When my story was first published three years ago (read it HERE), Angela was 19 weeks old and eating like a horse. Up to that point, I'd struggled with oversupply and finding my block feeding balance for a couple of weeks and even battled postpartum depression for a spell as my hormones worked themselves out. She has food sensitivities, too, so I'd had to do the restriction dance again. I haven't been a vegetarian since the day Mikey was born, so the diet was more forgiving. I'd learned to take tons of pictures of my nursling because I became so awed and grateful to have this relationship. I was still sad that I hadn't had my tandem experience, but I held out hope for another baby. I also told Angela that she'd better nurse until she's four or five, but I was just happy to know there was nothing standing in the way of her deciding when she's ready to wean.
As of fall 2014, Angela was 2.5 years old and still nursing all night long and usually a few times during the day. In 2.5 years, she never nursed without causing me pain, but the relationship was too important to me to end.
I found out on Veteran's Day that I was unexpectedly pregnant. I was thrilled. This time I didn't hope and pray that the baby would breastfeed fine. I pretended like I had no reason to question it. The delusion was effective against my anxiety about the matter. I also talked to Angela about sharing her "nehneh" with the baby, a concept she agreed with, though we didn't know if she really got it. She did assign sides, though. The right was hers and the left was the baby's.
Since her nursing didn't affect my prodromal labor, for better or worse, there was no medical reason to reconsider our breastfeeding relationship. Still, as the pregnancy went on, I started telling her no to nursing more and more because my hormones were crazy, and my nipples were sore. Plus, I knew she'd be on me all night long as she's been since birth. I worried that I'd accelerate her weaning, but I had to do what I had to do. Thankfully, she never showed signs of weaning.
I was signed up to do a breastfeeding photo shoot on a Friday morning. Thursday afternoon, I suddenly had the urge to cook dinner for my kids an hour early. Even though I thought that was weird, I started gathering my supplies. I was walking through the kitchen when I felt a telltale trickle. I gave everyone the heads up, and I was comically informed my baby would never live down making me cancel the photo shoot.
Angela was 3.25 years old at this point. We'd wanted her out of the house while I labored and birthed because we figured she'd be demanding nehneh the whole time for comfort. Alas, our plans were thwarted by a very tricky labor, and the kids stayed at our house with my mom keeping them entertained as they woke. Angela really didn't ask to nurse much, and we were glad she was here because we had to ask her to nurse a few times because my labor kept stalling. Her nursing is what finally kickstarted the laboring that took me straight through to the finish line.
Gabe arrived in an inflatable swimming pool in our bedroom. His cord was very short like his brother's, and I worried he'd have some of his brother's medical issues, even though the fetal scans had been clear. I tried not to worry, even as he struggled getting his first latch. I just sat up in the bed, as relaxed as I could be, and enjoyed/half ignored the kids and midwives buzzing around me as I patiently tried again and again until he latched. Finally. With no pain and no clicking. I did a happy dance in my head and took some pictures of our first breastfeeding session. (I might've checked Facebook, too. He ate for a LONG time.) The kids all took their turns gazing at him and taking our picture. Angela even seemed content to watch her brother eat her nehneh.
Later that day, my dream of tandem nursing came true when Angela climbed onto the couch to nurse while her brother was eating. I can't really describe how I felt. Joy? Relief? Euphoria? Good. I felt really good.
Gabe nursed like both of his sisters - fast and furious for the meal like Ellie but lingering forever afterward like Angela. He ate all the time. But Gabe wasn't gaining weight almost at all. Sure, we'd had some difficulties with the food sensitivities in the first days, but they were resolved, and he had a tongue tie and lip tie, but they didn't seem to be a problem. But still his weight was flatlined. Additionally, he started to damage my nipples. In fact, I experienced less pain when Angela nursed! Plus, he was getting harder and harder to latch. It took 5 to 10 minutes for him to feel the nipple in just the right place on his palate and stay latched. I knew he had it when I felt a certain immense pain. I was starting to panic.
I went to see Debbie Gillespie, my IBCLC. She had me adjust how I was holding him and assured me boys are generally just pickier about these things. (Knowing what I know now about Gabe, I wonder if I could've gotten Mikey to breastfeed. I shouldn't think about these things, but I can't help myself.) We verified he was getting enough to eat and not fatiguing prematurely (he was actually getting an impressive amount). She also gave me the go ahead to stop worrying about my oversupply and just give Gabe the other breast when I felt he needed more. Things got a little better, and he started putting on weight.
As my nipples healed, I actually felt no pain when Angela nursed, for the first time in almost 3.5 years. (Sadly, that was short-lived, but it was so nice to have that brief experience in our relationship.) The little pain I did feel with Gabe was very specific and not a result of continued breastfeeding problems. I was still waiving off Angela sometimes because of pain and hormones, but overall we were all settling in, and Gabe was back to his birthweight by one month old.
Gabe is now seven weeks old. There is still pain with his latch and a few minutes after, and he still takes a few tries latching most of the time, but we have turned a corner and are hitting our stride. Angela nurses less at night, partly due to our early restrictions, which is good because I haven't figured out how to comfortably nurse both in bed at the same time. Angela and I also have an understanding now that she has to unlatch when I tell her it hurts, and she's fine with it. She loves tandem nursing with her brother, and we will do it much more as he requires less help from me to nurse.
I still have to avoid wheat and dairy, but the Raynaud's is under control more than it has been in years. I will take what I can get. Finding the positive is what has gotten me through all these years of trials. The benefit to my child is the pinnacle of the breastfeeding relationship. I focus on that when the weight of it all is pulling me down. I surround myself with breastfeeding-positive people, mostly online through Facebook groups and friends. I have a couple friends with whom I can be truly candid when I need to be. I have the number and email of a trusted lactation consultant handy at all times. When people ask what is the best breastfeeding advice I've ever received, that last one is it.
The breastfeeding relationship is one of the most benefit-rich things on this planet, for both mother and child. It's worth fighting for.
I make milk. What's YOUR superpower?
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