Monday, 26 November 2012

Breastfeeding Through Pregnancy, Part 1

I knew when I started obsessively thinking about having another baby that I had no intention of weaning Lennon in order to do so. My body was receptive and we became pregnant at 19 1/2 months post partum regardless of my toddler who still nursed all night long and many times a day. Of course breastfeeding has always been a tumultuous relationship for me. I have moments of such ecstasy and joy at nurturing my child so directly. I also have moments of pure agony as I wonder when I will ever have my body back. But when I became pregnant for the second time, I still enjoyed my nursing relationship with Lennon about 80% of the time. I had no idea how much things were going to change for me as my pregnancy progressed.

Around 6 weeks I started to feel very nauseous all the time. I had this with Lennon as well. Except with Lennon I was able to sleep off a lot of the discomfort and casually nibble all day, preserving my energy. This time, I had a toddler with a veracious appetite and total love for my milk constantly sucking at me. Moving from one country to another didn't help with her sense of discomfort and she knew that I was changing as well, therefore she was demanding and needing loads more time at the breast than we had been doing for months. Timing couldn't have seemed more against me. The most difficult part during the nausea was making it through the night. I had possibly eaten and kept down enough food throughout the day to feel at least settled before bed, but then all night long she wanted to nurse. I would wake at 4am starving and gagging on pure hunger. The two of them had drained me through the night.

Eventually, we moved into our new home and were able to move Lennon into her own bed, which she still thinks is silly. My nausea slowed down and things seemed to be getting a little easier. The nursing, of course, was still going on full force day and night. But I felt better that we were working towards getting her to sleep through the night without nursing. Like everything child related, we managed to get her sleeping well just in time to travel back to Canada and completely disrupt any sense of routine we had worked towards for the last 6 weeks. She was reborn as an all night  nurser in just 4 nights in bed with me.

While I was no longer consistently feeling nauseous, I had to really focus on eating lots of protein and good food constantly or else I would fall prey to an under fed body. As if breastfeeding didn't have me watching my calorie intake enough already just to keep up! As soon as she shifted back into her old routine, my body began to feel slow, drained and nauseous more frequently. Most of my patience was shot and try as I might to entertain her, Lennon was bored with me and usually would turn to nursing to entertain herself. I couldn't handle it anymore. I felt totally controlled by this 2 year old who of course could not understand the way it was making me feel because all she experienced was a warm, loving cuddle along with a tasty snack. Whenever she wanted it. Many times I thought about weaning her. About cutting the relationship entirely because she is powerfully stubborn and unwavering in her need for mass amounts of nursing. If she couldn't even give me 30 minutes in the morning to eat my breakfast, how was I going to get 8 hours in the evening for sleep?

For the last week we have been trying a new sleep plan of changing her nursing association. Lennon pretty much thinks that she needs to nurse to be able to sleep. A big part of this comes from her long running love of nursing lying in bed with me. Who wouldn't fall asleep like this? The problem is that I know another little person who will want to do this constantly too. And then what? I fear I will lay in bed awake, flipping from side to side trying to get these two little boobie monsters to sleep for any decent amount of time. So we are trying to teach Lennon that we nurse in chairs, or on the couch, or standing up, or on the floor, but that we are no longer nursing lying down in bed. She still falls asleep in my arms, but I make the decision either catch her before she is asleep and place her down to sleep, or by allowing her to subtly awaken as I place her in her bed, aware that she is not sleeping firmly pressed into mama's body. This has been slow and agonizing as I expected it to be but I have hope that in a couple of months we will see some positive change, and that is better than nothing.

There are still these moments, at 20 weeks pregnant, that I feel I have to wean her. I just can't take the grabbing, and screaming, and stuffing of hands down my top and general assumption that they are all hers for the taking all the time. Once my frustration wears down and typically I get a bit of food in my belly and think more clearly, I realize just what breastfeeding means to Lennon. It is her safety, her food, her quiet space, and her recharge. It is in essence everything she needs to survive. The rest of what she has could come or go and she would be fine but she will fight for her need to breastfeed because still, at 23 months, it is a survival tactic. It could be years before this fades away and she becomes an independent version of herself. Forcing her to stop could be harmful to her sense of security and independence. She should want it for herself as much as I want it for her.

I always said that I would nurse Lennon as long as the relationship worked for both of us. I am beginning to realize that isn't quite true. If it were, I would have probably stopped nursing her in the first four months, easily the most difficult time in our breastfeeding journey. I said many times to James that I hated breastfeeding. I hadn't yet learnt the joy in it. Yet I found myself persevering because I knew that even if I didn't think I could do it, I could, and most importantly, my child needed it. She needed me to accept the things I could not change and work had to change the things I could. I am her mother and she is not a challenge for me to overcome but a person I must accept. At 23 months, we are working hard to establish boundaries so that we can both happily continue to breastfeed. For now though, we are still breastfeeding and knowing that this may be the most difficult chunk of our relationship yet, but I wasn't raised to be a quitter and I won't raise my daughter to be one either. We strive hard for balance in all aspects and sometimes the balance comes from releasing your ego and non-serving emotions and surrendering to the present and how amazing it is.


  1. Hi Erin, thanks so much for this thoughtful post. I really appreciate how you've talked openly about the challenges of continuing to breastfeed, while honouring both your needs AND those of both of your children. I can definitely appreciate how tempting it could be to wean in those circumstances, and I know how much pressure there can be to do so, so you get my admiration for persevering in spite of it all!

    My daughter is 26 months and still breastfeeding frequently, day and night. I'm not pregnant but I do work, and am still pumping twice a day at work. I have moments where I think how much easier it would be without pumping, without the demands of a busy toddler. But, as you said, I also know how much breastfeeding still means to her as a means of reconnecting, of security and peace, so I will continue. Plus, it is an amazing way to stay close with my sweet baby.

    Good luck to you!

    1. Thank you Kamilla for reading and responding. It is great to know that there are other mamas out there breastfeeding their toddlers and dealing with many of the same challenges that I am facing. It never gets easier, just different, but always a priceless gift to hold on to.