply. It got to the point where she would ask for "milkies", then just before latching on would say "NO!" and push me away. Like she remembered that there was no milk left. I tasted a wee bit of my milk at about 12weeks pregnant, it was very salty and not at all like the pleasant sweet milky taste it used to be. Like you, I felt so sad that she was no longer getting the milky treat she was used to. Mothering without nursing has taken us both some time to get used to, and all the things you said about the child being hungry all the time, and not having the immunne benefits ring true for me too. I'm holding out hope she might start again in a few months.
I wish you all the best.

Jess said...

I found out I was pregnant when my daughter was 10 months old. At 10 months she was nursing we she woke, after nap, and before bed. I guess 8 oz per feed or so. When I got pregnant, my milk must have changed because she suddenly didn't want to nurse after nap. Then the next month, even when I offered it to her she didn't want it. I'm a lactation specialist now b/c I struggled with alot of issues in the beginning with Natalie.

My second will be 10 months next week and he only nurses 3 times a day too. I don't see us weaning anytime soon. I am assuming my pregnancy hormones changed the taste with Natalie. I planned on nursing to a year...maybe longer. I'm kinda on the belief that if you wait long enough to have to explain to a child why you are taking away the pacifier, the bottle, the breast etc I've waited too long. I might pump and sippy cup feed for another year after I wean one feed at a time. Good luck! I know it must be frustrating.

I hate that you are feeling so much guilt. You have given Mikki 3.5 great years of nursing! You'll be nursing another baby soon, so a break and some rest for your nipples might be much needed. Good luck hun!

Anonymous said...

You just do the best you can when nursing while pregnant. I nursed throughout one pregnancy and for quite a long time after until I was nursing a toddler and a preschooler. It was very hard at times. I decided not to do that again with the next child, and so encouraged weaning. Even though he was down to nursing a couple of times a day, I felt I just couldn't do it. Of course, he was the kid with the worst allergies in the whole family, and I still feel guilty that I didn't carry on for at least a few more months. Hind sight is always 20-20!

Mommy C said...

I love all the honesty! It is so refreshing!! I am 12 weeks pregnant and my son will be 1 this Sunday. I am basically done nursing now despite my desire to nurse all the way through.

Before I even knew I was pregnant, my son's latch changed and it hurt like hell. I stuck with it, visited a lactation consultant that helped a little, and hoped for the best. He ended up dropping 2 of the 6 feedings and I was just nursing morning, before each nap, and before bed. I would have moments of such pain and nausea that I was sure that I was going to throw up. The pain got so bad and I was so nauseous and exhausted that I decided to wean him from the two before his nap a couple weeks ago. I had been nursing morning and night, but had to start supplementing with the frozen breastmilk I had about a week or so ago then it got to the point where it was silly to even try at night. He wasn't really wanting to latch and when he did it hurt like hell. He was content to take the bottle of breastmilk and whole milk combo so I let go. Part of me wants to keep trying in the morning, but the other part of me is ready to just be done. Honestly it is really only the guilt keeping me going at this point. (Tears flowing down my face as I type this...)

My son is also really struggling to fall asleep at night. I had thought it was teething or the beginning of a cold, but now I wonder if it could be this transition. Fortunately tonight was the best night in a while and he is sleeping soundly within an hour of bedtime.

Thank you for your post. It is comforting to know I am not alone.

BTW- the book that is recommended by Kelly Mom- The Adventures in Tandem Nursing- was highly disappointing. I felt like it told me everything that could go wrong and had no answers for solving it. I was very frustrated that it wasn't a better resource.

J.C. said...

thank you. i really needed this. dd1 is 17mos and i am 25wks pg w/ dd2....i discovered yesterday, that at some point over the last week my milk disappeared, and while i do have a little bit of colostrum, its not a lot. we only nurse ~3x/day, and she nightweaned herself a few months ago, but its nice to know that the conflicting feelings/emotions are normal. part of me wants to fully wean, and part of me wants to let her do it when she's ready....ugh. not sure which is worse, the physical pain or the mental/emotional pain...

