In Pregnancy When My Breasts Dried Their Milk Tears

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Alright. It’s time I write about this.

About being tired of breastfeeding.

So tired I was hating it. So tired… and no longer looking forward to it. How could all of me feel like “I love him and I love this” and “I don’t want this to stop yet,” but at the same time all of me worried about feelings of “I hate this.”

I wanted to feel normal again; I wanted to feel my breasts cry of milk instead of pain.

I didn’t want to tell anyone about the dark side. I feared the raised eyebrows, the lack of understanding, the assumptions. Pregnancy made me both too sensitive and too impatient to tolerate much:

“Why don’t you just wean him?”

“Enough is enough…”

“He’s old enough to be done.”

“You need to take care of yourself, too.”

“It’s time to let go.”

“Don’t you think this is nature’s sign to stop?”

I feared having to explain how I don’t need to wean him; he’s already weaning himself.

…how he still asks to nurse, so enough is enough does not apply.

…how age isn’t a measuring stick for readiness to fully move on.

…how taking care of my heart is an important part of taking care of myself, too.

…how ‘letting go’ doesn’t mean quite what they think it means.

And how nature does give us signs (they say “You’ll be okay, keep up the good work.”).

I was afraid to attempt to describe it for those who can’t feel what I feel. It’s a lot to expect of others, you know — to demand a full understanding of the maternal heart and this connection with my young child who changes and grows every day. I can barely keep up with it myself.

And it’s a lot to explain, under threat of needing to defend oneself against a certain unwanted reaction. That stony, uncomfortable facial expression or critically high-pitched “we all have our own opinions” opinion inspired by a mother’s admittance of “Breastfeeding has become awful, but yes, we’re still doing it.” The reaction that unfairly pegs her for a martyr or a masochist instead of what she actually is — a mother.

I can explain why I kept nursing, though:

…because MaiTai kept nursing. Is it unfair to put all the responsibility upon him? I don’t think so. He owns his wants and needs without my influence. I would happily fulfill his request for a hug any day, and so I treated nursing as the same. I happily (though fearfully) fulfilled his requests to nurse; I assured myself that pain was a separate issue and it need not separate us.

…because I also kept doing other things for him that he needs or wants, including things I don’t particularly enjoy (like cooking homemade meals, washing his laundry, picking him up when he’s tired AND I’m tired too).

…because the milk was gone, but gone was not the hope that it would return. MaiTai continued to ask for ‘nanoo’ weekly, sometimes seemingly disappointed that the well was dry and other times continuing to suckle without much mind. He kept coming back as if he knew, instinctively, that the milk would one day come back, too.

…because it’s never painful forever. The pain was contained in its present; it did not linger. He would ask; we would nurse; I would wish it didn’t feel so horrible between the dried-up ducts and his worsening, ever-tightening latch. Then he would say, “Thanks Mommy, I’m all done now,” would stop nursing, and everything fell neutral again. After a nursing session, all I was left with was love, connection, and gratitude that drew a black-out curtain over memory of the temporary torture.

…because, of all the times we could’ve purposefully stopped nursing in nearly 3.5 years, this one of pregnancy-induced pain is but a player in a short chapter. Nature gave me instincts and they whispered reassuringly of this as a phase rather than a finality.

…Then Colostrum Jumpstarted the Mammary Memory

Unsurprisingly, I greatly look forward to nursing a newborn again. So tender, so sweet! — this is what I think after diving into my baby-feverish haze of memory. Then reality sneaks in the sucker punch of “But remember how physically draining it was? Remember how mentally exhausting? Remember how awkward and uncomfortable and unsure and fully responsible you felt?” Remember, remember, remember…??

Yes, thanks for that, brain. But let’s stay positive! The truth is the anticipation still makes my heart swell.

My brain, let’s get on the same page as my heart, shall we?

And on the same page as the rest of my body, which is getting pretty excited about nursing a baby too, if evidenced by the colostrum I’ve recently begun producing.

Hmm, yes, I had speculated a big change was afoot when MaiTai nursed six times in two days. I felt confused by his sudden steep increase of interest, but a-ha! — then I saw it. The goldleaf of thick yellow colostrum wet on my nipple, revealing what my body had been busy whipping up in the previous days or weeks.

Now a few weeks removed from my discovery of the colostrum, I notice that nursing no longer hurts like it did before when my milk had dried up. I don’t hate it! I’m not too tired of it. It doesn’t make me wish for an epidural for my nipples.

The nursing sessions these days are tip-toeing back to a state of painless (albeit still uncomfortable) neutrality that can be sustained. It helps that he just nurses long enough for a taste of the liquid gold and has no interest for long-winded nanoo marathons.

“I like when the nanoos have MORE like this,” MaiTai said, approving the reappearance of milk (even though it’s a different type than he likely remembers).

“What does it taste like?” I asked.

“Ummmm. Strawberries and blueberries!”

