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!


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