If scientists want to really understand how milk changes during pregnancy, they should study a group of pregnant women still breastfeeding their talking tots.
Breastfeeding during pregnancy is an interesting experience. More so with a child that’s able to talk to you. Really, if scientists want to fully understand breastfeeding, the production of milk during pregnancy and the changes in milk during that time, they need a core group of mothers breastfeeding children with communication skills. I don’t think there’s any more reliable evidence.
At around 20 weeks – I don’t remember exactly when, Ameli was nursing away happily one day, when she unlatched, looked at me with an obvious question mark on her face and said ‘that’s not milk, it’s something else’. Then threw herself at my nipple and guzzled away before pulling off again and saying, “what is it?”
It must have turned back to milk again at some point, because she didn’t mention it again. Or maybe she’s just happy with colostrum.
At around 28 weeks, a friend’s son developed an eye infection and she asked if I’d be willing to provide some milk for him. Of course I didn’t mind, so I tried to express. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t. It took almost 15 minutes to produce a teaspoon full of clear, sticky liquid – colostrum. It worked for the eye, but being unable to express really shocked me.
At 31 weeks, Ameli was nursing one day when she pulled off and said “there’s no milk, mama. I hope there’s some in the other one?” Apparently there was, but it does seem that my milk supply is finally running low. Not only does she nurse for as long as she did as a newborn if I let her, but every now and then she’ll say “other one please” as the milk is drained from whichever breast she’s feeding from.
For me, personally, I’m ready to wean – especially at night, and I’m a bit sorry that I won’t have a break at all between nursling babies, but she is definitely not ready to wean, and any refusal on my part is taken as a pretty serious punishment. She’ll cry as if I’ve just shredded her favourite teddy bear or run over her dog. It’s pretty gut wrenching.
The experience of nursing through pregnancy isn’t a great one for me. My breasts are more sensitive than I remember them being during my first pregnancy. And prolonged nursing is actually painful. The only way I can think of explaining it is this:
It’s like being tickled, but when the tickling is no longer fun and is actually physically painful, but the tickler isn’t listening to your pleas for them to stop. You’re still squealing and laughing, because that’s the physiological reaction, but it’s unpleasant, painful and no longer fun.
Perhaps that’s a terrible explanation, because each person will experience that in their own way depending on their level of ticklishness, but then, perhaps that makes it the perfect explanation because each person’s experience of breastfeeding and of breastfeeding in pregnancy, is so different.
At it’s worst, in the first trimester, the hormonal stimulation of breastfeeding through Hyperemesis Gravidarum used to make me throw up. In much of the second trimester it was simply painful – like blades being sucked through my nipples. But in this, the third, my nipples are constantly sensitive, but the actual act of feeding doesn’t hurt as much anymore.
It’s been an adventure, finding out exactly what the milk is doing in there through the vocalisations of a two year old. I don’t regret feeding my daughter through this pregnancy, despite the fact that it has often been very uncomfortable, and I hope that sharing nursing with her sibling will be something that bonds them, rather than a cause for rivalry, and then, it is my hope that she will decide that this is for babies and at her own pace and time, let go.