During World Breastfeeding Week this year, I’m answering a few questions, sharing my resources, and telling my story.
PLEASE note: I’m not a lactation consultant. I’m not a doctor. I’m just a mom. I’ve probably spent 5,000 hours breastfeeding in the last 2 years (well, maybe close), and I’m breastfeeding after breast reduction surgery, have breastfed through a pregnancy, and am now tandem nursing an infant and a toddler. I’ve only missed 2 La Leche League meetings since Anneliese was born, and I’ve read a few books and tons of websites about breastfeeding. I don’t know nothing, but I certainly don’t know everything. My advice and ideas aren’t medical advice, and you should seek the assistance of an international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) if you’re having trouble.
Jasmine V. asked
I am very interesting in nursing through pregnancy and if there are any resources you read or would recommend.
Jasmine, the book a lot of people will cite is Adventures in Tandem Nursing.
I didn’t read it. My friend Joni did, and she said it was kind of depressing in parts. So I figured I’d skip it and play things by ear. She did tell me that the book says fully 70% of women who nurse in pregnancy have a significant reduction in supply, or “dry up” all together. But this doesn’t always mean that your nursling will wean. Many babies continue to nurse, for comfort and closeness, throughout pregnancy even if there is no milk or very little. Anneliese was one of those babies. Everything seemed normal at first, then my milk became salty, decreased in quantity, and disappeared. Around the third trimester, my colostrum came in. My daughter nursed through everything.
From what I’ve read about weaning during pregnancy, it seems as though a lot of the weaning 1) would have happened anyway (nursling is of a normal weaning age, gets busy doing other things, “forgets” to nurse, etc) or 2) is mother-initiated.
There were parts of my pregnancy which were uncomfortable to nurse through, especially at certain times of day (evening primarily), and I can understand that a mother might want to wean when the going gets tough. If that’s your situation, you need to evaluate what you’d like to do, and no one can make that decision but you.
Here are some La Leche League resources and member stories about breastfeeding through pregnancy. KellyMom also has a page full of links focusing on nursing in pregnancy and tandem nursing.
One thing I want to make sure to point out is that if your milk supply decreases or “leaves” in pregnancy, it is NOT your fault. It’s not because you’re not nursing often enough… you can’t “boost” it with galactagogues (and there are a few that aren’t safe in pregnancy, so be careful with those anyway)… and this isn’t something to be ashamed of or angry with yourself over.
This is because your body has certain hormone “receptors” that are like key holes… (ok, I’m not a doctor or a scientist, so this is very simplified, but this is the gist). Prolactin, one of the primary milk-making hormones, and progesterone, a hormone for supporting pregnancy and preventing miscarriage (and the one that makes you feel awful at the beginning of pregnancy), have very similar “keys.” Both fit into the same keyhole. So if you’re pregnant and your body is trying to make sure the fetus hangs in there, your keyholes are going to get pretty full of progesterone-keys, not leaving much room for prolactin-keys to join the party. There really isn’t much you can do.
(HOWEVER, since about 30% of moms don’t notice a significant decline in their breastmilk supply while pregnant, it doesn’t mean that if you continue to have lots of milk something is wrong… maybe your body just has a whole lot of “keyholes.”)
If your nursling is very young, and needs breastmilk, but your milk supply has decreased or “dried up,” look into a mother to mother milksharing program like Human Milk for Human Babies in order to find donors who will help you continue to give your child mother’s milk.
Something I’ve been meaning to do for a while is compile my nursing-related “notes” from my pregnancy blog posts, since this is something people ask me about relatively often (not every day, but you know… enough). It’ll give an overview of what nursing through pregnancy was like for me. Of course, everyone will have a different experience, but you may have some of the same changes and feelings, even if they aren’t on my “schedule.”
From my pregnancy announcement post, on the decision to breastfeed through pregnancy (and beyond).
- Yes, Anneliese is still nursing. Lots. Frequently. And more when she’s teething.
- No, I’m not planning on weaning her. I just can’t imagine that. She is still my little baby, and we both still get so much from our nursing relationship. It’s a wonderful way to feel close, a comfort to her, and of course a nutritional safety net as she goes through phases of food preference while on the gradual journey of baby-led weaning. Since I had a breast reduction and subsequently learned of the huge importance of breastfeeding, I am grateful every. Single. Day. That I can breastfeed her, that I can nourish her, that I can nurse and nurture her with my body, not just with my heart. Every day, I’m amazed by nursing her. I will continue as long as it’s working well for both of us.
