Heartbreak: Nursing (and Weaning) While Pregnant, Twice
I am honored to share a guest post from Christy of Adventures in Mommyhood: Mommy Outnumbered. Christy has shared some very raw and honest emotions in this post; the act of writing her story is one step on her journey of self-forgiveness. Please leave her some supportive words. You can read Christy’s full bio at the end of this post.
My First Attempt to Nurse During Pregnancy
I have attempted to nurse through two pregnancies in my life, both times I failed to make it all the way through. My body just does not seem to be capable to both grow a new baby and nourish an existing baby. I can make it through the first trimester, but once the second trimester starts my body chooses the growing baby, cutting off all milk supply.
I became pregnant with our first daughter Kimmy while Teddy (our first born) was 18 months old. He was still nursing at that time and showing no signs of wanting to stop. I was not sure if it was even possible to nurse through a pregnancy and was not familiar with the many breastfeeding support groups that exist online. A lack of support combined with societal pressures from many friends, acquaintances, and even family who felt that Teddy was already far too old to nurse caused me to do one of the worst mommy moments of my “career” ever.
A few friends suggested that I needed to make the boobies seem unappealing to Teddy, to convince him that they were “broken.” The little research I had done on nursing while pregnant made it sound dangerous because of the fact that nipple stimulation can cause contractions.1 It was heartbreaking, I felt like I had to choose between the needs of the baby I already had and the needs of the baby that was just created.
After a few “pep talks” I decided to go for it and committed one of my worst mommy moments EVER! In an attempt to force my beautiful baby boy to wean, I painted this nasty tasting nail polish (meant to deter nail biters from biting their nails) on my nipples. The next time Teddy asked to nurse I told him Mommy’s boobies were broken. He got upset by this and said “no broken mama!” and began to cry2.
After a few more tears and back and forth of me telling him they were broken and him insisting they were not, I lifted my shirt and let him latch. He was so upset at the idea of “broken boobies” that the yucky taste did not register for a minute. I thought it hadn’t worked when all of a sudden he pulled off, looked up at me with utter betrayal in his little eyes, and began to gag. I panicked, I thought he was choking. Then he began puking everywhere. My poor Little Man! The taste was so awful it made him throw up. Not my most shining moment that’s for sure.
Once he was all cleaned up he climbed into my lap, still sniffling, and laid his head on my chest and began to sob once again, “boobies broken mama, boobies broken.” In that moment I felt like the world’s worst mother. I just rocked him and told him how sorry mommy was over and over again.
I wish I could say that was the last time I tried to force him to wean, but it wasn’t. I let society get into my head and tell me he was “too old,” he “didn’t need it,” and it was “dangerous” to the new baby for me to let him continue. So I continued for about a month to try and fight him to wean, my Little Man was stubborn and he resisted. I now feel so blessed to have had such a spirited, high needs baby for my first. He taught me how to be the mother that I am today.
I finally saw a doctor who assured me it was safe to nurse as long as I wanted to and it was comfortable for both of us, so I relaxed a bit. I decided I would let Teddy continue nursing until he was ready to wean; I would no longer try to force it on him. He ended up self-weaning at 22 months. For the last few weeks I questioned if I even had any milk. It hurt really bad when he would nurse, he would get frustrated with it and only nurse a few minutes before stopping, and when I tried to hand express nothing ever came out. I am not sure how long he may have continued if my supply had not dried up, but I was thankful that, other than a few tears of frustration, he seemed ok with it. Once I realized he was no longer asking to nurse I was sad, I was not prepared for it to end because he made the decision and not me.
My Second Attempt to Nurse During Pregnancy
My second experience with nursing through a pregnancy was even more heartbreaking than my first. This time I was tandem nursing two girls. Our first daughter Kimmy (whom I was pregnant with when Teddy self-weaned) and new daughter Karma, who we were in the process of adopting. Kimmy was 14 months old and Karma was 3.5 months when I discovered I was pregnant. To say this pregnancy was a surprise would be an understatement. I knew from Teddy that my body was not exactly built to nurse and grow babies at the same time, so I decided to immediately wean Kimmy.