Stacy said...

I nursed my now 3.5 year old daughter the entire time that I was pregnant with my now 8 month old son. We nursed less than the author however. In order for my cycle to come back we had cut back to a couple times a day and we had night weaned around 2 years.
There got to a point in the end of the second trimester when it was so painful that we really had to limit how much she could nurse. By the end of my pregnancy I was only letting her nurse for a few seconds at a time. But that was fine with her, since it was still something. And then when her brother was born, it was a great bonding experience for them to be able to nurse together.
My daughter adores her brother and I know part of it is because of being able to nurse together.
I do have to say that I loved nursing my daughter after my son was born- it was so helpful to have someone verbal tell me what was going on. She told me if there was milk and how much and if it was coming out fast, etc. It was great.
Whatever you end up doing will be the right thing for both you and your family. Good luck!

Michelle @ The Parent Vortex said...

Sorry to hear you're having such a hard time, Lauren. I get cranky enough nursing during PMS - I don't think I could stick it out and nurse throughout a pregnancy.

Even if you do decide to stop nursing Mikko during this pregnancy I don't think that is a reason for you to feel guilty. Attachment doesn't have to mean martyrdom, and if nursing is causing you to suffer and causing your relationship to suffer, then maybe weaning would be a positive step, not a negative one. I'm not saying that is what I think you should do, just that weaning during a pregnancy doesn't have to come with the baggage of mom guilt.

Heidi said...

wow. reading all of these experiences is really overwhelming. I have a 14 m/o DS and we are currently TTC. i'm actually ovulating now, lol. I have just been of the mind that I would encourage him to nurse through and that I would love love love to tandem nurse. I knew that he could wean and things might not go that way, but hearing it the way you all and the author have explained makes it kind of hit home. I do not want him to wean before he's ready.... it's such a hard decision to make. I guess it never really struck me the problems he could have when my milk goes..... Thank you for being honest, it has definitely given me something to think about!

Mommypotamus said...

Oh wow, I can really empathize with you. My daughter just turned three and I have a three month old son. Nursing through pregnancy and the first few days of tandem nursing were so HARD, but I'm glad I stuck with it. My soreness is finally (mostly) gone and my daughter is as enthusiastic as ever about nursing. It means so much to her and has helped a lot with the transition. Wow, just thinking about it caused my milk to let down, LOL!

Momma Jorje said...

I nursed Tyler for 3½ years. I basically let her wean herself, though I might have been helping a bit there at the end. (I don't really remember.) After nursing for that long, my milk NEVER went away. When she was 8yo, I could still express milk. I think it might have gone salty, like some others have mentioned.

I knew you were having some trouble and have been thinking about you... and worrying about me. Sasha is 15 months and our nursing relationship is going strong. If I am home she almost ALWAYS nurses to sleep. She also nurses in the night. When I'm not home, she just lies down and goes to sleep when she gets tired enough. She has done that a couple of times for me, too.

That said, we're TTC right now and I've gone from worried to really worried about this. I did consider the risk, but I also know that I want to have our next (and last) child before I turn 40. I'll be 38 in February. I feel a little selfish rushing things, but I have many reasons and we debated quite a bit before deciding on timing.

I'd like to add, though, perhaps when your colostrum comes in, Mikko won't like the taste - but then maybe that will put a bit more of the decision to stop nursing on him, rather than you.

Whatever lies ahead for you & yours, I wish you peace. I hope you find it sooner than later.

Leslie said...

I have a six year old, a two (almost three) year old and a three month old. I nursed during my recent pregnancy (which I got a lot of flack for!) and I can relate to the pain. Oh, the pain! Luckily, my milk supply was plentiful throughout my pregnancy. My toddler is still nursing along with her new baby sister. Still, I can relate to so much of what you're experiencing. Thanks for sharing! Sometimes I feel like the only tandem nursing mom out there. I'm glad to know I'm not. Hang in there.

Cassie said...

