Breastfeeding while pregnant – the second trimester

In those early weeks following Talitha’s birth, I found it difficult to blog about anything happening in our life, mainly because there was so much change. No sooner would I draft a post about her sleeping habits or my general weepiness than a sudden shift would occur and the topic no longer seemed relevant. I think that’s been the scary thing about blogging through breastfeeding in the present tense. I don’t know how this story goes and I don’t know how it ends – I’ve never known.

After the first trimester, where I was finding it plainly unpleasant, followed by weeks where she seemed to be losing interest and on the clear path to weaning, I doubted I would be writing this update. Yet here I am. I’ll be 26 weeks pregnant on Friday and she is two-and-a-half years old. We’re still breastfeeding. And it doesn’t look like we’re stopping though, you never know, next week it might. It’s so strange, living without certainty, but there’s something freeing in it nonetheless.

My feelings about breastfeeding while pregnant continue to be mixed. On one hand, I love that breastfeeding still brings her so much comfort and, indeed, joy. The other morning, she climbed into bed and asked: “Mummy, just a little bit of milky?” When I agreed, she literally yelled: “Yippee!” We all laughed. She had quite a nasty fall the other day but was quickly soothed by the breast. Now that my colostrum is in (at least a bit on one side), she tells me it tastes like apple.

Sometimes, it helps her to make the transition from being fully awake to fully asleep but she generally no longer falls asleep at the breast. Usually, she takes herself off and asks me to cuddle her or sing to her. Otherwise, I take her off because I still find it uncomfortable and can only stand it for short feeds.

Breastfeeding while pregnant - the second trimester

And that’s part of the other hand. I’m still finding it physically uncomfortable to breastfeed her and nursing aversion comes at times to visit at times. I then get a powerful urge to throw her off me. But there is no need. Generally, if I tell her to let go, she will and even if she protests, she will accept it. In the rare instance that she won’t, I let her latch again with the warning that we’ll be counting to ten, at which point she has to let go and she will. Sometimes, she’ll just say she doesn’t want to count and we’ll instead get up for the day or she’ll roll over and go to sleep. Morning and bedtime are the only significant feeds she has. She’s mostly not interested at any other time and she’s given up naps (though I did argue her into one today).

Yet it’s such a change to just a while ago when I was convinced she was weaning because she only asked to breastfeed once every few days. She told me then that my milk would return when the baby was born and laughed when I asked if she would still be breastfeeding. Now I tell her that when the baby is born, the baby will need to have lots of milk. She asks cautiously: “I have milky too?” I ask her: “Will you want milky?” She always takes a moment to think about it, then says: “I will share with the baby.” I’ve explained about the baby needing more milk than she does but I don’t think I need to worry, and any case, it may not be a bridge we have to cross.

She still occasionally will randomly ask for a feed but only latch for moments. I get the impression that she just wants to make sure it’s still there; to be certain that she still has access. And she does. I don’t want to rush her independence and at the moment I don’t feel like I need to, which I’m glad of. The pain has been quite bad at times but it hasn’t paralleled the agony my nipples were in during my first pregnancy (when I wasn’t even breastfeeding!). The discomfort has been horrid but it’s been an opportunity for her to learn boundaries, which is healthy, and those boundaries have made me feel able to allow her to continue.

Yet, every now and then, I wonder, for how long? Rationally, I know that all children wean, weaning does happen and there is wisdom in allowing nature to unfold. The impatient side of me wants to know for sure what’s going to happen. In a few months time, will I be breastfeeding two children? What will that be like? Will she wean soon after? Will she wean before? I cannot know. All I know is all I’ve ever known – that this is what we’re doing now. Oh, and I now know that colostrum tastes like apple, apparently.

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3 Things Every Parent Should Think About When Choosing a Breastpump

As a breastfeeding peer supporter, the question “Which breastpump?” comes up fairly often. I usually try to find out a bit more about why a mother is thinking of pumping (sometimes she doesn’t actually need or want to). If this question is posed to a group, brand suggestions get thrown around and people get surprisingly passionate in defence of their milk machines. I suppose the more time you’ve spent with your pump, the more likely you are to form an emotional attachment of some sort. But is it just a matter of personal preference and personal experience or are there actually facts to consider?

