Friday, September 9, 2011

Nursing through Pregnancy - 20 weeks

The first time I read about someone letting their toddler nurse even though their milk was gone, I was shocked. My knee jerk reaction was even slight disgust. But as I read more, I could see where this was a viable option. My heart went out to the mother, who was in a good deal of pain during nursing. Still, she stuck to what she felt was right for her family, setting limits for her own benefit.

Another mother lost her milk during pregnancy as well. Her son still wanted to nurse, too. She got the "Heebie Jeebies" from it, but has still stuck to what she feels works for her family. She has set limits for herself, but allows her son the comfort of nursing.

breastfeeding in the third trimesterbreastfeeding in the third trimester
Photo Credit: HoboMama

Since getting pregnant, I've been absolutely paranoid about losing my milk. I eat oatmeal occasionally to help my milk supply. And then it happened. Sasha quietly and without my realizing it, stopped breastfeeding. Oh she still nurses, plenty! I've checked, I still have milk. (It really never went away since I had Tyler, 13 years ago!)

I have always had very tough nipples. I think I could handle painful nursing. However, at a mere 20 weeks along in this pregnancy I do not know how these other mothers have made it at all. I often am pushed to the edge of sanity and forced to put my child down. She often wants to nurse for an hour (or more) to get to sleep! My nipples don't hurt. I wish. No, they tickle. They feel like that weird tingly feeling right before your foot falls asleep. If I really pay attention, I can sense and understand the description that she is just licking my nipple over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. For-ever.

So I try, for the life of me I try to distract myself. The best thing I've found so far is chatting with a group of people online (namely the Natural Parents Network volunteer team). Group chat is best because there are more people / topics with whom to keep up. Television isn't enough. Reading isn't enough. Writing isn't enough. In fact, I find it very difficult to concentrate on reading or writing while nursing.

Every once in a blue moon, the sensation changes to pain and I literally welcome it! The pain is such a relief from the tickly, tingly, awkward, awful feelings in my nipples the rest of the time. The pain never lasts long, though.

I feel like I can't complain in my Facebook status about the situation or even on my personal journal because most people I know would just suggest weaning her completely off the breast. Oh so tempting is that option! I've daydreamed about pacifiers and about literally sticking her own thumb in her mouth!1 I have literally lost it and yelled to "Get off my tit!" I have thrown my hands in the air while saying "Let go!" enough times that now she throws her hands in the air when I say it. I am about to rip my hair out just about every other night!

pacifierPhoto Credit: Proggie

I have seen an ugly side of myself. Ever wished you could swaddle a 2 year old? I've wished her bed DID have bars, so that I could what? Let her cry it out?!2 I know I couldn't bear that, but I have just been at my wits end! I'm trying some new approaches, looking for a solution among the ideas my friends have suggested. She just does not understand discussing the issue at this point. I really don't even think she understands that she is going to have a baby brother.3

I can lie down with her and tell her we'll nurse through 1 lullaby, but after that she is just going to get up and play. And then... want to nurse again. I think I might be trying too many solutions at once, but nothing has worked so far. It doesn't help that we're in the middle of a long bout where her sleep schedule is far off kilter. One night I tried singing lullabies to her... at one point she literally shushed me.

Nursing in Family BedNursing in our Family Bed
April 2011 - 20 months
the month we conceived

Knowing that I'm only half way through this pregnancy... is horrifying. Yes, absolutely horrifying. And yes, I've set my own limits to some extent. I wear a shirt during the day now where I used to go topless at all times and let her nurse whenever she desired.4 Now I distract unless it is nap time or bed time. Or if she is upset. Or if we're out and she is begging to nurse and I want to shut her up (rare). Doesn't sound very nice, does it? I worry that maybe I didn't do enough to keep my milk in full supply. I worry that I won't have the willpower to make it through the pregnancy.

Oh wait, but why do I want to continue? I've read that nursing with the new baby is a good bonding experience for siblings and makes the transition from baby to big sister a bit easier. Also, nursing is the only way Sasha goes to sleep, aside for a drive timed perfectly. I'm screwed. I worry about how things will go when I go into labor. I worry about how I'll manage her (especially at bedtime) alongside Spencer's newborn eating / sleeping schedule.

