My husband and I always planned to have our kids close together. Unfortunately my menstrual cycle didn’t return until my son was 18 months old. My son was still breastfed on demand (frequently) day and night. Some mums night wean or fully wean, or even take strange herbs and powders to bring their period back. I was grateful that my period came back, a little later than I hoped, but all on it’s own.
My cycle was unpredictable – anywhere from 21 to 45 days long, and anything and everything in between. It was really hard to plot my fertility when my body was running it’s own race. After 8 months, I saw my GP and had a range of blood tests. My thyroid medication needed adjusting, but otherwise I was fine. At this point I decided to stop trying to chart my cycle and ironically, the next month I was pregnant. Although my medication change would have helped, I also believe relaxing made a difference too.
After the elation of my positive pregnancy test, I was hit by a brick wall of fatigue. My son had turned 2 a few months earlier, and was still breastfeeding with a lot of enthusiasm (actually I think most 2 year olds do everything with a lot of enthusiasm). As the fatigue began to clear, pain set in. Hormones find extreme ways to test your commitment to breastfeeding during pregnancy. The nipple pain I felt during the first trimester was excruciating. I remember repeatedly pulling my breast out of my son’s mouth to look for cracks or teeth indentations, but there was nothing. The only way I found relief was to breastfeed lying down in bed, keeping my son very still.
As my pregnancy progressed, the nipple pain became slightly less intense, but aversions started to hit me instead. I began to feel major and unwarranted irritation whenever my son wanted to breastfeed, and had to find tactics to keep myself calm. Playing with my iphone was a good distraction, as was focussing on deep breathing.
The idea of child-led weaning went out of the window, and I began putting some gentle boundaries in place. As my milk supply changed, my sons breastfeeds increased, and I found it necessary to night wean him too. I wasn’t pumping, so didn’t know exactly what happened to my supply, but around 22 weeks, my son’s stools became very loose and foul smelling. I understand that this meant it was likely that my milk had reverted to colostrum.
Throughout the difficulties, I was happy to be breastfeeding. My son was very attached to me, and could be quite anxious at times. He was and still is a child who needs a lot of love and affection to keep his cup filled. Continuing to breastfeed him was my way of keeping something in our relationship consistent, because I knew that a new baby would drastically change things for us.
I would encourage any mama considering breastfeeding through pregnancy to keep an open mind. Although it worked out for me, not everyone’s journey is as straightforward. I didn’t suffer extreme nausea, food aversions, vomiting or major fatigue, which could have affected our journey. Sometimes the child will decide to wean too. My son never even looked like weaning. My best friend’s daughter weaned immediately upon conception, which was a big shock and huge adjustment for a hormonal mama.
Some mamas may have concerns about the safety of breastfeeding through pregnancy. You should discuss your circumstances with a trusted medical professional who has specific training in breastfeeding. There is a theoretical risk that breastfeeding during pregnancy may cause premature labour. Breastfeeding causes the body to release oxytocin, which is the same hormone that stimulates the uterus and causes contractions during labour, however in my situation, breastfeeding didn’t cause me any obvious contractions.
My beautiful baby girl came into the world after a spontaneous labour at 41 weeks. I went on to tandem feed both my son and daughter and it’s been a wonderful experience, but that’s a story for another day.