I'm currently breastfeeding and pregnant. I think I'm about as far along as you... maybe a week or two ahead of you. I feel you on every point you made. Fortunately, I can still squeeze out milk so I know there's at least some there. My son is 19 months and didn't eat much foods until recently so I know my supply is dropping a little, I'm just hoping that it won't drop all the way.
My son still nurses about the same at night still- nurses to sleep then a few times during the night. I know that he's a huge comfort nurser, so I think he'll make it the whole way through pregnancy as long as I'm willing. So far, it's ok... sometimes a little bothersome (just since I've noticed the drop in supply) but not too bad. It's nothing compared to how bad it hurt when I first started nursing, or when I've had thrush a few times.
I really feel for you... I can understand all your feelings about thinking about weaning but not wanting to... it's so hard. I know you'll make the right choice for you and your family. You guys are so loving that Mikko will be happy no matter what. I'm praying for early colostrum for you :) and an abundance of milk when baby comes!

Grammy Mouse said...

Great article! I so wish there was this kind of information back when mine were babes. w/my oldest I was not able to nurse because he was premie and they did not offer me any other alternative (ages ago!) w/#2 5 years later I tried, but no one showed me or gave instruction, including the 1 visit by a home nurse. I ended up having to stop due to cystic breast disease, and all my trying, even tho I supplemented with formula & he drank that fine, he did start on a bad sleep schedule that did not end until he started school. But as encouragement for others, my neighbor (we moved when my youngest was 9 months old) had 12 single births, and BF them all. so it did not always offer the birth control coverage, she managed to get the older child to slow at nursing and have enough for the newest baby.
Good luck. I am sure Mikko will get used to what ever you may try to offer at bedtime, if only a co-sleep or extra story. Best wishes!
~Faythe ~ GMT~

Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) said...

My first child weaned a few months before I became pregnant with my second so I didn't have the same issues. I have no helpful information for you, but I wanted you to know that I read this with interest, and I hope things all work out for you as you hope (or at least can be satisfied with).

Unknown said...

I'm currently tandem nursing my almost 4.5yr DD and my nearly 2yr DD.
During pregnancy, I remember the dry nursing hurting sooooo badly. I'm so sorry! I wish there were something that would help w/ that! But that only lasted a few wks for us. By 18wks, my colostrum had come in and there was plenty! My DD said it tasted funny, but she didn't care! She is such a comfort nurser that as long as it was nursing, she'd take it!
DD4 also had big sleep issues during pregnant nursing. It had always been the way she'd fall asleep. We began to solidfy a real nighttime routine so she knew exactly what was coming next. We also used this time to wean her out of our bed. We only had a queen mattress. 4 of us were not going to fit in this bed! 2 plus a pregnant belly were enuf to contend w/! We gave her alone time to look at books in bed before I would come and nurse her for only 5 or so minutes, then cuddles after that.
One of the hopes I can give you: If Mikko keeps nursing thru your pregnancy (even if only for seconds at a time), he will LOVE the new milk when it comes in! I limited a little during those 1st few days of colostrum. I wanted new baby to get the full benefits. But once the milk came in, my big one was so excited!! There's so much fat in newborn milk, she just loved it. She started nursing like a newborn again, too!! Plus, I only remember being engorged once with baby 2. And after a few minutes of big sis nursing, that was gone!
My oldest DD is now only nursing 10sec. in the am. DD2 is still nursing on demand, although I do redirect at times. (We have sleep issues. If I nurse her for any length of time (seconds are okay but minutes make her too sleepy) after 5pm, she's down for the night, and I'm up at 3am. Still haven't figured out what to do about that.)
We will probably TTC during the spring. I hope that DD2 can stick it out through the pregnancy. I love how my girls bonded because they shared something so special to all of us.
God be with you as you make the decisions that are right for you and your family. Don't forget to seek local support. I was fortunate that 2 or 3 ladies in my LLL group & one of my midwives had previously tandem nursed. Their words of support will be invaluable!

Unknown said...

