Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Top Eleven Tandem Nursing Questions

My post about tandem nursing is, by a fair margin, my most-viewed post.  So I thought I'd answer some questions I've been asked, and I'll soon write a follow-up post that's a bit more narrative.  These are in a sort of chronological order from early pregnancy to late to birth to shortly after.  They're compiled fom my memory of what people have asked me via email and in person.

All answers are based on my personal experience.  By my understanding, there is a very broad range of both physiological and emotional responses to nursing during pregnancy and tandem nursing.

1.  So...you just kept making milk through pregnancy?

Nope, not exactly.  I couldn't say when my milk disappeared, but it was sometime around the middle of my pregnancy.  Bean didn't seem to be swallowing anymore, and I couldn't stand to nurse him often or for long.  That improved whenever it was that I started producing colostrum.  Again, I couldn't say when that was exactly, but I think it was early in my third trimester.  I had thought the time when I had very little or no milk was the most likely time he would wean on his own or as a result of my limiting him....but obviously that didn't happen!

2.  Doesn't nursing during pregnancy cause pre-term labor?

I have been asked this question (and, actually, told that it's a fact) by medical professionals who were also nursing mothers (note: plural!).  There is a very common sense reason that this is thought to be a potential problem:  oxytocin.  Oxytocin has a role in every step of the reproductive process.  It is released during female orgasm;  it is what causes labor contractions; it is released during breastfeeding. It's actually released just from snuggling.  It's powerful stuff!  So, the concern is that breastfeeding will release oxytocin and cause labor contractions.

For those who are high-risk for pre-term labor, it is a definite concern.  And I did sometimes have "nursing contractions," but they were not even as noticeable or as long as many Braxton-Hicks contractions I had.  Heck, at the end I was so desperate that not only did I nurse Bean but I hooked myself up to a pump to try to get labor going!  And I didn't have a single contraction.

Some science:  It appears (and this I'm recollecting from Adventures in Tandem Nursing) that the uterus's oxytocin receptors aren't really all that receptive until you're about term!

3.  What about nipple tenderness during pregnancy?

I definitely experienced this, and at times I thought it would lead to Bean's weaning because I was limiting his frequency and duration of nursings.   I had soreness before I could even get a positive pregnancy test, but it was worst at night (one of several reasons I night weaned Bean petty early on).  Toward the end I was counting to three or ten for every feeding, or I was only singing one song or even one verse.  This got better when my milk came in - though I still struggle sometimes just because of Squeaks sometimes-painful nursing challenges.

4.  What about colostrum ("first milk")?  Did you just never make colostrum for Squeak? 

I started making colostrum in my third trimester, so Squeak definitely got some.  My understanding on this is that your milk often comes in earlier with subsequent children, plus I had no interventions this time (some of which could delay milk coming in).  Amount of nursing, as far as I understand, doesn't really bring your milk in sooner, as the hormonal shift that brings about production of mature milk is triggered by the detachment of the placenta.  In any case, my milk did come in at least 24 hours earlier than with Bean, possibly a full 48 hours (it was hard to say because I didn't get so engorged this time!  (And, of course, any time I'm talking about what triggers human lactation, I must refer you here.)

5.  Do you make enough for both kids?

And then some!  A metric:  by two months old, Squeak has gained 1lb 6oz more than Bean had at two months.  So, Squeak is gaining faster than Bean did.  I also have at least 30oz in the freezer.  "Enough" is not an issue!

6.  Isn't the toddler "stealing" from the newborn? 

Actually, given the nursing struggles we've had, it's likely that Bean is doing all the work for Squeak in terms of maintaining my supply.  Squeak just has to show up and swallow.  In fact, to really make Squeak work and help him learn to nurse effectively and efficiently, I have to either pump or nurse Bean first.  I really just make plenty of milk!

7.  Any jealousy over nursing?

Though I know moms whose older child had a hard time sharing nursing with their new sibling, we've had not a single issue of the sort.  If I'd only been nursing the baby, I think Bean would have been jealous.  Bean is very sweet to Squeak and is even usually ok if I kick him off my lap but keep nursing Squeak.  If squeak falls off (which happens all too often - ugh), Bean will gently help him back on mimicking what I do - and he does that whether he's also nursing or whether he's just standing nearby.  So no jealousy around that.  Bean just wants Squeak's wrist rattles and stuffed animals!

8.  Don't you just want your body back?

Sort of.  I often want some personal space back, for sure!  Bean is climbing all over me, jumping off the couch as I'm nursing the baby right next to him, wrestling his dad, looking like he's about to topple the heavy rocking recliner while standing in it, roaring like a dinosaur as he attacks my leg (and I'm saying "pretend bites, please!") and generally doing all he can to make my hair go gray. Invite him for a nurse and get him to sit still and shut up?  Yes.  And I usually can get him to snuggle sweetly afterwards.  It feels to me like reclaiming space, if only because I get to hear myself think!

9.  How often does Bean nurse?

I have no idea.  I don't know how often Squeak nurses either.  I hardly remember how often I've eaten today.  Everyone's alive and only slightly traumatized?  Everyone's peeing and pooping and gaining (or in my case losing) weight as expected?  We're good!

10.  How did you prepare yourself for nursing through pregnancy and for tandem nursing?

Mainly, I read Adventures in Tandem Nursing.  I appreciated the information in the book as well as the range of experiences catalogued.   

I also made mental note of anyone who had done this or was  doing this so I could ask questions and get support. And ask questions and seek support I have done!

11.  Did you plan to tandem nurse, or did it just happen?

I pretty much planned on it.  I liked the idea from the moment I heard it was possible and that it could reduce sibling rivalry and jealousy. Though I was pretty sure I'd end up tandem nursing, I also gave myself permission to change my mind at any point, and reminded myself that Bean could decide to wean on his own at any point as well.

As an aside to that, Adventures in Tandem Nursing mentions that there are a few points at which the nursling is possibly more likely to wean:  when milk changes/diminishes/disappears, when colostrum appears (they may not like the taste), when the milk comes back (they may not like the taste), when they become a big sibling (they may make it their own rite of passage).  Though I suspected Bean would keep nursing though all of this, I did try to keep myself mentally prepared!

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