- Yes, that means I might be nursing a baby and a toddler at the same time. I am so excited about it. I see photos, and they strike me as so incredibly beautiful. I hope I get to experience that.
When I was pregnant with Anneliese, it felt like my breasts had been kicked or beat up. I assumed it was because I was recovering from my breast reduction surgery. They HAD been kind of…excavated… very recently. Well, I’m feeling that same thing now. Not all the time. But now and then it’s like a trapeze acrobat has swooped in and kicked me in the chest. Anneliese is nursing just as frequently as before, and gulping as much as before. So no worries about supply at this point. Nipples are a bit sore, but I’m not sure if that’s my-baby-is-teething-and-nursing-a-bunch sore or pregnant+nursing sore. Or she-won’t-stop-pinching-my-opposite-nipple-while-she-nurses sore. Probably all of the above. Joni said her milk is more salty, and I was curious so I tasted mine. Tastes the same to me (if you’ve breastfed and have NOT tasted your milk EVER, you must have no sense of wonder or curiosity, seriously). No change.
Breasts are less sore than last week. Anneliese is nursing all the time. She is pinching a bit less but I pretty much have to constantly move her “top” hand and say “gentle hands” about 100 times each nursing session. Hopefully it will stick. She has a little wooden duck toy she LOVES and I tried to get her to hold that with her free hand while nursing today, but it just confused her, and she got all excited about the duck and wanted to suck on its head. Then she was like “but where’s my milk???” and she just kept switching back and forth between me and the duck. We’ll figure this out.
Awesome. Anneliese is nursing so much more nicely again. Very little pinching. Still some gymnurstics but we’re working on that. I think morning nursing is still her very favorite. If she were to mostly-wean I think that’s the one she’d hold on to the longest. When I get her from her bed in the morning, she signs “milk” excitedly, and usually follows up with “please.” She’s a bit upset that I want to change her diaper first, but it has to be done. Then we go to my room to snuggle and nurse in bed for a long time. My belly is a bit more tender now and I don’t like her lying on top of me with her pokey knees and toes especially when she squirms, so I’ve been tucking her into my arm and she curls up against the side of my body, and nurses, looking up at me. It’s SO sweet. I love rubbing her back while she nurses.
I love nursing her before bed too. When she is really sleepy her latch is perfect, and she doesn’t pinch or do any gymnurstics at all. Just cuddles in like a newborn. She hasn’t actually been falling asleep nursing though. A few times she has realized she was finished, and sat up, said “Nigh Nigh” and smiled, ready for bed. Other times, I’ve rubbed her back and said quietly, “Are you ready to go to bed?” and she will sleepily sit up and let me put her on her bed. Once on her bed, she finds her sleepy sheep and her pacifier and snuggles down, then drifts off to sleep after an “I love you” from me. Perfection.
My nipples aren’t as sore as they were, probably because she’s stopped pinching and her latch has gotten better again (less teeth action). If she does slip up and kind of grazes her teeth on me, I’ll unlatch her, touch her teeth and say “your teeth hurt mama.” And I do the sign language for “hurt” and “mama.” Then I say firmly “Don’t hurt Mama,” (with signs for all 3 words) and let her nurse again. She seems to be getting the point, and has even tried to sign “hurt” back to me.
Nursing is going great. My milk has definitely changed flavor (yes, I tasted) at least in the morning. It’s more salty, less sweet. When Anneliese is nursing in the morning, she nurses for a while, then sits up and signs “water” (new sign this week!), takes a sip of my water beside my bed, then signs “milk” and nurses more. Back and forth between breasts and water. She doesn’t seem to dislike the flavor at all, but does seem to be more thirsty for water, even throughout the day.
Still going strong. When Anneliese is sleepy though, she doesn’t want to nurse for very long. She DOES want to nurse… tries to open my shirt herself. But she only wants a minute or so before she switches to her pacifier and wants to go to sleep.
When she wakes in the morning, she wants to snuggle and nurse for a long time (still with water in between “sips”). Yesterday when she was doing that, I became curious if she was getting much milk or not, so I expressed a bit to see… and squirted her in the face. Squirts almost never happen for me. So… I guess this is a sign that production is just fiiine.
If we’re busy during the day – a lot of errands and such – Anneliese seems to “forget” about nursing as much, but when we are home and it’s quiet she crawls over to me and signs “milk” which is so sweet. She seems to be moving from baby nursing into toddler nursing – from getting the bulk of her nutrients and calories from mama-milk to mostly nursing for comfort and closeness.