I don't even know if she'll really still know how to breastfeed once my milk does whatever it needs to do or IF she'll want milk. I find myself wondering how healthy my bearing this can really be for our relationship. I lie in her bed, gritting my teeth and tensing my body, sometimes even crying while she nurses. She fidgets and I repeatedly put her arm or leg down, increasingly frustrated.

Sometimes I have to walk away and cry. She knows something is up, she snuggles me or follows me into the other room. Is it really healthy for me to be having this reaction to her? Do I resent her? That thought makes me cry all over again.

Newborn Sasha NursingHow could I harbor any resentment for this sweet baby?
(Photo: Newborn Sasha Nursing)

Someone else described the feeling of wanting to throw the nursling across the room. I can relate to that one, too! And I truly appreciate knowing that others have been here and seen this ugly side of themselves. But it doesn't truly help the situation itself.

Each night I try my different approaches to getting her down. After 2-3 hours of nursing off and on (far too much on for me, of course), I eventually get so frustrated that I give up and return to sitting at my computer with her on the Boppy in my lap and do my best to ignore her. Then she seems to fall asleep right away. But no, this doesn't work when I do it first and will not be as available an option once I have a newborn. And regardless of how tired I am by that point, I almost always require some quiet time to myself once I get her down. Hell, sometimes I'm afraid to let the sheet or cover touch my nipples!

I have shed many tears. I have stifled many screams. And I have gotten many bite marks prying open the teeth of a sleeping toddler who won't let go of the precious tender nipple. I've even occasionally had to use two hands because one finger wasn't strong enough. That is a whole other topic...

No one can make the decision to stop or continue for us, it is entirely up to Sasha and I, but I am not sure I even know how to make her stop if I chose to do that. I know I need to find some new way to get her to sleep at night, but I'm really struggling right now, folks. Nursing Sasha has become the single most consistently difficult things I have ever had to do in my entire life.

How do I figure out the healthiest way to continue?

How do I change everything about the way we do bedtime?

Find the other posts in this series:
  • Nursing through Pregnancy - final weeks (39th week)
  • Nursing through Pregnancy - final weeks (38th week)
  • Nursing through Pregnancy - final weeks (36-37, so far)
  • Nursing through Pregnancy - 35 weeks
  • Nursing through Pregnancy - 29/30 weeks
  • Nursing through Pregnancy - 25 weeks
  • Nursing through Pregnancy - 20 weeks
  • Extended Breastfeeding, So Far! (posted pretty much the weekend I got pregnant!)

    1 Actually, I tried the thumb. She looked terribly confused. Funny, since she pretends to suck her thumb.

    2 Ironically, having her cry over anything inevitably makes getting her to sleep easier, though this seems to only effect nap time these days.

    3 I'm still trying to find the best book and/or DVDs to get this point across to her. She does, on rare occasion, kiss my belly and she can say her brother's name. We also take her along for medical appointments, including ultrasound. Hopefully she'll grasp the concept sometime before Spencer is actually born.

    4 She usually only nursed for a couple minutes then before wanting to go about her business.

    1. You know I can relate!! This is much harder than I ever, ever imagined. No matter what happens, be gentle with yourself. If you need to set more limits to preserve a healthy mindset/relationship - do it! Big hugs mama.

    2. Great post! So well-written and honest. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts without worry of what people might think. I appreciated reading this to get more insight into what you're going through! :)

    3. Hey! this is a tough one...I never got to breast feed...but we do family sleep...and it is so hard with decisions and entering a new bundle of joy...but I have to think that this is something between you and Sasha and it should be natural transition for both of you...when the new baby comes this will be hard for her so I may try to get this worked out before...I am just not sure how...but I do know this will not last forever...and that Sasha will want her independence if given the opportunity with a huge hug from you! I hope you do not mind I forwarded this to a very dear friend of mine that is a ROCKSTAR at being a mommy, breastfeeding and family sleeping...I really think she can help you!! smiles