The idea of forcing her to wean after my horrible experience with Teddy terrified me. She was never as attached to nursing as Teddy was, and I simply stopped offering it to her. She never asked again. It was the simplest thing ever, and I am grateful for that.
I tried to increase my calorie intake and drink tons of water in order to keep up my supply, but by the time Karma was five months old it was becoming apparent that my supply was dropping. She was fussy and hungry all the time, constantly trying to nurse only to pull off and scream even harder.
I wish I had the knowledge then that I do now about things to help boost supply and the option of donor milk, but I had no clue about either of those at the time. One of the hardest things I have ever had to do as a mom was place those first few bottles of formula into Karma’s mouth. I cried and felt like I had failed her. I felt so guilty. At the same time I did not want to allow myself these feelings, because I was worried it may cause me to harbor resentment toward the baby inside of me.
I nursed Karma for the very last time when she was about six months old. I was four months pregnant at the time. There was nothing left. I see now how it is easy for moms to fall into booby traps. I didn’t understand every time I gave her a bottle I was only further damaging my supply. I had nursed three babies, but I had never really struggled with supply. I had always had enough, so I was not educated in how to keep the supply up.3
I am proud of what I was able to give Karma and am at peace with it all now. I had to make peace with it for the new baby, our little Sariah. I was able to nurse Karma for five months. She came to live with us when she was four weeks old. She had been born six weeks premature and was exposed to drugs before birth. When she was born she had some withdrawal symptoms and her body could not handle any forms of formula. They caused GI issues and bloody stools. When she came to us she was on a special prescription formula and her body was still rejecting it. She had been diagnosed “failure to thrive” and was not gaining weight, there was talk of feeding tubes. I was able to literally nurse her back to health. She never had any more GI problems or bloody stools once she came to us. Since the legalities of nursing a child who was not legally ours yet were blurry at best, we kept our nursing relationship hidden from all but a few of our closest circle of family/friends.
I don’t know if I will ever have the opportunity to nurse through another pregnancy, I am not even sure if I WANT to do that again. We do know we plan to have at least one more child, but I would like a few more years with just the four before we make that leap. I also know that things can happen unexpectedly. We never thought we would be adopting a baby before our youngest was a year old, and we definitely never knew we would find ourselves with a 3 year old, a 14 month old, a 3.5 month old, and pregnant again. Sariah is 14 months old now, and I will never try to force her to wean before she is ready. If I were to unexpectedly become pregnant again, I would do everything in my power to make sure my supply stayed up. Now I know I have a great support system of wonderful ladies, community pages, and bloggers who would cheer me on along the way. If after my best attempts my supply did disappear, at least I would know I tried and that everything would be ok in the end.
Christy is a loving wife and mother of four children – one boy and three girls. She feels privileged to be able to stay at home with her children and appreciates how hard her husband works to make this possible. Her family lives in the country far enough from the city to avoid all the chaotic hustle and bustle, but close enough to drive in when needed. Christy strives to live a simple, green, Christian lifestyle. She cherishes traditional family values but also shrugs off most of society’s rules for “mainstream parenting.” Instead she embraces things like co-sleeping, cloth diapering, baby wearing, and extended breastfeeding. She is a firm believer in following your instincts and doing what is best for you and your children. Christy blogs at Adventures in Mommyhood: Mommy Outnumbered.
- Dionna’s note: This is not normally the case for the majority of women, see Breastfeeding During Pregnancy – Common Concerns About Safety. ↩
- My son was a VERY early talker, he spoke in complete sentences by age two. I’m not sharing that in a braggy “my kid is so smart” sort of way, only so you all know that yes, my 18 month old said these things to me. ↩
- Dionna’s note: a pregnant woman’s supply is based on hormones, so there may not be a lot a pregnant woman can do to increase supply. For more information see Breastfeeding During Pregnancy – Common Concerns About Supply. ↩
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"Heartbreak: Nursing (and Weaning) While Pregnant, Twice"
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