Yes, every day I nurse three separate children. Every day. If I had three boobs I might have more time to write blog posts 😉
I always planned to nurse my babies. It wasn’t a question of “if” i just was. When I struggled after my first son was born (in retrospect I can see how hospital practices and lack of support and knowledge led to my issues) I was at a loss but still knew I’d keep going, even if I cried at every feeding (and I did for 10 straight days–those days felt like years at least).
He weaned earlier than I would have liked at 11 months. He’d been getting formula at daycare for five months and we continued to give him bottles on the weekends instead of nursing exclusively (I was worried about oversupply on Monday at work and I wasn’t pumping during the days) and he just decided he preferred the bottle to me. I was sad and relieved at the same time, waiting for him to wake up every morning so I could nurse him before leaving for work was stressful and being “tied” to putting him to bed on my own every night was making me resentful.
When I became pregnant for the second time I knew I would breastfeed again and I made a personal goal to go as long as I could, definitely past a year. When I discovered it was twins that goal did not change.
I did nurse my twins exclusively, actually laughing at the neonatal pediatrician who suggested I pump between feedings (they were four days old) because one of my daughters had jaundice. There was no “in between” feedings nursing newborn twins on demand. I’m still surprised at how little some medical professionals really know about lactation! I lost a lot of sleep and the first 12 weeks. Actually i think I started to go insane from lack of sleep, twitching and forgetting what I was saying mid-sentence, and we tried EVERYTHING to make the nighttime easier but I believe it was just the nature of the beast (here is a post about breastfeeding in those days). A wet-nurse would have made things easier but that’s about the only thing we didn’t try.
I continued to exclusively nurse through the three months I went back to work (I had a good stash built up and I pumped a lot at work) and then when school ended I gave up my position (a teacher’s salary does not compare well to the cost of three small children in daycare full time) and went back to nursing all day every day!
then it happened.
that damn pink line.
How the hell did I get pregnant NURSING TWINS 5-8 times per day ON BIRTH CONTROL? Stupid mini-pill…
Pregnant. The twins had just turned one. It was not in my plan to wean them any time soon and they were certainly happy to continue nursing all day long! I vowed I’d plow through but that soon changed to (in an exhausted voice) let’s just see what happens. I cut out some nursing times during the day from 5-6 to three to two (morning and bedtime) and I began to dread nursing them. I’m pretty sure it’s a hormonal reaction that many women experience around halfway through their pregnancy. Nursing feels like nails on a chalkboard, I wanted to crawl out of my skin to get away from those beautiful babies snuggled up against me. I was ready to be done but I also knew that these feelings wouldn’t last forever and if I could just keep going…
Then I started puking… I got the flu, nothing dramatic or insane but I was five months pregnant and I was puking every hour so I sent the kids downstairs with their dad and told him I couldn’t nurse anyone today. I was worried about dehydration and hurting the growing life inside of me. The next day I was still beaten and could barely get out of bed so I told him to keep them away again. And that was it. Two days of me being “gone” and they were done. Twinkles asked a week later but I figured we’d come that far I wasn’t going back now and I distracted her and we moved on. The girls were 17 months old.
Peanut was born so perfectly, right there in my dining room, and he nursed beautifully! I vowed that this time nothing would stop me from nursing him as long as he wanted to nurse (I’m fairly certain he’ll be done before he leaves for college). The first few weeks I played outside with my children while I nursed, I made dinner while I nursed, we read books while I nursed, and it was good. But then the girls began to show interest in what was going on. One day Twinkles asked if she could try some booby milk (that’s what I call it, I have a hard time saying “breast” it seems so clinical–these are boobs and they make milk). I’m not sure if I can really paint this picture with words, my husband didn’t really “get” it until he witnessed a similar incident… I’ll do my best.
Twinkles sidled up to me as I finished nursing Peanut on the couch. She had a mischievous look in her eye. She asked for booby milk (honestly at this point I can’t remember if she asked with words or actions… I don’t think she was talking well at that point but I understood her meaning completely). This was not the first time she’d asked but it was the first time I’d said yes. I had been told, at a recent Breastfeeding USA meeting, that it was common for siblings to want to try the breast when they saw a baby nursing but that it wouldn’t really go anywhere. Kids lose that instinct to suckle as they grow if they’re not regularly nursing. So what’s the harm in trying it out? Twinkles continued to sidle up to me, looking at me out of the corner of her eye, grinning a little. I said yes and she looked like Christmas had come early but didn’t really know what to do with all those presents. I pulled her up onto my lap, got her in position and told her to open up. The look on her face was hilarious. She kept looking up at me with that goofy grin like “Mom, are you seriously going to let me do this? My mouth is getting closer–are you going to stop me?” like we were playing boob-chicken or something. She put her mouth on my boob but didn’t have any idea how to suck and we got a really, really good laugh out of it. Of course Pinky had to come join in too and have her turn which ended with all three of us laughing hysterically.