(I’ve heard colostrum tastes like straw, but I’ve never tried it so I’ll have to defer to MaiTai as expert on this one).

I told The Designated Dad, with a bit of nervousness in my laugh, “Soooo I guess this means we’re probably tandem nursing then…”

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13 thoughts on “In Pregnancy When My Breasts Dried Their Milk Tears

  1. Hang in there mama. I went through this too. Dry nursing for months( ouch) until my milk came back in. Then tandem nursing a newborn and 2 year old. L my oldest still asks to nurse but has forgotten how. 😦 Youngest is 18 months and showing no signs of stopping. I am ready….almost

    • Have you found a way to get your oldest to nurse the right way? I’ve heard of this a lot about older kids who nurse and I can definitely see that MaiTai’s latch got really lazy and tight when the milk dried up… which makes sense… but not very comfortable!

  2. I had a similar experience, although my older baby was only 18 months while I was pregnant. It was so hard to keep nursing but I felt like it was important to her so I kept with it. I now love the (sometimes complicated) experience of tandom nursing. Watching my babies hold hands and look at each other while nursing makes it worth it! Plus I have the help of my toddler if a duct tries to get clogged! Anyways, it’s nice to hear about another mom having similar thoughts about her experience, so thank you for sharing!

    • I think that would be very tough with an 18 month old since they’re usually still nursing frequently. I’m glad it worked out for both of you. And thank you for sharing your experience of tandem nursing! It helps me to envision what I might expect.

  3. I can so relate, however my son ended up weaning around 21 months when I was 7 months pregnant with his brother. I went back and forth with the pain and the colostrum appearing provided some relief but unfortunately I was having a lot of aversion. I had envisioned tandem nursing, but I was away one evening and my husband put my son to bed and that was that. He did not even ask again until after the baby was born, at which point I let him try a few times but he told me he didn’t like my milk anymore. I think it’s wonderful that you have made it this far. You can do this and it will be so worth it 🙂
    PS – My older son recently told me he remembers my milk tasted like blackberries!

  4. I am nursing my second child (now 17 months) through my third pregnancy and unfortunately had to wean my oldest (at 3.5) a few months ago because the nursing aversion was too strong. I nursed him through my second pregnancy and tandem nursed. I’ve had basically this exact experience both times. It seems that my milk doesn’t totally dry up, because I swear I can still hear swallowing that sounds like they’re getting something, but my supply drops considerably and it gets painful to the point of making my skin crawl… it makes me sad that I weaned my oldest, but I’m glad that I made it as long as I did and I’m thankful knowing from experience that the aversion is a phase which will pass (and at 37 weeks, it’s almost gone now).

    I’m glad to see others sharing similar stories and reassuring each other that it gets better! And tandem nursing is much easier than nursing through pregnancy. I actually found tandem nursing with my second easier than solo nursing my first because my body didn’t have a chance to forget anything!

    If anyone reading this is struggling to decide whether to wean or grit their teeth and get through it, you can do it! Take it one feeding at a time and do what you are most comfortable with. If you decide that weaning is what’s right for you then that’s great too and be proud of what you’ve already accomplished!

  5. I remember feeling this way at the end of my pregnancy though I never fully dried up so That was part of what kept me going. But that slight dread of the pain and being so tired made me hate and love nursing my now 2 1/2 year old so much, but we are 7 months into tandem nursing and while it can be rough it’s also amazing 🙂 So hang in there momma there are some great moments ahead.

  6. This is EXACTLY my experience. I just did t bother letting people know that my milk had dried. My son was about 15 months when I became pregnant. I just continued to nurse despite advice from many (including my doctor) to wean him. When I was 5 months pregnant, my milk dried and he kept on nursing. I figured he would wean himself. Then at 8 months milk was back. When my daughter arrived I tandem nursed for 18 months. My son weaned himself at 3.5 years. Then I continued to nurse my daughter. I weaned her at 4. I basically explained that she was such a big and smart girl and she it was time start working on weaning. The last time I nursed her was on night of her 4th birthday. The next day she didn’t ask to nurse all day until bedtime. She asked and I offered chocolate milk instead. She wined a little and cried a little. Then just when I was about to give in and nurse her, she took the chocolate milk. And that was the end of such a BEAUTIFUL time of my life. I had nursed non-stop for 6 years! I am so proud of that because I never thought, never knew, never understood the sweetness, the closeness that came with nursing.

  7. So beautifully written. I never dry nurses or tandem nurses. It sounds torturous to be honest. But I did nurse my lo until she was four so I can certainly relate to the mix of emotions. Xo

  8. Thank you for sharing your experience! I am pregnant and nursing a 29 month old. I still have just the tiniest bit of milk, but not much at all. I can relate with the tighter and tighter latch, and i miss the relief that would come from milk ejection. It’s nice to read that I’m not the only one who wrestles with this experience, and yet still feels that if he needs it, I want to give it.

  9. Pingback: Tandem Breastfeeding: An Unexpected Journey | mommajenniy

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