I am SO glad you shared your story!! This is exactly what happened to me. The only difference in that my son is much younger than yours. Emmett has just turned a year old and I am 33 weeks pregnant so our problems started when he was only about 6 months old. I've always wanted to have my children close together but if I would have known then what I know now we would not be having another baby already. The guilt I felt over not being able to nurse properly was and is overwhelming.
I've never heard another mom say that she dreaded nursing the way I do. I too never offer feedings but wait until he asks for it and then cringe the entire time. Thankfully he is down to onlt feeding 2 or 3 times per day because he gets most of his nutrition from meals now but when he was 6 months through 9 months our lives were pure hell. He was constantly cranky because he wasn't getting enough milk and I was in constant pain due to the nursing. He even went through a biting phase, which I think was due to frustration, that added to the torture and agony of breast-feeding.
The worst part about the whole mess was the extreme guilt I felt. I love to nurse my children! I felt like I had ruined everything and potentially scared my son for life. Of course he won't remember being and infant and having troubles with breastfeeding but subconsciously this experience will always be with him and I fear it will affect him as he gets older.
Anyway, I went off on a little rant there sorry. I really just want to say thank you for sharing your story. It was as if I had written it myself and it is oddly comforting to know that I'm not the only mom who had this experience with bfing while pregnant.

Anonymous said...

In regards to Mikko continuing to nurse, my mother had the same experience that you did when she became pregnant again when I was almost three. I nursed less as she dried up, then happily went back to it for 6 months or so after my sister was born. Hang in there!

www.Tmuffin.com said...

So funny that you posted this. I just posted a similar post last night, and noticed that you follow my blog too!

Anyway, I am going through the same thing right now. Thirty-six weeks pregnant with a 19-month old who I was convinced had weaned one month ago. But the past 5 days he has been back to nursing 2-3 times a day! My colostrum finally came in this past weekend, I think.

It has been SUCH a roller coaster. Dealing with the same feelings: should I try to wean? Is it weird to dry nurse a toddler? Will I be overwhelmed with tandem nursing if my son continues to wean?

I just decided to let it be completely child-led. Baby T can nurse if he wants to or not. But if that's what he needs, who am I to interfere?

The incredible thing is that there are SO many emotions that go along with it. Your post brought up so many emotions that I didn't even get to when writing my blog post. It's a never-ending saga with so many twists and turns. Hang in there. I know you are following your instincts, and that will lead you to do what's right for you and your family.

Kristen @ My Semi-Crunchy Life said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. Hugs! I did decide to gently wean my daughter when I was pregnant with my son. She was only nursing to sleep and, like Mikko, always nursed to sleep. It went smoothly and seemed that we were both pretty ready, but I still sometimes wonder if she'd still be nursing if I hadn't added a little encouragement there.

Hang in there! Looking forward to reading an update about how things are going.

Anna Q said...

Thank you for this! I'm going through the exact same thing right now. My 18 month old, Liam, seems to think it is funny that my milk is pretty much gone. He laughs at it as though I'm playing a joke on him. I almost cried tonight when he tried to nurse for about 5 seconds and then got down. I'm so used to having that cuddling time before he goes to bed.
My 5 year old asked why I wasn't nursing Liam so long and I told him that I only have so much milk and Liam has drank almost all of it up but when the baby is born then I'll have more.

dianthe said...

i have lived this life! i just knew that my daughter would self-wean when i was pregnant - and almost everyone predicted that she would - no such luck - she even nursed while i was in labor!

i went through the same guilt and emotions as you and finally starting to count to 10 ... A LOT! i'm currently tandem nursing my 34 month old daughter and 10 month old son - it was hard when i was pregnant and EXHAUSTING that first month of tandem nursing - but i got through it and even though i'd be thrilled if my toddler weaned, it's been a great experience and i'm happy i decided to stick it out!

good luck to you in whatever you decide!

Cassie said...

One question to tandum nursers- how do you know it's colostrom instead of milk?! Maybe I have colostrom and not milk?

Luschka @Diary of a First Child said...

Oh dear. Now I'm slightly terrified! We've been talking about number two but I'm very scared of being sick again...now there's this too!