If pressed to give a suggestion mine is always ARDO breastpumps and I’m going to explain why in a minute. In the spirit of full disclosure, ARDO is my sponsor for next month’s Mumsnet Blogfest Conference and this post is my way of announcing that. This is me doing a little happy dance about getting to work with a brand that I entirely trust both because of my own history with their Calypso breastpump and also because they genuinely live up to all of the standards I believe every parent should think about when choosing a breastpump.

3 things to think about when choosing a breastpump

1. Does the breastpump brand have a closed system?
A what? If you’ve never heard of this before, you’re not alone. Many veteran breastfeeding mothers don’t know what a closed system breastpump is or why it should matter. I didn’t until after my pumping days were over. Simply, a closed system makes it impossible for expressed milk to travel and get into the pump unit itself. It creates a vacuum in order to extract the milk rather than allowing the free passage of air. It is therefore A LOT more hygienic. This is a big deal.

To put it another way, if your breastpump has an open system, it’s possible for mould and bacteria to get to places in the machine that you can’t see and, therefore, can’t clean. It is commonplace for people to buy secondhand electric breastpumps so this becomes even more problematic. Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths writes a detailed post with a compelling argument against reusing a specific popular electric pump that is often recommended online whenever the “Which breastpump?” question arises. Please read it. For me, it’s not just an argument not to use pumps with open systems secondhand, it’s a whole heap of reasons not to use them at all.

ARDO’s VacuuSeal Technology ensures a total barrier between your expressed milk and any pathogenic agents. It guarantees protection against contamination. This actually makes it the ideal pump to be used by several mothers at once. In fact, the breastfeeding peer support service I volunteer for hires ARDO pumps to mums with breastfeeding problems in Bristol because of their safety.


2. How adjustable is this breastpump, really?
Back when I pumped a couple of years ago, it was to increase my milk supply. If you’ve followed my journey since then, you might remember the story: a late diagnosed tongue-tie which resulted in low milk supply. Long story short, I had to pump A LOT to create the demand my baby wasn’t making so that my body could produce enough milk for her. When you have a pumping schedule, you appreciate how important it is for a pump to be as adjustable as possible.

ARDO pumps are gentle and efficient. Often when the milk stops flowing you think you need to kick things up a notch, which, my friends, is the pathway to getting blood in your milk (so speaketh experience) when actually your breasts might be more responsive to a lower setting. Certainly, the settings on the Calypso are incredibly adjustable – rhythm and speed. I could set it to mimic my baby’s rapid initial suck and go into the rhythmic suck-swallow pattern, drawing the milk out. There’s a choice of flange sizes and you can even add a few extra bits to turn it into a double pump for not much extra cost.

3. Is the breastpump brand compliant with WHO Code?
The WHO code is shorthand for The International Code for the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. It’s the carefully researched set of guidelines that stands between mother-baby pairs and the brands who stand to profit from them. The Code protects and supports breastfeeding and is very specific about what brands are and are not allowed to do, in the interest of making sure they don’t sabotage breastfeeding relationships. Sadly, the WHO Code is not law and many brands that claim to be breastfeeding-friendly do not live up to it. Personally, I would feel awkward about promoting a breastpump from a brand that doesn’t prioritise breastfeeding in this way because it would make me wonder both about the quality of their products (is this pump really going to protect my milk supply?) and about their motives with regard to other products they sell, bottles and teats specifically.

Here’s what ARDO has to say about what the WHO Code means for them:

“Taking into account the fact that teats may have a negative effect on the duration of Breastfeeding; ARDO does not offer or supply feeding bottles.

Currently the subject of the WHO Code on mother’s milk substitutes is under intense discussion amongst experts in the field, in conjunction with producers of Breastfeeding products. We wish to declare unequivocally – as a matter of company policy – that ARDO is completely committed to observing absolutely each and every WHO Code.”

This post certainly isn’t intended to make anyone feel crummy about a breastpump they’ve used in the past. As always, I just wish there was more information out there, accessible to mothers trying to make good decisions. More information = more power!

I am delighted to welcome ARDO as my sponsor for Mumsnet Blogfest 2013. It’s a great fit.

The Big Bristol Breastfeed

The Big Bristol Breastfeed. How’s that for a nice, strong, alliterative name? This Saturday (7th September 2013) a whole load of breastfeeding mothers, peer supporters, counsellors and their families are heading over to College Green in Bristol to celebrate breastfeeding together. To together celebrate breastfeeding, I mean. Though some of us probably will be breastfeeding, together. Probably not me as it doesn’t happen much anymore *trembly lip*.

