Toddler nursing, tandem nursing and nursing while pregnant (Part 1)

 

Tandem nursing

Piglet, my #3, is 34 months old and still breastfeeding.

I feel strange, writing about it. Nursing has become such a normal part of my life I hardly give it a conscious thought. But recently someone asked “Who is still nursing a toddler? What age?” on Facebook and it evoked all kinds of memories.

Please let me say at the start I am fully aware we are in the hey-day of breastfeeding, but this isn’t a post about what I think should be. Its a post with some facts and foibles for those who are curious about my nursing story, a record of my journey for our little ones who may one day become fathers and mothers. My story is just one of millions of other women, unique in their personalities and circumstances. Besides, there are enough comments that pit mothers who exclusively breastfeed against mothers who formula-feed – and those in-between, the mixed feeders. That is a miry place with enough of muck in it and I’m not going there.

I’ve been nursing a long time – for the past 7 years, 6 months and 20 days to be exact.

It’s been that long, not because I had a schedule, not because of some romantic ideal of the kind of mother I thought all mothers should be, or one that I wanted to be. If there was anyone who entered motherhood without an initial vision of motherhood and a knowledge of motherly subjects, that was me.

Puppy’s birth was a turning point. Getting on the breastfeeding road was hard, but it taught me ever so many things about my first baby, my body and my coping abilities. It was a deeply vulnerable experience, a time when my faith in God was deepened and I began to see some things I unconsciously assumed as impossible, were possible.

The only goal I had about nursing was to follow the general recommendation – nurse exclusively for 6 months, then continue for up to at least 2 years. It seemed possible since I would be staying home to finish my postgraduate course.

I found nursing on demand a real challenge. I had decided I wouldn’t use bottles, for fear of nipple confusion and wanting to avoid the task of bottle management altogether, so the act of feeding Puppy fell completely on me. There were numerous times, day and night, I had to stop studying or writing to go get Puppy, latch her on, then continue whatever I was doing with my free hand. Assignments got delayed and I worked late into the night, resting whenever I could and being so thankful for my mother who came to help in the daytime.

I learned how to get accustomed to carrying Puppy in a sling, going out with her and nursing discreetly in all kinds of situations – eating out, walking, shopping, signing credit card slips, even emergency visits to the public toilet. (I know, yuck! But it would be a screaming baby inside a toilet stall or me peeing in my pants, and I wanted neither.)

The sling was my breastfeeding cover. It normalised nursing for me instead of making it an awkward, dreaded chore. Going out was so easy without having to pump in advance, without bottles to prepare or carry or wash thereafter, I didn’t feel that life outdoors had to stop. It was just throw a diaper, some wet wipes, extra baby clothes and my sling into a bag, and go.

Eventually, “extended” nursing grew out of a “wing it along the way” attitude, along with a desire to meet what I perceived were Puppy’s needs as a toddler. When I got pregnant the second time, Puppy was 18 months old and definitely didn’t want to stop nursing. I hadn’t any complications in my first pregnancy that would warrant ending nursing, so I simply continued and ended up tandem nursing the both of them when Lamb was born. It was a tough circus act for the first few weeks, but I got used to it.

When Piglet was born, Lamb was 30 months old and he wasn’t ready to stop nursing either. At that point, Puppy was 3 months short of her fifth birthday and nursing once every few weeks. It didn’t seem like a far jump to nurse 3 children, and although I had my fair share of challenging days it seemed a natural thing to do. Furthermore, Puppy and Lamb were homeschooling at home. Everyone was together the whole day and nursing was just another part of life together.

It did seem crazy though. I didn’t have any friends or knew anyone personally who did the same. I didn’t tell people I was nursing while pregnant or tandem nursing unless someone asked me if the older child had stopped. I was afraid of coming across as a breastfeeding junkie, a breastfeeding addict, someone who didn’t know the meaning of boundaries or how to teach children “independence”. I certainly didn’t feel any of those things, but the isolation I felt in my personal experience and the surprised reactions of those who found out only served to nurture all kinds of unhelpful thoughts. I pushed them away whenever they came and just did what I felt was healthy for our family.

Until I was a tandem nursing mama of two, I hadn’t heard about Dr Bill Sears or terms such as “child-led weaning” or “attachment parenting” until a friend pointed them out to me, observing that I seemed to practise such methods and asking what I thought about them. I had to say, “I’m not sure, let me google.”

Perhaps sharing information about what toddler nursing and extended nursing is like, for me, will help me feel a little more understood. But in any case, exposing one’s heart is always dicey. I will probably gain a few sympathisers as well as an increased following of those who think I am a queer fish.

So.

Do I love nursing my tot, once a day, in the early hours of the morning while it’s still dark and I’d feel so much better with a couple more hours of uninterrupted sleep instead?

Do I find it easy, nursing when I’m 33 weeks pregnant? How is Piglet positioned in front of my belly when it’s so torpedo-shaped, people have asked me whether it’s just a ball I slip under my shirt? (Some have even patted it, to make sure it’s real.)

How do those little teeth feel now, gripped on like steel?

Does “extended” nursing make my child more dependent on me – in an always clinging-to-mama’s skirts, unhealthy and irritating sort of way?

I’ll answer these questions in my next post.

