By Carla Sargent
In parts 1 and 2 I wrote about my experiences of breastfeeding Luca (who is now 15 months old) during the first 24 weeks of my pregnancy. This article covers weeks 25 to 34.
Thank goodness Luca is still breastfeeding!’ is what first comes to mind when I revisit the past couple of months in my mind. Over the last three weeks Luca has been a miserable lad with teething (his eye teeth and bottom canines are all surfacing at the same time!) and illness. He has suddenly gone from being a very placid, cruisy, happy little guy, to being a real grump who doesn’t like to be put down and who grizzles or cries whenever we are failing to read his mind and jump to his every demand. It’s been gruelling, and often the only respite from his incessant moans has been when he’s breastfeeding (which, thankfully, he has been doing a lot of while he has been sick and miserable).
Not only has his breastfeeding been a welcome relief from his moaning, it has also been a very helpful source of comfort on a number of other fronts. First and foremost, breastfeeding has sometimes felt like the only thing I have been able to do for him that I know he finds comfort, security and pleasure in, so when his favourite toys, books or foods didn’t help him overcome his discomfort and unhappiness, the breast still does. Also, for a couple of weeks he barely ate anything, probably because of the pain associated with eating while teething. The fact that he was still breastfeeding reassured me that at least he was still getting the nutrients he needed through breast milk. And finally, it was just something pleasurable we could share in when we were both experiencing a pretty exhausting and difficult phase in our lives, which counts for a lot!
Since about 25 weeks of pregnancy I feel that my milk supply has been increasing. This might sound like an obvious physical response to Luca’s increased frequency and length of breastfeeds – most of us understand how the hormonal response to an increase in demand results in an increase in supply. However, when pregnant, the hormones of pregnancy override the breastfeeding hormones so that increases and decreases in milk supply are a result of pregnancy hormones as opposed to what the toddler is doing at the breast. Luca has stopped switching quite so much from breast to breast during a feed, and my breasts are growing in readiness for our next baby. No complaints from Luca!
When I wrote for the last issue, Luca’s sleep was still appalling, waking most hours of most nights as he had done since four months of age. I am extremely relieved to be able to say that he is now a good sleeper! Even through his teething and time of illness, I was only up to him once or twice in the night. Incredible! It would be another whole article for me to write how he went from being an atrocious sleeper to being a good sleeper so it is not something I intend to write about just now, but I will say that I feel so grateful that we have overcome that massive hurdle before the baby arrives – fingers crossed it lasts and that I’m not eating my words in the next issue! It’s a little unfortunate that I am at that stage in pregnancy where I am not getting much sleep due to bladder squashing, indigestion and difficulty in getting comfortable. Oh well, it would probably just feel like a big tease if I were finally to start getting a decent nights sleep just a few weeks before a newborn arrived with their inherent lack of sleep.
Breastfeeding Luca with my ever expanding belly is becoming more challenging – still very ‘doable’ but just quite awkward. I have tried different positions to feed him but rarely feel the need to use them. One such position is sitting on the couch with him cuddled into my arm next to me, his legs across my lap. Another is feeding him lying down, both on our sides facing each other. Interestingly, my belly is much smaller this pregnancy than it was with my other two. Perhaps it’s just nature’s way of ensuring a reasonably comfortable breastfeeding relationship between Luca and I can continue throughout – I really couldn’t imagine how I would have managed to comfortably feed a toddler in the latter stages of my pregnancy with Luca.
When at a La Leche League (LLL) meeting recently, I asked one of the leaders (someone who has tandem fed her children) if she had any advice with regards to preparing Luca for the arrival of a new baby. I told her that I was aware that I had been denying him feeds when I felt he was requesting them ‘unnecessarily’ (by that I mean times when he asked to be fed when he wasn’t hungry, hurt or upset). I would use distraction techniques or offer him something yummy to eat instead because I felt worried that I would not be able to feed him so frequently and at his leisure when the baby arrives. The LLL leader said that a toddler’s breastfeeding response to its mother’s pregnancy and to a new sibling is completely unpredictable. I may still lose my milk, even at this late stage in pregnancy and Luca may then self wean; he might choose to wean when the milk changes to the thick, fatty colostrum I will produce for the baby; he might be jealous of the new baby at my breast and want to feed every time the baby feeds; he might not be too phased by the new baby and just continue to feed as he does now. Who knows? For that reason, she felt that there wasn’t really much she could suggest in the way of preparing Luca. I took her advice (or lack thereof) and decided not to put any restraints on Luca’s requests for feeds and, boy, it feels so much better. I love feeding him and want to revel in the joys of our mummy-Luca breastfeeding relationship while I can. Who knows what’s around the corner?
Carla Sargent lives in the Waikato and is a mother of three home born children. She has worked as an independent midwife and secondary school teacher. She is happy to be contacted at email@example.com.