Last week I mentioned that Anneliese was nursing for just a minute or two before going to sleep. This week? With teething and trying to learn to walk, she is nursing a LOT more. Before naps and before bed, she nurses for a long time on both sides, and then is almost impossible to latch without her crying and trying to re-attach herself. Thankfully she has become very good at settling herself, so when I KNOW she is sleepy and I KNOW she is finished nursing, I can put her on her bed, kiss her and tell her I love her, and leave the room. Even if she is WAILING and waving her arms around when I leave, within a minute or so, she lies down quietly and closes her eyes.
Anneliese still asks for water very often during the morning nursing session, so I have to make sure to have a cup of water beside my bed for her. Lots of nursing this week overall. Lots of cuddles. No boob soreness.
Still nursing. Still our “new” type of nursing relationship, but it is going well.
I really think my milk is starting to decrease. A lot. Anneliese sleeps all night lately (for a bit she was waking up once, but now she is back to all-night sleeping) and sometimes even puts herself back to sleep if she wakes too early in the morning (around 6 or even 7). She still likes her long morning nurse/cuddle session which I’m savoring since it seems to be the “big one.” Though she still goes back and forth between my breasts and her cup of water.
During the day, if she’s feeling overstimulated (lots of people around), tired, hurt, or just wants a snuggle, she will ask to nurse, but often nurses for less than a minute before wanting to go off and play again or to do something else. At night she nurses a bit longer but has no hesitation in reaching for her bed and her Sleepy Sheep when she’s done with cuddling Mama.
While I would LIKE for her to have lots of breastmilk and the benefits that come with it – perfect nutrition, immunity/antibodies from me, and so forth – I am okay if there isn’t much there as long as she still wants to nurse. The milk will come back for the new baby, and she will get milk again, plus I do recognize her behavior as normal toddler-weaning behavior, whether or not the mama happens to be pregnant.
I have friends who are nursing or have recently nursed their toddlers, so I’ve gotten to see it first-hand. Lots of toddlers go down to one or two nursing “sessions” per day and keep those for a LONG time. Others have lots of tiny “check in” nursing “snacks” like Anneliese’s less-than-a-minute ones. I guess we’ll see where this goes, but I’ll keep offering and always nurse when she asks.
I don’t remember when I started making colostrum during my pregnancy with Anneliese, but it was well before she was born. So we’ll see.
LOTS of nursing, and nursing in the middle of the night too… Anneliese has woken screaming several times the last few nights, and only wants to snuggle and nurse. But this morning there was a new tooth that had popped through, so hopefully she will sleep better tonight. My breasts are very sensitive at night, and the night nursing isn’t super-comfortable. During the day it’s not so bad, and she doesn’t nurse as desperately as she has been at night with teething pain.
She has started to ask to nurse after most meals, and she does this adorable thing where she signs “milk” with both hands, and makes a please-face… which is wide eyes, eyebrows raised, a lovely little grin, and tilting her head to the side a bit. So funny, like someone taught her how to “be cute to get what you want.”
Still night waking to nurse, but less the last couple of nights. Anneliese’s bottom left molar finally popped through so hopefully she will sleep better again…the night nursing is the most painful. Daytime is fine.
Anneliese has slept through the night the last several nights again, finally, which means less of the more painful night nursing. When we are very busy (like the last 2 days have been) she nurses very little. When we hang out at home, she nurses more frequently. I try to balance busy days with more chill days, for our sanity (and naps) and also so she and I can “reconnect” and snuggle more again… this is my introvert-self speaking. I need recharge days. I’m assuming she does too. Until she tells me otherwise. GOGOGOGO gets exhausting. Nursing is part of the recharging for both of us.
A long day in town and shopping = chilling in the Motherhood maternity dressing room for a nursing break. Always with the other arm down my shirt. Kind of like Piglet, she “just wanted to be sure of” me.
My nipples feel like someone has rubbed sandpaper on them … SUPER SENSITIVE right now. Like even my clothing touching them hurts. In the shower, the water hitting them hurts. So nursing always makes me hold my breath at the start, but it gets better after the initial latch. Anneliese is still cutting her molars, and she has wanted to nurse quite a bit lately. She’s even fallen asleep nursing in the living room a few times the last couple of weeks, which is something she really hasn’t done much lately.
She still nurses more in the morning, and some throughout the day, but not much before bed. I don’t know if it’s because she doesn’t want to or mostly because I don’t want her to. By night I’m “touched out” and needing time to myself, so I encourage her to finish up and get to bed. Thankfully she has no problem with it.
