I plan to breastfeed the Grasshopper for as long as I can during this pregnancy, even with hyperemesis gravidarum. Breastfeeding during pregnancy is called tandem nursing, and there are a number of benefits to extended breastfeeding and tandem nursing.
When my daughter was born, a lot of things went wrong from a breastfeeding perspective. I really thought, by the end of the first week, that I would not be able to nurse her. My milk was delayed in coming in (thank you pitocin), she wasn’t able to latch well, I had to use this stupid nipple shield, it hurt, the dang pillows kept sliding all over the place, and I just generally had no idea what I was doing. The first Lactation Consultant in the hospital wasn’t much help. The books weren’t much help. It was so, so hard. I kept at it, though. And eventually I made it through the learning curve. Things were finally going along as they should at about 6 weeks post partum. And yes, a six week learning curve is actually really, really normal.
Once I did figure it out, I discovered that I loved nursing. I loved everything about it, and my daughter did, too. But I never imagined I’d be nursing a 3 year old. If you had asked me about extended nursing, that is nursing a child past infancy, a few years ago, I might have said, “Oh, yuck! Weird!”
When I was pregnant and the subject of breastfeeding would come up, I would say, “I hope I’ll be able to nurse.” During the first few weeks I would say, “Man, I really don’t think I can do this for another week! Let alone another year!” Once things clicked, I reset my goal for a year, and then we just never really got around to stopping.
For those who follow this path, extended nursing provides many benefits. The Grasshopper is able to benefit from my immune system via the antibodies in my milk. I’m currently in the process of hoping we can keep her from getting a horrible fever and pink-eye outbreak that’s going through the daycare. Please keep your fingers crossed! Aside from the benefits to her, it benefits me as well: reduced breast, ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancer risks, protection from osteoperosis, and a host of other tangible and intangible little bonuses.
The bottom line is this: She’ll wean when she’s ready.
The next logical question I would expect to hear is regarding the safety of breastfeeding during pregnancy. The short answer is that unless full pelvic rest is recommended for the mother, nursing through pregnancy is perfectly safe.
Things become a little more complicated when you’re a hyperemesis patient. There’s the whole severe malnutrition and dehydration thing to consider. Nursing doesn’t take anything away from the developing fetus. The female body has incredible powers of prioritization. However, we do need to be very aware of what I am able to tolerate and what medications will be safe for the Grasshopper. If I become severely malnourished, what I am referring to as my disaster scenario, we will likely have to stop nursing, so I need to be aware of this possibility.
I’m going into this with open eyes. We know what’s coming. We’re going to be treating aggressively. The likelihood of us reaching that disaster scenario is pretty slim. I wasn’t anywhere close to that last time, and I don’t intend to get there this time. Luckily, my doctor is incredibly supportive. She’s prepared to ensure all the medications we try are safe both for pregnancy and lactation.
Here’s some good news: Anecdotally, women nursing don’t have as severe nausea and vomiting. Of course, that goes the other way, too, but I’m hoping for the first.
At the very least, on days that I can’t get up and run around with my daughter, this will be a way for me to give her quiet, undivided attention.