I guess I'll just have to see how it goes. All the best to you three. I hope your transition is a peaceful on, and your colustrum comes in soon.

Melodie said...

I nursed my oldest all through my pregnancy but she was definitely dry nursing. She didn't seem to mind too much though. I think she just liked the closeness we maintained and she didn't nurse very long if I told her it was starting to feel uncomfortable for me, which, lucky for me, it didn't hurt too much at all. I also started putting her to bed much earlier and found that she slept better when I changed our routine to reflect an earlier bed time for her.

suzannah | the smitten word said...

my little ones are 23 months apart and i nursed my daughter until i was about 7 months pregnant with my son.

i did not lose my milk supply, but my breasts were very sore and i grew increasingly uncomfortable as my belly swelled. weaning was a gradual and mutual process over the course of the summer. had i not been pregnant, we would have kept going, but the road it took worked for us (and my kids relationship with one another is a treasure i wouldn't trade for anything--even a longer bfing relationship with my first.)

don't beat yourself up, and take care of yourself, too. nursing or not, you will mother your son and be able to meet his needs. no mama guilt!

Danielle said...

Oh my. First and foremost, you deserve a giant hug and a great big pat on the back.

After that, I have an experience of my own and perhaps a few words that will help you out.

I got pregnant when my son was just over 15 months. I didn't know what it would mean for our nursing relationship but I did know that we would have to continue to adjust and adapt as my body changed and as his needs changed; with the aim of always doing what is best for the whole family, not exclusively what was best for my little guy.

At about 10 weeks I was exhausted, my little one was waking multiple times a night to nurse and I couldn't do it anymore. I wasn't able to be the mama that I wanted to be at night or during the day. Something had to give. We decided, as a family, that we should night wean. To give me a chance to rest and my little one the chance to have a more engaged, alert and attentive mama during the day.

We continued to nurse during the day but it didn't take long before I noticed a dip in supply. It didn't hurt me, like you are describing, but my little one definitely wasn't satisfied with the offerings. One day, as we laid down for our pre-bedtime feeding, he stopped. He turned to me and said "No." Rolled over, snuggled in and went to sleep. He never asked after that.

So, I guess I had it kind of easy. My little one was ready to be done. Our transition was peaceful and happened in a gentle way. That being said, make sure you are looking through to what is best for you and your family. That may mean altering your nursing relationship. It is a relationship, a two-way street, if you aren't happy and satisfied with it, perhaps something needs to change. Mikko is a deeply attached little one. He wants a happy mama, too.

You've done an amazing job nursing your little one for as long as you have and I hope you can end or continue your nursing relationship in a way that feels good and right to both of you.

Unknown said...

I'm so glad you wrote this, Lauren. Your honesty and thoroughness is much appreciated. I wish you a smooth transition into mothering two, and peace with whatever happens in your breastfeeding relationship with Mikko.

Anonymous said...

There's absolutely nothing wrong with taking your needs into account, too. If you feel that you need to wean, you should do that. I think it's a healthy thing to show kids (at some point) that mama is in charge of her own body and makes the decisions regarding it.

kelly @kellynaturally said...

Lauren, I don't know how I missed this blog post. Oh yes, I do, it was right around Christmastime, and I'm on another planet in December. ;)

I hope things are improving a little for you.

I have so many times considered writing a post about my breastfeeding through pregnancy experience, but the lactivist in me has held off because... I didn't want to put any more "negativity" associated with breastfeeding out there. Yet, truthful stories are important to the dialog.
Truthfully, breastfeeding through pregnancy was one of the hardest things I did in parenting. Certainly, the experience is fading... now nearly 4 years ago... but I remember aspects of it.

The toe-curling discomfort creepy crawly feeling experience of my daughter nursing to sleep. My never offering. Wanting to push her away so I could just. get. some. sleep.

My colostrum did come in somewhere around month 7, after maybe 2 months of little to nothing in the way of supply. I was able to hand express just a bit throught pregnancy, so I don't think it ever totally went away. But right before colostrum, I had breasts that just felt like two giant bruises.