Truth be told, I’m not 100 per cent sure I can make it since it’s our anniversary weekend and the timing might conflict with other romantic things (breastfeeding can be counted as a bit romantic, right? Laurence has been my star supporter, after all). I’m really hoping there’ll be a big turn out as this event runs into its third year though.

It runs from 11 until 2 and families are invited to bring their picnics and come have a chat. Just to be clear, it’s not about “evangelising” or “guilting” anyone. It’s simply about getting together to support breastfeeding mums (and mums who want to breastfeed) and generally say in a public way: “Hey, this is a really positive thing!”

It’s also a great opportunity for people to find out what breastfeeding support is available in Bristol, especially in terms of the fab weekly groups that run. We’re so lucky in Bristol to have so many knowledgable and motivated mamas who genuinely want to help each other.

Hope lots of you can make it and maybe see you down there.

So, this may be what weaning looks like – Breastfeeding while pregnant

When I wrote about breastfeeding through the first trimester, I kind of thought it might eventually be followed by second and third trimester sequels – or at least the former. I guess I knew that chances were Talitha would wean before the new baby comes. At 26 months, she’s that bit older and her need to breastfeed is not as strong as it was. It doesn’t outbalance her distaste for the changes pregnancy has brought. So, it looks like we’re weaning.

I’ve been totally cool with the prospect of continuing. That is a lie. I have been nervous about the possibility of tandem nursing though I know it’s a great option for many families and genuinely would be open to it. But yes, I have been cool with it in the sense that, despite the considerable discomfort that pregnancy has brought to our breastfeeding experience, I wanted it to end consensually if possible. Incidentally, it looks like that’s what’s happening – just sooner than I expected.

My milk went sooner than I expected. It took a dive sort of nine weeks in and now I don’t hear her swallow at all. At first, she started telling me that my breasts weren’t working, squeezing them in vain to try to stimulate a let down. Now, she generally only wants to be on there for a few seconds at a time, which honestly suits me because when she’s there any longer, she goes into flutter sucking because there is no milk and I find that intolerable at the moment.

What’s amazing to me is how she’s taken this so matter-of-factly. I have not had to tell her what’s happened and she’s not in the least upset about it. When it first went, she informed me: “Milk gone for the baby in Mummy tummy.” Now, when I offer, most of the time she’ll smile and say: “Noooo. Milk for the baby in Mummy tummy.” I tell her: “But Talitha can have milk too.” She looks at me in this poor-mummy-she’s-so-clueless way and grins: “Nooooo.” Well, OK.
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Breastfeeding while pregnant – the first trimester

I’m not sure how we got on to the topic but at some point in the midwife’s office, I mentioned that I was still breastfeeding. I didn’t look at faces for visible reactions because I was already clear on what I thought of the matter and slightly anticipated some ill-concealed negativity. I needn’t have worried. Without missing a beat, the midwife congratulated me, “Good for you!” and sounded genuine. She even offered to hand out leaflets for the breastfeeding group I’m a peer supporter at when I mentioned it.

It’s usually assumed if you’re pregnant that you’re no longer breastfeeding. Most people would assume you’re no longer breastfeeding your two-year-old, regardless. The combination is shrouded in taboo and most children in the UK aren’t breastfed long enough for their mothers to face the dilemma of whether to continue after conception. Not that it was particularly a dilemma for me. I happened to get pregnant and I happened to be breastfeeding. I didn’t – and still don’t – really have a plan.

OK, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I would ideally like Talitha to wean when she’s outgrown her need to breastfeed. She’s 26 months now and I’m happy to see where we go. That doesn’t mean I’ve completely ruled out mother-led weaning either. Breastfeeding is a relationship and relationships are too complex to be dictated by rules. At any rate, I suppose some of what I’ve done to make breastfeeding while pregnant more manageable could be considered a form of gradual weaning.

What I’m trying to say, though, is that I’ve been open. Open to her (and maybe me) choosing to stop sooner rather than later and open even to the possibility of tandem breastfeeding. Neither one is a goal. At the moment, the aim is as it has always been: to make it through today. That has become more complicated since falling pregnant.
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Breastfeeding beyond two is a lesson in trust

My darling, you are two and still breastfed – the child I prayed to God I’d manage to nurse for six dear months, never sure we’d make it.

