Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nursing Through Pregnancy

I read a blog a few weeks ago about one woman's journey of breastfeeding through pregnancy, and found it so inspiring that I wanted to write down my own thoughts and experience.

E was still nursing once or twice a day when I got pregnant, but we had already talked about cutting that back to just bedtime when we got back from our trip to Alaska. I knew he would need extra nursing time while we were travelling, and when I found out I was pregnant the day after we got back, it seemed to line up perfectly.

The first few weeks were fairly easy - he was used to having limits about nursing, and he was well prepared for this new limit, so it wasn't really a big deal for either of us. Around eight or nine weeks in, though, nursing started to get really painful for me; so bad at times that I actually had to ask him to stop, which was tough for both of us. We hadn't shared the news of the baby with him yet, so he didn't understand what had changed. I remember one instance when I asked him to stop because it was hurting me, and he looked up with tears in his eyes and said, "Mama, I don't want to hurt you! I'm sorry!" I was overcome with sadness - my first experience of having to balance the needs of two children.

Within a few weeks, I was unable to express any milk, and E had dropped down to nursing for just a few minutes every evening, and sometimes not at all. He kept telling me there was milk, except a handful of times when he would look up and say, "I don't want this nurse because there's no more milk in there!"

As I came out of the first trimester, E slowed down his nursing frequency even further, without any encouragement from me. For a month or two, I suspected he might wean during the pregnancy. He averaged four times a week for a few weeks, then three, then slowly dwindled down to about once or twice a week. It was a very gradual and natural process, and every few days he'd say with surprise, "Mama! I forgot to nurse. Can I nurse today?" At nearly 30 weeks pregnant, he nursed about once a week, and still seemed surprised that he could possibly not remember to nurse everyday. In the final part of my pregnancy, his nursing frequency has dropped even further - I think he's nursing about once a week, always in the mornings, and rarely for more than thirty seconds. Nursing has been so much a part of his life, his whole life, that he seems bewildered that he doesn't get the urge daily, and is often so busy with his preschooler life that he doesn't think about it.

Frankly, I feel the same. It seems like no time ago that I thought he might never slow down, that I may have to take firm action and set strong limits to wean him. I'm so joyful that it seems to be happening very naturally, and it looks very much like I'll be tandem nursing for at least a little while.

I have no trepidation about tandem nursing. So many friends have told me how much it helps with the sibling transition, and I know it will be quality time for the three of us. I'm certain it will have its challenges, but what nursing relationship doesn't?

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