It’s been a long journey but at 15 1/2 months I’m still “exclusively” nursing (can you say exclusively when they eat a ton of people food and drink cows milk? I mean no formula I guess).
The first three months were ridiculously hard, not because they were poor nursers (though Pinky was and still is an inefficient nurser), but because of the sheer AMOUNT of milk they consumed, the time they took to consume it (45 minutes a session) and the number of times per day they needed to consume it (start a feeding every 2 1/2 hours… not much time left to sleep!). Though those first 3 months were insane (lack of sleep will do crazy things to your brain) I never regretted my choice. After all, I was able to provide warm milk on demand that I knew was designed perfectly for my babies and I never had to clean anything except maybe wipe a drip from a cheek. Let me tell you, the lack of extra dishes to do was a BIG motivator for me!
We surpassed the year-mark still going strong (a big goal for me, I missed it by a month with my son), still nursing 5-6 times a day! Let me interject here that I almost exclusively tandem nursed the girls–nursing both at the same time. I can’t imagine the time it would have taken to nurse one at a time (nor can I imagine one waiting patiently while I nursed her sister!). The 45 min. feeding sessions are long in the past now but even a 15 or 20 min session doubled is more time than I have!!! A mother of 3 kids 3 and under doesn’t have the luxury of time. So, their birthday came and went without even a slow down. I’m lucky enough that, as a teacher, I could take a whole year off for Childrearing Leave and still be guaranteed a job come September so I was home and able to feed them as often as we liked! Another quick interjection here in case you weren’t aware: The girls were born September 2010 and I worked the first 2 weeks of that school year and then had 6 months off (no, not all paid) and went back for the last 11 weeks of the school year during which I pumped enough (along with my freezer stash) to completely sustain the girls. The 2011-2012 school year is the one I took off for leave (no, not paid at all). Then I got knocked up again.
Okay, I got pregnant by my loving husband, while using the mini-pill (obviously not correctly) so I guess “knocked up” isn’t the appropriate term… pregnant-without-planning just is much more of a mouthful! I mean, I wanted a fourth baby someday but I hadn’t imagined it would be so soon! How did I know I was pregnant? The babies seemed dissatisfied after nursing all of a sudden and my nipples were soooooooooore! My boob instinct was right and about a month after their birthday we got the positive pregnancy result and were positively floored. I decided not to change any of my plans which included nursing the girls up to about 3 if it was still convenient for all concerned (kinda wait and see how it goes attitude). Other than the sore nipples (yuck!) it was fine and I hoped that the discomfort would subside.
Fast forward about 3 months. I’m 15 weeks pregnant and the soreness is still there. I cut the girls back to 3 feedings a day with very little trouble by mid-November because my body was screaming at me (I felt drained and horribly dehydrated almost all the time, no fun!). The girls barely cared so we nursed first thing in the morning, before afternoon nap and at bedtime. Then came the disaster…
The girls have been sick so we’ve been bringing them in our bed in the middle of the night so I can feed them. They have stuffy noses mostly but that can make you MISERABLE and need extra liquids, plus nursing blocks the mouth for breathing so they tend to clear their own airways (I’m always ready with a tissue–ew!) while they eat. So 2 nights ago we had Pinky, my inefficient and, lately, painful nurser in bed. She was almost done and I think I pulled her off to wipe her gross nose (cause who wants THAT on their boob??). She cried and went to relatch and speared me with her sharp, cruel fang! Okay, she bit me with a couple of her tiny baby teeth (she only has five). I screamed and started crying. She started sobbing. It was a mess. I was bleeding, not a gusher by any means but significant enough to soak a quarter-sized spot on a tissue! I’ve never been more than love-nibbled (and even that only once or twice by each child–they learn fast not to do that!) and this was MUCH more painful! Literally I had tears streaming down my face from the shock and pain (I was also half asleep…). Poor Pinky was taken back to bed by her dad and I was left to nurse my wounds (haha, pun TOTALLY intended!).
The next day Twinkle Toes woke up and nursed (on the other side) but the wound still stung that when Pinky woke I just didn’t feed her. She didn’t seem to mind. After lunch I put them to bed for naps without feeding them and they didn’t seem to mind. I figured maybe i was just done. I mean, did I REALLY want to nurse THREE kids at the same time? No, if I was honest with myself I really didn’t want to do that… but there was a part of me that still wanted to go with my original plan of going until we didn’t like it anymore. And, again being honest with myself, I knew that if it weren’t for the pregnancy I wouldn’t let a little nipple puncture stop us from continuing our nursing relationship.
Bedtime that night didn’t go very well. I’d kinda decided that I was done but Twinkle Toes is very stubborn and did not take the news well. She and her sister still weren’t feeling 100% so they were up and down leaving Punkin to fall asleep in our bed because of their screaming. My husband point-blank told me he didn’t want me to stop (following it up with “I’ll support you any way you want, just tell me what you want!”). I got tears in my eyes as I thought of never snuggling with them again and feeding them with that everything-is-absolutely-right-with-the-world feeling flowing between us. I cried as I held Twinkle Toes knowing that if her vocabulary were stronger she’d be telling me EXACTLY what she thought of our attempt to suddenly wean. She can say “milk” but seems to forget that when she’s really distraught. I held firm, though, because Twinkle Toes is so stubborn she was likely to never forget the giving in and torture me for months… so I’d made my bed, I had to lie in it, at least for one night. It was not a good night.
So, now it is the “morning after” and I’m still not 100% sure how this is all going to end but I’ve decided something: I’m not ready for this bond, this relationship to end like this. As annoying as it can be to “have” to nurse them at bedtime and in the morning (sometimes I just want to sleep in or do other things in the evening like hang with my son!) and how frustrating it can be to balance the two of them on my lap (we use a boppy and Twinkle Toes lays in cradle position with Pinky in the football hold, head on Twinkle’s lap) it’s still worth it. Worth the fingers in my face poking at me while they nurse to be able to sooth their pains and make them feel completely safe. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve whipped out the ol’ milk makers when someone fell and smashed their face in. It’s often the only way to get them to stop crying! They need me and I need them and I guess we’re not done yet.
So, I’ve cut them down to 2 feedings a day (though I didn’t nurse Pinky this morning) cutting out the unnecessary feeding midday (seriously, can’t remember how many times we’re all ready to go to sleep when I remember that I hadn’t fed them yet and we had to head on back out of the nap room! They really didn’t miss it at all today or yesterday!). Morning and bedtime will continue definitely for Twinkle Toes but maybe just bedtime for Pinky… who knows with that little monkey!
So, there ya go. Tune in about 6 months from now to see if I managed to keep this insanity up through the pregnancy and into the nursing life of my new little baby!