And I assumed that was that,
but you know what they say about assuming…
A few days later one of them asked to try again (and if one asked the other wanted to try too). Sometimes I said no, sometimes I said yes. Every week, inevitably, we’d try. It was just for fun, for comfort but over time Pinky began to ask more and more and eventually she was really nursing again. It got to the point, probably when Peanut was about six months old, that she was asking ALL DAY LONG and it became very stressful for both of us (I would say no and she’d go into a crying tantrum making me more frustrated and less likely to want to say yes–it was a very bad spiral). After we instituted a “bedtimes only” rule things got better and as she got older she could accept that I said no a little better. Pinky has always been a very volatile child, she doesn’t take “no” well and was very weepy a lot of the time over little things. Her personality is running at 110% all the time making her crashes much more pronounced than those of other children. She was like a pinball in a machine bouncing bouncing bouncing OUT (usually with screams and tears). When she started nursing regularly she slowed down. Not completely, not even most of the time but it was noticeable to those of us who knew her best.
She needed to nurse. Simple as that. She’d weaned too young.
I was thrilled to be able to help her. When I watched her struggle with the frustrations that her impulsivity and inability to stop and breathe I physically ached for her. I had those same struggles and watching her i literally hurt for her. By nursing her I was able to alleviate some of that frustration and pain. That was all the motivation I needed.
Did I sometimes look down and wonder at this growing child latched onto my breast? Yes, if I stopped to think about it I could see how it might seem weird. It did seem weird to me sometimes. But we kept on going. For the next few months Pinky and Peanut shared my boobs and Twinkles made an occasional appearance without any success (and usually a lot of pain for me because she would only put the nipple in her mouth and no surrounding tissue–that hurts!). Pinky and I still battled occasionally when she really wanted some milk but I said no (because I was feeding Peanut, because I had to go make dinner, because I had to pee, because I had illusions of keeping boundaries, or sometimes because I was totally touched out–Peanut is still nursing multiple times a night at almost a year and I get very little “alone” time).
As she got older, though, I began understanding her wild behavior was a call for something she wasn’t getting. She wasn’t getting enough of me. I mean I have four kids five and under plus I run a daycare. No one gets enough of me! But she needed more. Just as she did when she was an infant, needing to nurse 45 minutes every 2.5 hours (while Twinkles could go for 4 hours between feedings). Pinky needed more. Shorter spaces of time between her groundings. That’s what I felt like nursing did for her, it grounded her. It brought her to me with a single focus so she could get her wild self together and when she was done she could go back out into the world feeling more in control. The changes in her behavior are amazing to witness before and after nursing and I can’t imagine taking that away from her.
So here I am nursing my almost year old baby and my almost three year old toddler. What? I used to think nursing a three year old was weird but I realized that I didn’t know where my nursing relationship was going to end. I heard people who “knew” talk about when you should cut a baby off from the breast (usually people who hadn’t breastfed at all or only for a very short time). When they get teeth (peanut had teeth at 3 months and almost a full set by 5 months but Punkin and Pinky didn’t have teeth until their first birthday!). When they can ask for it (Peanut let me know every single time he was hungry from the moment he slid into that birthing tub and Punkin could sign for it by 8 months old). When they can walk (Punkin and Peanut both walking well at 9.5 months). When they are a year old (that magical milestone when a babies gut turns from an immature organ unable to process things like strawberries and dairy to an iron tube able to successfully digest anything you throw at it and certainly no longer in need of the immunities and other valuable things that are in breast milk).
I’ve often wondered when people tell me these things: how do you tell your child, your baby, that tomorrow you can’t do this with me anymore. Tomorrow you can’t have this anymore. Because tomorrow is different than today. You don’t just wake up one day and decide that this is the day I’m turning your life upside-down because of some arbitrary idea of what is good for you. Every single one of those reasons above are completely arbitrary and have no bearing on the needs of the child or mother. wait, I’m sidling up to my soapbox, I’ll save that for another post 😉
I now nurse Pinky almost on demand. I will defer her to nap time sometimes but lately I’ve been letting her on whenever she has a need and I like what it’s doing for her behavior (she smashed her lip on her bed cutting it both inside and out two weeks ago which started the nursing frenzy). Because of this increase in nursing Twinkles has been more interested. I can’t say no to one twin while laying and snuggling (in front of her) with the other so at bedtime lately I’ve been snuggling with each girl individually and nursing a bit. Until I got tired… Peanut is cutting teeth and spending the time to nurse two other girls individually was taking up too much of my almost non-existent evening so I started nursing them together.
And today I realized Twinkles is actually drinking. A lot! So that makes it official, I have three little nurslings now.
Like my life needed anything else to convince people I was nuts!
I think of what my former self would have thought upon meeting someone doing what I’m doing and I’d like to tell you that she’d be totally supportive and cool. But she’d never have understood.
I’d have been polite then went home and told my roomate or boyfriend how INSANE this person I just met was. I have always been pro nursing but I would have thought that nursing three kids at the same time–two of them almost three years old–was more than crazy, it was INSANE!!!
I could not have understood until I stood here, in my current position in my own two sneakers. I could never have imagined what it would be like getting to this place without having walked all those steps to this point myself. I could not have felt capable of comforting, supporting and feeding three small beings with my body.
and yet here I am and guess what? it just feels like another day in my crazy, wonderful life.