Friday, July 27, 2012

Tandem Nursing: Part Two

If you missed part one, you can read it here.
As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I dialed up a well respected midwife in town and spent a good while speaking with her.  I had a few general pregnancy questions, but, mostly, I was interested in her opinion on my nursing situation.  Especially since I am a small person with not much weight to lose, I didn't know if it would be healthy {for any/all three of us} to continue nursing one baby while simultaneously growing another.  I had also heard that nursing while you were pregnant was dangerous because it stimulated uterine contractions and could cause pre-term labor.  I knew my mom had nursed my sister throughout her pregnancy with me, but without her around to talk to, I needed some serious affirmation before I would feel comfortable doing it myself!  
My sweet Augustine just a few weeks before Gemma's arrival.
Much to my delight, the midwife very convincingly reassured me that continuing to nurse was not bad for me, was not bad for Augustine, and--easing my greatest concern--was not bad for my unborn baby.  She explained that the baby would get everything he/she needed first and that Augustine was no longer relying on breast milk for his primary nutrition, as he was getting plenty of nutrition from his food.   
So I did what I had been doing for the past 16 months--cuddled up with, and nursed, Augustine.  
I didn't have an agenda.  And I didn't know what to expect.  When people asked how long I was going to nurse Augustine, my answers were not concrete or consistent because my mind kept changing.  I went back and forth between wanted to let Augustine wean himself and thinking I needed to force him to wean; some days I felt prepared to nurse two babies at once if needed and other days the thought totally overwhelmed me.     
Months passed, and my due date was quickly approaching.  Despite a huge drop in my milk supply at the end of my first trimester {totally normal--the midwife had forewarned me about it}, Augustine was still nursing a couple times a day...and loving it.  It was becoming clear that Augustine was not going to self-wean before Gemma arrived.

It was also becoming clear that I was not going to force him to wean.  It would just break my heart. 
I missed the simplicity of nursing from the early months of Augustine's life--those months when I nursed on demand wherever and whenever he showed the smallest yearning for food or warmth or comfort or sleep.  Now, with the pregnancy, there were so many other variables to consider.  As my due date approached, I no longer offered milk to Augustine or nursed him at regularly times throughout the day {except before his nap}--I only nursed him when he initiated it.  Some days he would only nurse once, which was a victory in my husband's eyes but more of a mourning in mine.  Luke and I talked about this issue a lot, and though he would have been in favor of weaning Augustine if I wanted to, he was supportive of Augustine's needs and my convictions as a Mama.  And even though nursing wasn't very well serving Augustine's physical needs {i.e. nutrition} at this point, neither Luke or I could deny its significance on his emotional needs.  Nursing was a source of security and comfort; it was a way to take a breather and calm down if he was upset or hurt; it was a surefire way to get him to take a nap; it was a great way to rest but not sleep in the middle of a busy morning.  Children can find these comforts in many things--a blankie, binky, bottle, cup, cuddles, etc, but for Augustine it was nursing. 
I will also mention that throughout the pregnancy, Luke and I got questions and comments from our family and friends.  A few of them expressed concern over my weight or health but many of them were just curious.  To this day, I know there are people {probably lots} who think I should have weaned Augustine a long time ago and don't get why I am still nursing him.  I can understand where they are coming from, given our cultural norms, but their opinions don't influence me too much.  Though it can be intimidating to stand out of the crowd, if there is one thing being a parent has taught me it's that there are many different ways to be a good mom.
Can't wait to meet you in a few weeks, baby sister.
Aside from my fear that Augustine may start to wake up in the middle of the night again once my milk came in after the baby was born, I was at peace with my decision to tandem nurse.  It still felt so natural for me to nurse him.
Clearly, Augustine wasn't the only one not ready to give it up. :)
We will continue with Gemma's arrival in Part Three!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tandem Nursing: Part One

For those of you who don't know, I have a six month-old baby girl {Gemma} and a two and a half year-old little boy {Augustine}, both of whom I have nursed since the day they were born.  Tandem nursing is not always easy, from a physical or emotional standpoint, but I can't imagine it any other way.  In sharing my experience I hope to encourage others who choose to take this path, to enlighten those who don't know much about the issue, and to write it all down as a special memory for me to look back on years from now.  :) 

When I started this journey of motherhood, back when my little man was just a pea sized baby in my belly, tandem nursing was not even on my radar.  I knew my Mom had done it with my older sister and me...but that is because we were born less than a year apart {yes, I am an Irish Twin!}.  Somewhere, probably in a box in my Dad's basement, there is an old picture floating around of my Mom nursing both of us at the same time--my sister on one boob and me, laying on top of her, on the other!  I remember looking at that picture as a young girl and thinking it was such a phenomenon--I never imagined that one day I would find myself in my Mom's position! 
Passed out after a little snack.
 Initially, like most breastfeeding mamas, my goal was to breastfeed Augustine until his first birthday.  Everything past that just seemed like icing on the cake--I just didn't know that icing would still be going strong another year and a half later... 

But as the year mark came and went, my expectations shifted.  From the first moments of Augustine's life, breastfeeding was one of my favorite parts about being a mama--I loved nursing Augustine to sleep, I loved being able to calm and comfort him, I loved how convenient it was, I cherished all the special time we spent together nursing, and I knew it was very healthy for him.  Likewise, from day one he loved to nurse--so much so that he continued to get up to eat in the middle of the night until he was 18 months old.  Though we had met our goal of one year, neither of us seemed ready to give it up yet, and I was feeling increasingly called to let Augustine self-wean.  I am such a hippy.   

At the same time, my husband's expectations were not changing--he still expected Augustine to stop nursing at 12 months, enabling my body to resume normal cycles and giving us the hope of getting pregnant again.  Augustine's frequent nursing was delaying the return of my cycle. 

Like Luke, I was hopeful of adding another baby to our family, but I wasn't in a huge rush.  God so incredibly designed the female body to work the way it does, and I knew that there was a reason my body wasn't ready to conceive again...maybe something to do with Augustine still getting up at night.  I was also trying to live fully in the present moment and appreciate that unique time with just Augustine.  Luke didn't intend to be insensitive, I just don't think even daddies can fully grasp the intensity of the relationship between a mama and her baby.  Though I felt pressure to wean Augustine and "get the show on the road," I knew I would regret it if I weaned Augustine just so we could get pregnant again.        

Nursing outside on a bench in Estes Park. 
We have mastered the art of being discrete.
So, we came to a compromise: Augustine would still nurse but just not as often.  He was eating three full meals, as well as snacks at this point, so nursing was more about the emotional connection and comfort than calories.

Within a couple of months I got my first postpartum period.  The return of my cycle may or may not have been influenced by Augustine's nursing frequency.  My period returned at the typical time for women who exclusively nurse, so chances are it would have returned around that time anyway. 

The next month, we conceived our sweet baby girl!! :)

I was relieved to be pregnant without having rushed Augustine to wean, and I let him go back to nursing more or less whenever he wanted. 

But I knew in the next several months I would have to make some decisions...   
how long would I continue to nurse Augustine?
how would the weaning process work?
would I nurse throughout my pregnancy?
and...would I tandem nurse??

Part II coming up...