Lately (at bedtime) I’ve been telling her, “I’m going to count back from 10 and then you can go night night on your bed.” Then I start counting “10…9…8…” and sometimes she nurses all the way down to 1, then unlatches and rolls off of me onto her bed. Other times like tonight, she’s just ready to sleep. Tonight she unlatched at 9, took her pacifier, and rolled onto her bed at 7. I tucked her in with her blanket, kissed her, told her I loved her, and left. Bedtime is usually this easy, which I am very thankful for. She’s been sleeping through the night consistently again, which is great and my breasts definitely appreciate it.
Nipples aren’t as sensitive as last week thank goodness. Anneliese has been nursing in a really “focused” way sometimes, which made me wonder if colostrum had started to come in, but it hasn’t.
Yesterday I tried to express some and couldn’t even get a drop out of either side. Just now I tried (writing about it made me curious) and got a drop out… regular weird pregnancy milk, not colostrum. I tasted it (again, curious… if you have lactated and haven’t tasted your own milk you’re a liar or have no sense of curiosity), and it is extremely salty, almost like how sweat is. So weird. Anneliese still doesn’t care, still nurses a couple times during the day when she needs a cuddle or is feeling sad/hurt/uncertain/whatever, every morning for a while (on and off), and for a few seconds before bed and naps.
She also likes to wear my nursing tanks as necklaces.
I think less nursing this week… she still wants to nurse, but the duration is shorter in general (except this morning was a marathon snuggle-nurse).
Today for the first time, I was putting her down for a nap, sat on her bed, and asked, “Do you want to nurse?” She said “no.” and lay on her bed. Then she crawled over to me and put her head on my leg for a bit just to be close. After a couple minutes, she told me she had to go potty, and after she pottied, she did want to nurse, but it was the first time she told me no before a nap or bed (though, like I said, she did end up changing her mind). It kind of caught me off guard but shouldn’t have because she doesn’t really nurse to sleep anymore. Just a few seconds before rolling over onto her bed…
Sometimes when nursing her, I’ll put her baby doll on my other breast like it is nursing, and at first she DID NOT LIKE that. She would pry the baby’s face off of me, and switch sides to take over the side the doll was on. But in just a few days, she has decided maybe it’s okay to share, and sometimes she will bring her doll to me to nurse (she puts the doll’s face on my breast). It’s super cute and yesterday she and the doll were “tandem nursing” and she was kind of looking at it a little funny, but was totally okay with it.
LOTS of nursing. Because of more teething. Canines are coming. Oh boy. I think I’ve mentioned my “countdown” at nighttime… Normally I count back from 10 and she unlatches around 9 or 8 to roll over to be tucked into bed. Lately, she’s been nursing for the whole countdown and unlatching when I get to 1.
Christmas morning was so busy that we missed our morning snugglenurse… I didn’t even think about it that much, but by the time Anneliese had eaten breakfast, Skyped with her Dada and her Grampa, and opened most of her presents, she had had enough. I thought it was just nap time, but she had other ideas. She ran into my bedroom, crying, and patted the bed signing “milk” frantically.
So of course we had our snugglenurse. I felt so bad for jumping right into Christmas fun without our morning cuddle. I’m glad Anneliese made her needs known though, so that I could meet them. It was a wonderful snuggle and then she took a nice nap.
Tandem nursing is going great. Anneliese is still a huge fan of my boobs. I have colostrum now but I’m not sure how much I’m actually making. It is sweet though, not salty any more, and nursing frequency has increased a LOT probably partly because of that and partly because of teething canines.
She doesn’t always nurse for long though. Sometimes it’s just a minute or so and then she’s back to playing or exploring. I think it’s comforting for her to know I’m available for her to “check in” though…
and she tends to be VERY confident and independent even in new situations and with new people.
It’s really cool to see the attached/independent (false) dichotomy. People often “diss” extended (er, normal) nursing, babywearing, and other attachment parenting practices, saying it’ll create ninny-pants children who can’t be away from their mothers … but I think just the opposite is true. A secure child is more free to be independent, knowing that her needs will be met and not ignored.
LOTS of nursing. Colostrum is here and Anneliese is a fan. I’m loving the snuggles and the fact that her latch is less playing/lazy/teething and more nursing/focused/cuddling now…
I didn’t make any notes, but I feel like it was about the same through the end, until Joey was born.
I’ll save the tandem nursing stuff for another post. Good luck in your pregnancy breastfeeding adventures!
Check out the other World Breastfeeding Week posts linked up here: