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!

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