The upside? There is an upside. My daughter reconnected with me after the baby was born, through nursing. All the guilt I was feeling over having a second child, over "not waiting long enough between children" (DD was 2.5 when DS was born), essentially faded away when I was able to nurse her. She helped (and/or caused, not sure, haha) my oversupply issue, and helped clear many plugged ducts through my tandem nursing experience. It kept us connected.

I'm sure we would have found other ways to connect, but it helped - the familiarity and comfort of nursing for us both - I was so glad it was still there (she took many days completely off nursing right after DS was born - maybe even 2 weeks - then all of a sudden came back to it).

I ended up nursing her until she was four. Around age 3.5 I started limiting nursing sessions, and cutting some out. The last time she nursed was probably shortly after turning 4, maybe 4.5.

DS just recently weaned at age 3.

If you want to make it through, you can. If you don't want to, or you find you just can't take it anymore, you can gradually cut back on the nursing, subbing in other forms of comforting, and after baby is born, he might come back to it - pregnancy weaning Mikko doesn't have to be forever.
I wrote about my nightweaning experience with DD - how I started to teach her alternate methods of falling asleep & soothing back to sleep gently. I'd like to say it was mostly child-led with gentle mother-suggestion. :) http://www.kellynaturally.com/post/Nightwaking-and-Nightweaning.aspx

Anonymous said...

Thank you, I'm currently 18 weeka pregnant with our 3rd, being guilted by our 3.5 year old into dry nursing. It is so uncomfortable, but I feel bad when he wants it so bad.

Anny said...

@Mommy C
Having recently been in this position (I got pregnant when DD 1 was just barely 10 months old, and am not the proud tandem nursing momma to a 4 week old and 20 month old) what really saved me in pregnancy was that my daughter would accept a bottle of soy milk before bed. I would let her dry nurse a little, then give her her bottle and let her "hold the boob" It took some time for her to get really comfortable with it, but now it's part of her routine (even though my milk is back she is still doing a bottle/boob/nurse combo at night. And it hasn't hurt our nursing relationship.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading this article weeks ago and now come back to read it again every day, since this is exactly my new situation.

My son just turned two, and a few days before I found out that I am pregnant again. He is also a frequent nurser, your stories of Mikko sound very familiar... when I am at home, he would still nurse 5-20 times a day (depending on his mood) and 3-10 times a night. I never offered, never needed to, and some months ago even started to decline because it was just too much to take for me.

Still, I had the idea to keep nursing him as long as he wants, to do child-led weaning and to tandem nurse if the situation arises. One week into this new pregnancy my feelings changed - my nipples are sore, so very sore that I can hardly take a few seconds of nursing. At the same time open cracks reappeared, a problem that I didn't have since the very first weeks of nursing (which were hard, 7 weeks of strong pain and bleeding nipples..).

So here I am, reconsidering whether we should wean now. The pain right now is really bad and I can't let him nurse any longer than a few seconds, maybe a minute. Some days he understands and goes off to his dad, other days (and nights) he cries and pleads and I don't know what to do. Yes, bad feelings here, too - should I just bear through the pain and bite my lip? For how long? And what if my breasts are as sore in the first weeks with the newborn to come, I really wouldn't be able to nurse two children in that case, it almost drove me mad (or towards weaning) the last time - what if I would have to limit him then, he would probably not take that too well in the new situation with a new baby....

So, I am eager to learn how your nursing relationship is working out right now. I wish you all the best, whether you wean or not.

Lauren Wayne said...

@schussel I'm so sorry to hear about your pain during nursing, and your son's sad reaction. I don't know what the best solution is for your situation, but I understand that either choice is a hard one. If it helps, here's a small update from my experience, now at the end of the second trimester. Nursing is still very painful for me, more so in one breast than the other. I've taken to prioritizing nursing on the less painful breast, since my milk has been gone regardless (so balancing them out for supply isn't an issue). On the other hand, putting off and cutting down on nursing hasn't been as stressful as I'd feared; probably Mikko is still nursing too much for my comfort and too little for his, but we've gotten used to this new routine and I've gotten more creative at distracting him when it's too much for me. At this point, I feel like he'll still be able to tandem nurse when the baby arrives if he wants, but he's, for instance, once again sleeping through the night (though we're still having problems getting to sleep), so I hope it won't be too overwhelming for me when the new baby is here.