 

Related posts: My breastfeeding story and 7 essential breastfeeding tips; Toddler nursing, tandem nursing and nursing while pregnant (Part 2)

This week, I have a post about 11 Ways to Teach Your Toddler Practical Life Skills at Home, at Makchic. Feel free to drop by and have a read!

And thanks for visiting! I’d love for you to join me with a cuppa and poke around! If you enjoyed reading, you may wish to follow Mama Hear Me Roar on Facebook or subscribe by email for updates. 

 

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11 things about my morning sickness

Have you ever wondered why morning sickness has the word “morning” in it?

For me, “morning” sickness comes any time of the day. Some days I feel it all day. Even now, I am 18 weeks pregnant and obviously don’t fall into the category of lucky women whose nausea tapers off after the first trimester.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t like to dwell on the negative. But writing a list of what “morning sickness” is like for me is a good distraction from the actual feeling. Besides, one needs to laugh about these things sometimes. That makes everything more bearable.

So here goes.

1. Drinking water is hard for me. Lemon in water isn’t much of a help. However, the thought of sitting 2 hours straining in the toilet, turning green and bursting a few facial veins is more than I can bear. So drink the water, I do. Even if it makes me gag. Keeping well hydrated makes me feel better in the long run.

2. Apart from having to eat something every hour, my appetite is as unpredictable as the weather. At some meals, I can only manage a few mouthfuls while feeling downright sick. At other times, I can eat twice as much as the hubs. And still feel fine.

3. Still on the subject of food. (Bear with me.) I hate soy sauce now. Even my favourite Braggs Liquid Aminos as a soy sauce substitute makes my nose curl. Fry anything with soy sauce and watch me bolt like someone’s stuck a nail up my behind. Serve it to me, and I might nibble – while holding my breath at the same time. All this makes Chinese cooking difficult to stomach in general. And that, for me, coming from a Chinese family, makes eating very difficult. Western, Indian and Malay meals are so much easier.

4. I make sure I eat a light supper before bed to reduce the chances of being hit with nausea in the morning. Keeping food constantly in one’s stomach helps. But even then, I find myself waking up at 3.00 am some days, feeling like I need to eat up the fridge.

5. Snacks? Forget the dry crackers. That was then (pre pregnancy). Now it’s all kinds of fruit. Or, for a more substantial fix, noodles in plain soup. Or plain rice porridge with canned fish and preserved bean curd. ???????

6. Smells. Oh, the smells! A person with fragrance on is to be avoided at all costs. I’m now using unscented soap and so is everyone in the family. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to change my facial wash, shampoo and dish washing detergent, so I have to stop breathing while cleaning my face, bathing the kids and washing dishes. I’m bionic. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

7. The experts on combating pregnancy nausea say, “avoid cooking smells”. I chortle. I laugh. I roll on the floor. A wife and mother has to cook most times. Period! Especially when there are 3 kids, a hubby and a mother in law who needs to eat. Cooking inevitably involves smells and when you can’t avoid cooking, you just have to master the art of not breathing while cooking (see #6). Thankfully I have help from my mother who brings me a frozen meal once a week. A friend actually sent me a batch of frozen meals. I saved these for days when I knew I’d be too whacked to cook. Whenever I resort to them, I pray a thousand blessings upon these women. No, a million. I just have to make some rice and whip up a veggie dish. Of course I still have to contend with the smell of soy sauce in most of those dishes, but I try to stay out of the kitchen when the food’s heated up.

8. I would like to look like those mamas who still look stunning during pregnancy. But I feel most comfortable in loose cotton tees and even looser shorts that hang from the hip. Anything that touches my belly is a big no-no! And that’s why I don’t have many photos of me rocking my bump.

9. Distraction, or getting involved in a project one is passionate about, is a good thing. Even if that might make me tired. Like teaching that piano lesson. Or reading a book. Or writing this blog. Or connecting with other couples, facilitating a marriage course (tell you about it another day). Or watching Superman 1. And 2. Up till 3.00 am in the morning. (No, the timing of that last one was downright ridiculous. I’ll never do that again. It knocked me down for days after.) By the way, what were they thinking of when they made Man of Steel?!

10. Nursing during pregnancy exhausts me and fuels the nausea. It was the same thing when I nursed Lamb throughout pregnancy #3, but somehow this one drains me a lot more. Piglet’s down to nursing only once a day, sometimes twice when he really needs that closeness. I’m handling it by remembering that nursing still means so much to Piglet, and that tandem nursing will close the gap between him and his younger sibling in so many ways it is worth keeping up the effort.

11. Relaxing and resting more definitely helps. Like having an afternoon nap and sleeping early when the kids do. At least 9-10 hours of sleep a day would be ideal. But there are those non-stop days in a row. The days when I hardly have any time to myself. The days when, exhausted as I am, I just need an extended evening, staying awake. Just to enjoy the silence of the night, have a hot cuppa, read and write. I might feel like vomiting upon waking the next morning, but at least I’d wake feeling more like myself with a better sense of perspective.

There. Just 11 things. There are others, but nothing major. Actually vomiting isn’t on that list, so I have a lot to be thankful for.

I feel better now already!

What is morning sickness like for you? How do you cope?

Thanks for visiting! I’d love for you to join me with a cuppa and poke around! If you’d like to read more, please like Mama Hear Me Roar on Facebook or subscribe by email to be sure you don’t miss an update.

 

 

 

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