    4. I breastfed through my pregnancy and about another year after my little one was born. I don't remember it being very tough, so I am sorry that I can't empathize witht that. What I CAN empathize with is being SO angry. With feeling trapped and upset and just done. When I was done nursing two children I stopped with my older daughter. She had a good 3+ year run and then it wasn't working for me anymore.
      Maybe this is the last thing you want to hear, but Sasha has had a good long stretch or nursing and she doesn't *have* to nurse for nourishment anymore. I am a strong believer that the nursing relationship has to work for both mama and baby. If it isn't working for one of you, it's okay to stop or set some serious limits. And if you were to stop or set limits Sasha might be pissed, but she would get over it and then be much happier because YOU would be happier.
      I am sorry this is such a struggle. (((Hug)))

    5. Hi mama. My friend is the one who said she was going to forward me your post. CAN I EVER RELATE. I remember the first day my 2nd was born. He nursed for 3 hours. I finally called the nursery and asked them for a paci and sugar water to get him off my tit. He didn't take it. He has ALWAYS been a nursing sleeper - in other words, he most often sleeps while nursing...

      Anyway, I was nursing my first to sleep and in part of the night when I miscarried and the medicine I was prescribed to help with the miscarriage was not nursing friendly so I had to quit. So I enlisted my husband to help because I could NOT do it. She wanted to nurse and did not understand why she couldn't. I mean, I told her I had taken medicine and so she couldn't but still. Her father took over bedtime and it took them at least 2.5 hours to go down, but it worked.

      I am not sure if you need your baby to go to sleep at a certain time each night but reading your blog post, it seems like perhaps just giving in to letting your baby play another few hours at night may help with the nursing on for 5 minutes off for a while, etc. And may also alleviate some of your frustration.

      Currently, my left nipple has split open on the side because when my son gets new teeth his latching on changes. It hurts like hell...

      Anyway, of course you and your baby can be the "deciders" about when you stop nursing, and we all want to nurse for as long as possible, but you also need to be a mentally healthy mama. So remember that, too.


    6. Thank you for all your support ladies! The post really did start out as a 3am vent. I spewed such poison and garbage out that it was quite a mess to sort and organize into coherent thoughts. Like I said, its hard to concentrate on writing when she is nursing.

      That said, we have had another week or two go by since I started this piece. Things have gotten better. I need to write THAT piece... and maybe, hopefully, it can help other moms.

      Thank you for all your support and understanding.

    7. I have been there! ((((hugs without getting anywhere near your chest)))) For me, it got better each time once my colostrum came in. Tons of water, very supportive bras (like exercise bras), and avoiding soy or anything else that might boost my estrogen levels helped tremendously. I also found that in the third trimester, my kidlets started suddenly sleeping more with less nursing. You are a wonderful, loving and amazing mom, and it really will get better. <3

    8. It's so good to hear your own thoughts and experiences because, as you know, I went through nursing challenges during pregnancy, and now am going through different ones while tandeming! I'm glad you're feeling a bit better since writing — isn't that always the way? I have no idea how to manage bedtimes, by the way. :-/

      I keep meaning to do another post on sibling books. Thanks for the reminder!

    9. I can relate. For me, I figured it was better for my daughter if I set more limits about nursing. It's SUCH a hard decision for me because I am such an advocate of self-weaning. And I have a lot to live up to because my mom nursed me through a pregnancy then went on to tandem my brother and I for 4 years. I feel guilty about it. But I feel more guilty about losing it and yelling so I let her nurse less and not at bedtime. Yes, she had a fit the first few nights, still occasionally does. But I tell her the nursies need to rest and that they don't feel good. Then I say, do you want me to pat your back? Do you want your sippy cup? Do you want me to tell you a story? Do you want to cuddle. And eventually she sulkily picks a form of comfort and goes to sleep. I thought it would be absolutely impossible to bedtime-wean her especially without feeling like a terrible mother but now she drifts off to sleep most nights pretty peaceably, cuddling with me. I'm so glad I made the decision to do it. Good luck, I hope you work something out!!

    10. Oh man. I know I commented before, but I'm back! "Also, nursing is the only way Sasha goes to sleep, aside for a drive timed perfectly." ---This is our life! Very nervous about this aspect of B's sleeping habits...we'll see what happens. It hasn't been an issue thus far, but with a new babe, it could be!

      1. I never thought I could set limits with Sasha and sometimes it got ugly. You *can* set limit. It might be hard at first, but kids adapt much more easily than adults.

        You might also find my night weaning series. It was so hard at first and I didn't do it until after Spencer was born, but it got easier fast and made a huge difference for us!


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