The one comfort I can offer you is that I'm feeling less guilty about this gradual cutting down/weaning (if it is that), the longer it goes on and the more I realize how painful it is for me to nurse. I think having a new baby on the way helps emotionally, too. If you can take any changes you make gradually, you might find the same thing — that your son adapts as time goes on, and that you feel less conflicted about doing what you need to to feel comfortable. Because nipple pain, especially with cracking and open sores, is no joke, and I totally understand that. If you need to wean, whether immediately or in the future, you'll find new ways to connect with and comfort your son.

One more random tidbit for anyone who's interested: My colostrum has come in recently, at 25 weeks. It started in one breast a few days before the other — the one that has been nursed on more, if that's relevant. So far, Mikko hasn't had much reaction to this new development. I asked him how it tasted, and he just seemed neutral about it all, so it hasn't affected his nursing one way or the other. I feel a little better, because he's been sick, and I like that he's getting some antibodies again!

amber said...

I just found your blog and this was the first post I read...it really spoke to me. I was one of those women who LOVED bf'ing..I mean really loved it with my first born daughter. we got pregnant with my second when she was 2. there was no question that I would bf through pg and then go on to tandem. as soon as my supply dropped within the first 2 months, aversion hit me like a truck. my skin crawled everytime we sat down to nurse. it took everything I had not to throw her off me:( we resorted to abbreviated nursing sessions (like, I'll sing ABC's and then we're done) and nighttime weaning, b/c like you, I could no longer sleep through nursing and my pg body needed every ounce of sleep it could get. despite all this, persevere we did...I got through by convincing myself, all this aversion would go away when my milk came back in and my children would fend off sibling rivalry as they suckled together...I wish I could say that's what happened. aversion never completely went away for me with my older. a few months after my son was born and after I felt completely spread thin and raw around the edges (I had a bit of ppd) I gently introduced the idea of weaning to my dd. we talked about it a lot. planned a date. planned a party..as THE day drew closer and closer and her anxiety rocketed, we revisited the plan and both settled on partial weaning in that, she would no longer nurse during the day (unless something awful was happening) but would keep her "going to bed" nursing session. this worked for us for 18 months. just a few months ago, when she was 4.5, I again gently nudged her toward weaning, and this time it went over smoothly. she still asks occasionally, but a gentle reminder from me and some extra snuggle time together does the trick. it's a hard road...I'm so glad I stuck with it though. I wish you all the luck in the world! best...amber

Anonymous said...

Maybe your child could be helped to connect and bond in a deeper way with the significant others in his life, and then he will feel less insecure when the baby comes and less dependant on your boobies?

I saw a lovely picture once in a Sheila Kitzinger book I think, of some aboriginal children wearing clay boobies on a necklace, which they role-played with, feeding their own "babies"- some kind of dollies made of straw I think. Maybe you guys could make some for your son?

You could also do drawings and other art therapy, to help him (and you) to let go, and actually be happy about it....

Hope this helps! xxx

becca said...

thanks for this post - i'm 15 weeks pregnant and nursing my almost one year old. so far so good. i know my milk supply has dropped a bit but it's still there - not as much as he would like, but he is still gulping multiple times a day and night, so that's good. i'm really hoping it sticks around until my colostrum kicks in, especially since he's so young still. i wish someone could tell me it will! blessings to you and your little ones - look forward to a post on how tandem nursing is going when you get a chance!

Jenn said...

Thank you for this post. My situation is different, but similar. I have felt so much guilt for feeling like I do, which is very uncomfortable nursing while pregnant. Just knowing I'm not the only one makes it all so much easier. Thank you.

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