Saturday, 19 December 2015

Breastfeeding With A Bump

I'm finding this second pregnancy very different to the first - I'm more tired, achier, and despite craving chocolate last time I have a complete aversion to it this time (that last one really is tough!). But one thing that has made it even more different is that I'm still breastfeeding Eleanor.

Still breastfeeding. That sounds a bit awful, doesn't it? Like it's a nasty habit we ought to have stopped ages ago. Well, I suppose some people might think that. But I trust my daughter to know when the time is right for her to stop, so maybe I should just say, I'm breastfeeding Eleanor.

It's quite unusual in our culture for mums to be breastfeeding a child when the next pregnancy starts, and among those who do there seems to be a wide variation in how breastfeeding continues. Some stop - either the mum's choice or the child's. Others continue to breastfeed on demand.

We've gone for a halfway house. Well, I say 'we', I've led the changes really, which has felt odd after 3.5 years of (mostly) feeding on demand. I gradually cut out feeds through my first trimester and Eleanor now just has one feed a day in the morning - sometimes she even forgets to do that. This is very different to our pre-pregnancy feeding schedule, which was still around 5 or 6 feeds a day including at least one night feed.

So why did I cut down? Well, feeding in the first trimester was extremely painful. I'm talking worse than when she was newborn, worse than when I got mastitis. Every feed made me draw breath. Sometimes it made me cry. Gone were the days when we could snuggle up and enjoy a nice long feed. I had to start limiting the length very early on, maybe at about 6 weeks. This was surprisingly easy, especially with the night feed - having previously spent 20 minutes nursing her back to sleep, it suddenly started to take just a minute or two, then she dropped the feed altogether and started (mostly) sleeping through. After three and a half years of broken nights, I was very grateful for that!!

She still asked to feed fairly frequently in the day but I just couldn't bear it so had to set limits. I told her that my body was changing (I didn't say why and, oddly for her, she didn't ask) and so we'd have to just have mum-milk in the morning, midday and before bed. To my surprise, she went with it. If she asked at other times, I just reminded her of the new rule and she was happy with that. I can only guess that my milk had already started to change so she believed what I was saying about my body changing.

Fairly soon after we managed to drop the before bed feed, then we went on holiday and were so busy in the day that she forgot the midday feed too. At one point I thought she was going to drop the morning one too but she still seems fairly attached to that and I can cope with it.

It's been interesting seeing how things change. After about 15 weeks feeding became less painful but still not very comfortable, possibly because there was no actual milk so her latch got a bit rubbish. It was OK for the rest of the second trimester but now I'm in my third, it's getting painful again. My colostrum is coming in as well so she sometimes feeds for longer than before, so at the moment it's quite tricky. But it's only one feed a day, and I remind myself that I'll be doing a lot more than that when her brother arrives!

Another interesting thing is seeing the impact on Eleanor. I'd love to say it's been plain sailing, but to be honest, her behaviour has been very challenging lately. Part of it may be underlying anxiety about the new baby (although she's very excited so I somehow doubt it), and part of it might be that my lack of mobility and fatigue mean I'm not being a very fun mummy right now. But I do wonder whether she's missing those pauses in the day when we just cuddled and fed calmly for a few minutes.

I'm glad I've been able to keep breastfeeding whilst being pregnant. Since she was about 18 months my goal has been to feed Eleanor until she's ready to stop, and there have been times in the last six months when I didn't think that would happen. But I'm pretty pig-headed when I have a goal so I'm sticking with it for as long as possible.

As for what happens when baby arrives, who knows? At one point Eleanor said she'd stop when he's born, but then a few weeks later she announced she wanted to keep having mum-milk until she's 9 or 10! (I think even I would struggle with sticking to my goal if that happened!) We've talked a lot about how baby will need lots of mum-milk and her age means that she gets it, so hopefully if I do end up tandem nursing we'll find our stride fairly quickly. And if she does choose to stop, then that's fine too. I just want it to be her choice.

If you're breastfeeding and thinking of having another baby, I really recommend reading Adventures in Tandem Nursing, it's a great book that will prepare you for the changes that pregnancy brings. It is totally non-judgmental too - if you choose to wean, it has information which will support you to do that. And if you have any questions for me, feel free to comment below and ask away!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Claus Controversy Continued - not 'doing Santa' with a preschooler

Image courtesy of British Library

Two years ago I wrote about our decision not to tell our daughter that Father Christmas is real. I won't go into those reasons again because, well, you can read all about them in the original post, but I thought it might be useful for people to find out what it's like having Christmas with a preschooler when you choose to be honest about Santa.

In short, it's tricky. This is the first year it's been a real challenge, as it's the first year she's been in preschool at Christmas time. In previous years, we've had chance to explain it's a nice story and some families like to play pretend at our leisure, but this time we were a bit blind-sided by just how early the Christmas preparations started at preschool. They started practising Christmas songs straight after half term but I thought little of it, assuming not much else would be said about Christmas until nearer the time.

How wrong I was. In mid-November, Eleanor started talking about Santa. There was even a day when she came home saying that she would ask Santa for, "a stamper like Tilly's." Apparently when she had got upset that she didn't have one, one of the workers had suggested asking Santa. Helpful, seeing as Santa is actually me, I haven't a clue what Tilly's stamper is, and my daughter is blessed with a VERY good memory.

So we didn't get in there first with an explanation, as we'd intended. That means we've been playing catch up a bit this year. When she mentions Santa, we'll say something like, "oh like in the story?" or, "oh yes, we can pretend Santa's coming." We don't want to make a massive deal out of it, but equally we don't want to just 'go along with it', as tempting as it is to make life easier.

Because there are times when I think maybe I should just give up and go with the flow. Santa/Father Christmas seems to invade everything to do with Christmas these days, especially things aimed at children. Finding magical things to do that don't involve telling my daughter that Santa is real does feel very challenging.

But then I think back to my childhood. Yes, I believed in Santa, but the really magical things were nothing to do with that. They were Christingle services and carols around the village Christmas tree. They were Christmas stories by candlelight. They were decorating the tree. That's what really sticks in my memory about what made Christmas  special.

For the past couple of years my social media feeds have been filled with 'Elf on the Shelf'. I keep seeing posts about telling children the Christmas Eve ISS pass is Santa's sleigh. And I think to myself - why are we going so far to make Christmas magical? Do we not trust in the specialness of the time itself? Magic is everywhere when you're a kid, you don't need adults to manufacture it.

Anyway, I digress. The simple truth is, not 'doing Santa' with a nearly 4 year old isn't easy. But I stand by our decision to do it. I just don't feel comfortable going along with an elaborate lie, especially at a time when Eleanor is starting to grapple with the idea of belief. A couple of times recently she has said she doesn't believe that Jesus was real, prompting us to explain that he was a real person, but different people have different beliefs about him and it's up to her to learn about him and decide what she believes. I don't want to force my beliefs on her, but I want her to know I do genuinely believe them. If I spend a month or more every year trying to convince her of something that's not true, would she still take my beliefs seriously?

Plus, not doing Santa has it's upsides. As I realised when I saw the huge queue for Santa's grotto at the local school fair. Yeah, pretty glad I avoided that.