Heartbreak: Nursing (and Weaning) While Pregnant, Twice

October 7th, 2011 by Dionna | 16 Comments
Posted in Breastfeeding/Lactivism, Compassionate Advocacy, Feed with Love and Respect, Guest Posts, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, natural parenting, Pregnancy and Birth

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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.

  1. Dionna’s note: This is not normally the case for the majority of women, see Breastfeeding During Pregnancy – Common Concerns About Safety.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

16 Responses to:
"Heartbreak: Nursing (and Weaning) While Pregnant, Twice"

  1. Christine   Christinewans

    Thank you for sharing this post. I have been feeling pressure(society and family)to wean my 22 month old. He is clearly not ready and throws a tantrum if I refuse and offer a cup.

    Your post only reassures me that I do not have to wean him and will do so when he is ready. Thanks again for sharing, it is nice to know I am not alone :)

  2. melia

    i have 2 babes. an almost 4yo and a 14month old. my first was a high needs nursing machine, and our relationship seemed very intertwined with nursing. when i became pregnant she was 19 months old, and it hurt me so much that i began in earnest to wean. she also resisted, and i went 3 days without sitting down (literally!) in order to change our daytime nursing habits, i tried distraction, i tried delay tactics “not now, in 5 minutes”.. i tried everything because i DID have support, i knew i should be able to tandem nurse, and i was already well into reading all the blogs. I just couldn’t bear to.

    the pain coupled with what i can only call the “nursing heebie jeebies” made it a teeth clenching experience for me. while i was able to wean slowly over the next 4 months, there was a lot of refusing, and now with my 2nd i hope to go longer, as i know i will not be pregnant again. we can only do what works for us at the time, and looking back to acknowledge that is healthy, as long as we value that what was going on at the time (including judgment by family/in laws) played a big part in how things went. you have nursed 4 babies and that is an amazing feat! be proud mama, it is an amazing thing you have done for your children, and weaning is only a tiny tiny part of what the entire journey is about.

  3. Oh my, my hearts aches for her. I can’t imagine her feelings when her child weaned… thank you for sharing her post, am going to her site now to give some moral support! :)

  4. Caela

    Thank you for sharing your story. My heart breaks for you. I am currently nursing and pregnant and I know how stressful it can be to try and maintain that relationship with the first while growing the second. I just want to say – you did nothing wrong at all when your milk supply dwindled with Karma and it sounds like you really did need to give her bottles (I’m sorry you didn’t know about donor milk). Supply goes away with a lot of women during pregnancy and my understanding is there’s really not much you can do about it in most of those cases. You are an amazing mama and did all you could. Look at what you did for her. WOW!

  5. Melissa   vibreantwanderer

    This had to be a difficult story to share, but it will no doubt help many a mama who is struggling with the difficult decision of whether or not to wean, or who is suddenly left with no choice due to pregnancy hormones. Christy, I can hear the disappointment in your words, yet at the same time I’m amazed that you made it beyond the 18 month point with your first despite a lack of support, and tandem nursed Karma. You are an inspiration! Thank you for being so open and honest. XOXO

  6. Rachel

    Thank you for sharing. I am sure that was not easy.

  7. Christy @ Adventures in Mommyhood   MommyOutnumber

    thank you all for your supportive comments! I am thankful that my story can help others.

    Christine-don’t listen, don’t give in to outside influences. You know what is best for your LO and my attitude now is if people don’t like how I raise MY kids they are more than welcome to turn the othe way and ignore us.

    Melia, your comment made me cry, thank you so much!!

    Jenny, I saw your comment of support on my blog too, thank you for that!

  8. Christy @ Adventures in Mommyhood   MommyOutnumber

    Melissa and Caela, I did not see your comments until after I posted my comment. Didn’t want you to think I was ignoring your beautiful and supportive comments. I had the page open on my desk top for awhile lol. Thank you both, Caela your comment made me tear up too hehe. I alwayts share my struggles not in the hope for symptahy but in the hope that I can help others who find themselves struggling with the same problems, that maybe they can come through the otherside better than I did.
    I am happy to report that Sariah is now 17 months (I wrote this awhile ago lol) and still a nursing champ.

  9. Zoie @ TouchstoneZ   TouchstoneZ

    Christi, thank you for sharing your difficult and loving stories. The love you have for your children comes through so powerfully in your words. I appreciate hearing other mothers’ breastfeeding experiences while pregnant. Having nursed through 3 pregnancies, I remember how very different each of them was. I remember confronting guilt and indecision about when or if to wean. I think the more experiences we hear from other mothers, the more we can remember that we can get support we need.

  10. Amy   Amy_willa

    Christy, the gift that you gave little Karma by nursing her back to health brought me to tears! You are such a devoted mama to all your children, and I’m so glad that you shared these experiences with us! We all have those moments in mommy-hood when we do something we instantly regret. You have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about – every woman’s body reacts differently to pregnancy hormones and nursing hormones. That can change from pregnancy to pregnancy though. . . so don’t write off your ability to do it again :) Thanks for sharing!

  11. Oh, I cried through this post. Christy, you’re a brave, brave woman and obviously a wonderful Mommy. It takes so much courage to actually write all this. Many of us never take the time out to think it through and come to terms with our feelings because life is so rushed after our baby comes into our lives.

    Very beautifully written. Big hug to you.

    And thanks, Dionna, for the opportunity to read this. I am tempted to write about my own experiences.

  12. Cady

    This is so emotional and honest, thank you for sharing! This post is an excellent reminder that “mommy guilt” is always lingering around a corner, but that it shadows our incredible accomplishments as mothers and we should continue striving to be rid of guilt; it’s just not a productive feeling or emotion, and we have to move past it whenever we can. We have to celebrate what we CAN and DO accomplish, not feel guilty over where we may feel we have been lacking.

    There are some Oprah quotes that come to mind as I read this touching post. You do the best you can with your knowledge at the time. “When you know better, you do better.” That means that if you don’t know any better, you are doing the best you can at the time.

    I can see how learning more about nursing through pregnancy since your various attempts must have had the potential to make you feel bad later. However, if you focus on the positive, on all that you DID successfully do for each of those children through your nursing relationship, it’s amazing how much you accomplished! Making it through as you did without proper support is even more astonishing an accomplishment. Bravo!

  13. Linna

    Christy, thanks for sharing your story. You are a very dedicated and hands-on mommy for your children. I also have 4 children. I am nursing my youngest baby now, and I nursed my twins till almost 2, without having to supplement. Breastfeeding is bonding. Keep it up!

  14. olo

    I too feel sad b/c I was totally was not ready for my almost one year old to wean during my pregnancy. I was optimistic that my good nutrition and her desire to nurse would keep up my milk supply but I guess my hormones have a diff plan. My first was able to nurse for 2 1/2 years and I was just as ready for as long with my little girl but now that I am almost at my pregnancy 1/2way point my milk tastes more salty and there isn’t much. My babe doesn’t like the taste and started refusing it during the day. When she did nurse she was becoming more and more frustrated. Now she is only nursing a little at night and that too is becoming shorter. I am really sad because I didn’t plan it this way. Nursing my lil babe is so sweet and fulfilling and I am just not ready for it to come to end this soon.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Big hugs, olo – I know exactly where you are coming from. If it helps, know that your little one may be interested in nursing again after your milk comes in. If it isn’t too painful, feel free to let your little nurse as desired (so she remembers how to latch); if she does lose her latch, it is possible to reteach her! Congratulations on your pregnancy, I hope you find a breastfeeding path that is beautiful for both of you!

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