Dinner for Two: Breastfeeding through Pregnancy
My mom was a trailblazer, breastfeeding before it became popular again. I have always admired her for that. I grew up around breastfeeding and for me there was really no hesitation — it was simply the natural thing to do. But it wasn’t until I began researching that I realized breastfeeding does not always come naturally for mom and baby. In fact, sometimes it is quite the contrary.
My breastfeeding journey began in the months preceding our daughter’s birth. I studied different books such as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, read many articles and blogs, and asked many questions. I had the common “what if” anxiety looming in my mind: What if…I don’t produce enough milk?, What if the baby rejects the breast?, What if, what if, what if? But, nothing was going to stop me from trying!
The First 10 days
My first breastfeeding experience began after a long and difficult birth. I worried, as they put that tiny bundle of pink into my arms, if she would be too traumatized to nurse after going through all that she had that night. But, as it turned out, it didn’t phase her at all.
It was a very quick beginning, and my daughter latched very well from the get-go — painfully well, in fact. I remember never expecting breastfeeding to feel as it does and I felt a bit awkward. Breastfeeding is really not something one can “practice” before the baby is born, so those first moments for me were very memorable. I had read that breastfeeding is not supposed to be painful if your baby latches correctly, but found that, due to the force with which my daughter nursed and the amount of colostrum that is produced at the beginning, it was very painful!
I showed the nurses and lactation consultant her latch and they all said that her latch was great and I shouldn’t be having any pain. But, I was. For ten days, a week before my milk came in and three days (or so) after, I fought against great amounts of pain at every nursing session. My nipples were dry, sore, cracked and even starting to bleed and I wondered to myself ‘What in the world am I doing? This is terrible!’ I wondered how women praised breastfeeding so much if it was that uncomfortable. Surely it had to change?
I did more research, and, thanks to The Art of Making A Baby, I discovered Motherlove Nipple Cream without which I would have been in tears every single time my daughter nursed. That got me through those tough days until I woke up one (glorious) morning and discovered my milk had come in! Immediately I felt myself begin to heal with the soothing and nourishing properties breast milk has, and the pain finally began to subside. I was beyond thankful. Now, when anyone asks me for breastfeeding advice I tell them not to give up and that it does get better. From personal experience I also tell them breastfeeding often gets better after the first 10 days.
It took around three months for me to get the hang of breastfeeding. Nursing while laying down did not come easily to us and it took both my daughter and me a while to get used to. It was also around three months that our daughter’s circadian rhythm began to fall into place and she slept longer stretches at night. Four hours of sleep was bliss!
From Baby to Toddler
From about 6 months onward it was smooth sailing! We were sleeping much better and breastfeeding had become much more natural. I loved every minute and understood why other mothers had praised breastfeeding so much. Those few days of discomfort were well worth dealing with because what followed was months of amazing breastfeeding.
Through growth spurts, teething, colds, and simply the need to cuddle, nursing was invaluable. Even after we starting Baby Led Weaning at six months there was no decrease in nursing for many more months. Our daughter’s first birthday arrived and we found ourselves falling into the category of “extended breastfeeding” without any signs of stopping. I was so happy. Nursing for at least two years was always my hope. Our daughter is definitely an active nursling: she tries to stand (ouch), sing, and comb my hair all while still latched! As her personality began to shine through more and more I quickly discovered how fun it is to breastfeed a toddler. From the snuggles and giggles to the calm moments and especially when a little hand reaches up and touches your face, breastfeeding my daughter has been a beautiful journey.
Nursing during Pregnancy
When our daughter was 17 months old we found out our second baby was on the way. I hoped and prayed my supply wouldn’t lessen right away and it didn’t. However, besides the La Leche League website and a few others, I was surprised how few resources there were on breastfeeding during pregnancy and tandem breastfeeding.
The second trimester brought many changes. It was so difficult to breastfeed during morning sickness and my breasts were constantly sore. At night I would go to bed thinking ‘Perhaps it would be best to gently wean.’ But then each morning I would wake up ready to keep trudging on.
We made it through the morning sickness, but around five months pregnant my supply greatly decreased and my daughter’s amount of nursing remained the same causing lots of discomfort for me and a strange creepy-crawly aversion to being touched. It was terrible. I began to try subtle things to help with the pain such as being more diligent about staying well hydrated, taking baths when possible or standing in the shower, using Motherlove or coconut oil as cream to help with the dry skin and explaining to our daughter that she needed to be very gentle and not pull like she was used to doing. Sometimes all I could do was bite my lip. I was resolved to let our daughter be the one to self-wean when she was ready, and I was willing to battle the pain to make that happen.
Luckily, around 7 months, the soreness mostly went away as I began to produce colostrum again and, while it is uncomfortable nursing because of how big I am getting, it no longer hurts to nurse.
For me, breastfeeding has been filled with many challenges, but also with so many milestones and small joys and victories that I am really excited to begin again.
I am now 35 weeks pregnant and getting ready to tandem breastfeed. My daughter just turned two and has gradually slowed down on nursing. I am still apprehensive about nursing two children. I wonder about my daughter’s reaction to having to share her mommy and the overall new adventure this will be. But, what’s different is that, for this entire pregnancy, I have looked forward to those first moments of breastfeeding our newborn son and, hopefully, being able to share this exciting time with my daughter still breastfeeding, too.
Looking for Un-Nursing Wear?
If you need to add some nursing clothing to your wardrobe, but don’t want to spend money on pieces you’ll only wear for a short period of time, then head on over to Melody Lane for the best in regular clothing that is versatile enough to wear before, during, and after breastfeeding! They offer trendy, classic, and comfortable clothing that is hand-picked for all the life stages women usually experience. With nothing over $100, always free shipping, and new styles featured every season, Melody Lane makes sure your “fashion meets life”.
Tags: august, baby, breast, breastfeeding, breastfeeding journey, breastmilk, extended breastfeeding, infant, La Leche League, LATCH, motherlove, national breastfeeding awareness month, newborn, nursing, pain, tandem breastfeeding, tandem nursing, toddler
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Kirsten is a military wife by day, an artist by night, and an around-the-clock-mommy to her (almost) two year old daughter and a son due in the Fall. She loves to travel and is always dreaming of her next adventure. Her interests include everything from extreme sports like skydiving and rock climbing to languages and studying philosophy. As a Californian now living in South Dakota, there is no taking that golden sunshine out of this California Girl.