24 November 2014

tandem nursing

I didn't mean to turn this blog into one about breastfeeding, but it's on my mind today, and I did fairly warn you, reader, that I might try to start using this space as an outlet for what's on my mind. If there actually is anyone reading this, feel free to navigate away to more interesting Internet places.

I just finished reading Adventures in Tandem Nursing. This book has been on my to-read list for much of this pregnancy, but without ordering it from La Leche League's website for nearly $20 (I am not accustomed to paying more than $1 for books, so this seemed obnoxious to me), it was rather difficult to get my hands on a copy. I ended up asking my twin brother (whom I rarely associate with) to check it out from the University of Utah's school library because I couldn't find it anywhere else! I should probably be a member of La Leche League so I can get borrowing privileges to such titles and maybe be a part of a community with some other women who have had similar experiences with nursing. 

Shepherd is 31 months old and he continues to nurse. I hesitate to even describe what he does as breastfeeding, because while in theory it all seems like one and the same (he still suckles at the breast for all intents and purposes), I believe he stopped nursing for any nutritional needs quite some time ago. As others often seem compelled to do, I also feel like I want to state here that my experience nursing a child is so different from what I thought and planned before having a baby that it seems almost unimaginable that I ended up here or once thought about the issue as I did before. 

One of the mother's stories in the last segment of Tandem Nursing sounded a lot like Shepherd: once the baby actually arrived, he was jaundiced and required treatment under the lights, which he didn't tolerate very well. The mother described crying as the baby was crying under the lights and thereafter feeling sensitive to her baby's crying (I imagine that is not unusual), eager and anxious to do whatever it took to stop the baby from crying whenever possible. It was so sad to listen to Shep cry under those lights and be unable to do anything for him, so I sent him away from my room to the nursery and only went in to nurse him. Thinking about this, which I haven't done for a while, makes me feel like crying.

So began a nursing journey, I suppose, that reached far beyond feeding a baby from my body. Nursing seemed like one of the few tools I was capable of utilizing that would generally work to calm him. It seemed like he was always crying if he wasn't nursing. 

I never really anticipated nursing coinciding with pregnancy, but here I am at 36 weeks gestation and Shep continues to nurse to fall asleep (thankfully he doesn't often nurse otherwise). I feel like I'm at the end of my pregnancy, even though these last few weeks always feel long, and I am worried about how things will go when I'm no longer pregnant. I guess I just always counted on the idea that he would give up nursing on his own. I've never liked the idea of forcing weaning on him because I was too intimidated by the battle I foresaw. So I thought he would just give it up at a time when he stopped needing it, and that I would be glad to accommodate until then. But so far it hasn't worked out that way. I've been setting limits along the way because nursing hasn't exactly been pleasant the last eight months or so. It's been a painful and fairly frustrating experience for me, though not wholly so (I've been having nipple vasospasms quite a lot--perhaps caused by "dry nursing"--but ironically the one thing that seems to alleviate the pain is nursing, so I sometimes encourage Shep to nurse even when he doesn't want to!). But we've kept at it anyway. Why? I guess because it seemed more manageable to me to nurse him to sleep than to find another solution to get him to sleep. When Tim is here, I often pass Shep to his arms for him to rock to sleep in the chair. That has worked at times. Am I a bad parent for not teaching my child to sleep on his own? I often fear that I am.

I worry about fitting a nursing newborn into this journey that has been already complicated by pregnancy. Reading Adventures in Tandem Nursing was encouraging for me, though, because it helped me feel like it might be okay to just take things one day at a time with this tandem nursing business and decide not to make any decisions. There have certainly been times when I've come close to making decisions about changing the status quo, especially when the status quo seems pretty intolerable in the moment, but I never have the confidence to pull the trigger on the big guns, it seems. I hope that I'll have the courage to make adjustments when it's necessary for my well-being as a mother. I believe in self-sacrifice for my babes to fill their needs, but sometimes I'm afraid of taking that to martyr levels and endangering myself in the process.

1 comment:

Tracie said...

Thanks for being open about your thoughts. I think it's really cool that you're still nursing. My son stopped nursing around 14 months, but he had a bottle for A LOT, LOT longer than that. (longer than I'd admit to publicly)

I don't believe in arbitrary cut-off dates for nursing. Humans were made to biologically nurse for a lot longer than the status quo says is "acceptable." Good for you for being open in the face of a lot of people who are aghast at nursing beyond a year. And I've heard that nursing can be difficult while you're pregnant, so kudos for keeping it up.

I really like the thought of just taking things one day at a time. You or Shep will get to a point when one of you is done. And it'll probably happen gradually. And that's totally okay. :) Best of luck adding a newborn to your life. (Kind of jealous that you're almost there...several more months left for me.)

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