Theo has been breastfed since birth. This isn't a case of me suddenly starting to put him to the breast. I'm currently 23 weeks pregnant and the changes of pregnancy have caused my milk to dry up, but Theo has continued to nurse regardless of the milk supply.
Society is generally accepting of breasts being "loaned" to babies for nutritional purposes whilst they are lactating. I don't think there are as many people accepting of breasts continuing to be used for purely comfort purposes of a child one they stop making milk. I've read many times people suggesting that a breastfed toddler should receive expressed milk if the mother wants him to have breast milk, so I'm sure dry nursing would seem strange and very weird to a lot of people.
Nursing during Pregnancy
The breasts undergo changes during pregnancy and this is no different than when you are already breastfeeding. During the first trimester my nipples were super sensitive, much more so during nursing pregnancies than during my first pregnancy. At around 8 weeks my let down started to go and I became unable to express by pump or hand though Theo continued to get milk out. During my second pregnancy when I was expecting Theo and nursing Abigail this happened a bit later on, closer to 12 weeks. Following the let down disappearing the supply began to reduce. First it was just a general reduction, then the milk began to change consistency becoming thicker and more yellow in colour. From about 16 weeks the most I have been able to squeeze out is a drop of clear liquid. Most women who nurse during pregnancy experience some change in supply, not all loose supply completely and not everyone experiences these changes at the same time.
Theo does nurse less often than when I first got pregnant. When I first conceived he was nursing morning, nap time and bedtime and probably at least once more. Right now he generally only nurses in the morning. Part of that is due to his own development, he no longer has a nap and now prefers a story with Daddy to a hug with Mummy to get him off to sleep. During the day he's very busy being a little boy and boobs are the last thing on his mind, but first thing in the morning, when he's still sleepy he still wants a cuddle and a boobie in mummy's bed before getting up and starting the day. I do make sure there is a drink for him next to my bed as well, so he continues to quench his thirst since there is no milk there for him.
But why would I do this?
This is the second time I have nursed through a pregnancy and gone through a period of dry nursing. I never planned to first time around, I just didn't plan to wean. I just thought "I'll carry on until baby wants to stop and that will probably happen at some point in the pregnancy". But she didn't stop. I continued to offer and nurse when asked as normal. This time I was also expecting my toddler to wean, especially as he was 10 months older at conception than his sister had been. But he continues to request the breast, milk or no milk.
I choose not to wean, not to decline the offer of the breast. Its often painful and occasionally accompanied by feelings of nursing agitation where I'd quite like to growl at him like a mummy lion. Its can be tiring, especially as he will want to nurse in the middle of the night if he's unsettled- not a great thing when you're already tired from pregnancy and running around after two pre-schoolers all day. The combination or pain, agitation and tiredness can make nursing him feel pretty invasive. I also get contractions during nursing sessions and experience tells me they will only get stronger as the pregnancy progresses.
The fact he still wants to nurse without any milk indicates to me its important to him. Its hugs, cuddles and familiar security. Nursing cures all "wrongs" for a breastfed baby and they don't know that hunger and thirst are different types of wrongs from tired and need a hug. Nursing remains a big source of comfort beyond the baby stage and it still helps cure "wrongs".
Dry nursing preserves the nursing relationship. Soon the colostrum will start to come in and he will start to gain a small amount of concentrated nutrients from nursing. Once baby arrives in summer and the milk is back then there are still many months of breast milk beyond that for my toddler. I'm sure if I were to decline his requests to feed and to stop the breasts from being available then he would stop all together. This is the right decision for some women who are nursing during pregnancy. Occasionally toddlers who have stopped nursing start up again, though I think this is probably less common than stopping all together. I know that by continuing to nurse he will one day be nursing for nourishment again.
|Bump, but still breastfeeding!|
For now I will continue to nurse my little boy when he asks, or indicates he wants to nurse. I know that he isn't getting any milk but he is getting lots of love and hugs from the action and closeness of nursing.