Your long, lean limbs sprawl out, growing surer. Your body, mind and voice are strong. I look at you and admire your growing independence, always ready with a “No” and surprisingly fast when you run away. Every day you do one hundred things I’d never imagine doing, such is your creativity, your confidence, your separateness from me.

So when you come to the breast, I’m under no illusions: our relationship has changed. I am not your life-source as I once was. You eat so many foods these days. It’s only comfort some might say, as if comfort were so mundane and unimportant a thing. As if the ability to create peace within another human being could be easily mustered by anyone. As if it were simple.

Yet what I see happening between us is so complex. At the breast you continue to learn trust. You learn that you may run into this world, exploring, inventing, asserting but I am here when you need retreat, when you remember you’re still so little. I am here to provide continuity in a world that is ever changing.

As we go on, I too learn trust. I trust that you will leave me when you are ready. I trust my instinct and won’t put others’ opinions above your needs or my own. And I trust that the bond we’re forging will survive lost memories of all these brief moments at the breast.

I trust, knowing that I don’t know how much time we have left.

There was a giveaway attached to this post, hence some of the comments are random. It’s long since closed, so I removed the details.

Win an Emma-Jane nursing vest – And let’s talk breastfeeding in public

The first time I breastfed Talitha in public she was days old. We were at Cribbs Causeway, a large shopping centre in Bristol.

Somehow Talitha and I had got separated from both Laurence and my parents. I was on my own in Boots when she started crying in her pram. I felt as helpless as she seemed.

I awkwardly manoeuvred my way out of the store. Flustered, I didn’t think to find a feeding room. I just found a bench. Careful that no one saw anything I breastfed her.

Two elderly women came up to me to see the baby. One smiled and said: “It is wonderful to see you breastfeeding your baby.” This was not the negative public reaction I’d geared myself up for! A few moments later, a mother with a toddler and an older child walked by. She caught my eye and gave me a thumbs up.

I laughed. I’d been so scared about doing this, breastfeeding in public, that to receive this kind of feedback from strangers was reassuring and even thrilling.

Over time, I relaxed. I had friends who were confident enough not to be so discreet, which bolstered my own confidence. I realised that to allow Talitha to latch on to my breast consistently well, I needed to give her time and space, which at times meant a bit of exposure.

When my supply issues came to light, I became even less discreet. I compressed my breast and even occasionally took my SNS for an outing. The latter admittedly attracted A LOT of attention. I almost bought a nursing cover for this alone. Thankfully, I usually was so absorbed in what I was doing that I couldn’t get too caught up in what others were thinking.

Overall, my experiences of breastfeeding publicly have been affirmative (though I did attend a breastfeeding demonstration – pictured above – to support a woman for whom it was not so).

I have become conscious again of eyes on us now that Talitha is a toddler. Round about 18 months, I noticed some stares and deflected probing questions. I even considered restricting breastfeeding to our home. There may yet come a tune for that as she gets older and can understand more. I wouldn’t want her picking up on others’ negativity and, sadly, the longer we continue the more potential there is for this.

Right now, though, I don’t particularly feel the need to deny her when we’re out. I might distract her or ask her to wait if it’s not convenient but I am just as likely to succumb to her insistent request for “Moolk, moolk, moolky!”

In fact, I’d like her to grow up in a world where people approach mothers breastfeeding toddlers and older children to tell them what a wonderful job they’re doing. It may be unlikely but it’s not impossible.

I’ve written this post for this year’s Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, celebrating National Breastfeeding Awareness Week 2013. To gather points for a chance to win a grand prize of LOTS of breastfeeding-related products, leave a comment telling me a funny breastfeeding story or, if you’re not breastfeeding yet or are entering for someone else, tell me why you think women should breastfeed in public then, enter the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can gather more points by checking out some of the other bloggers participating in the hunt this week:

Mummy is a Gadget Geek
Me, the Man and the Baby
The Secret Life of Kate
Hex Mum
Breast for Babies

I am also offering in this post a chance to win an Emma-Jane 830 Deluxe Nursing Vest with BoobieMilk, organiser of the hunt and a lingerie company run by an experienced breastfeeding peer supporter. It’s a great solution for discreetly breastfeeding in public, if you want to be discreet.

No need to enter again. A winner will be chosen at random from the comments left on this post on Wednesday 3rd July 2013 and will be announced here and contacted on that day. Deadline for entries to win the nursing vest is 23.59 on Tuesday 2nd July. THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.The winner is Catherine Miller.

You can also find out more about the hunt here.