There are many days I bemoan social media, finding myself sucked into the superficiality that can often be Facebook or loosing precious time to Twitter chat, but right now, I am so thankful, so grateful for the internet – for Twitter in particular – because it wasn’t for this medium, my son may have been weaned from breastmilk unnecessarily too soon.
“You must stop feeding”, she said, as she rubbed gel on my tummy. She hadn’t even confirmed I was pregnant. “If you don’t stop feeding, you’ll miscarry this baby and your milk will upset M’s stomach. Stop breastfeeding. Today”
Had I been myself in my pre-Twitter days, there’s a high chance I’d have left my OB’s office torn between weaning drastically, prematurely or risking the life of my … as yet unconfirmed … baby in the womb. As it was, I went into the appointment armed with the foresight that she would warn me like this; knowing already I’d ignore her advice. I left the appointment fuming on behalf of other women entering similar appointments not prepared and leaving in fear.
Breastfeeding – more specifically the stimulation of the nipples during breastfeeding – causes the release of the hormone oxytocin, the hormone which helps with contractions. If the mother is high risk of miscarriage, or early labour, breastfeeding may..note may…raise this risk slightly. However, oxytocin is also produced when you have sex and receive a massage. Unless your risk of miscarriage is so great that you’ve been put on pelvic rest, there is no risk from the levels of oxytocin breastfeeding can..but doesn’t always…stimulate. Please don’t think pregnancy means you have to wean your child.
All of my pregancies are classed as high risk but vital to this debate, not because of any pre-term labour, cervically-linked cause. There are two genetic mutations in my blood which cause the blood to clot excessively. The risk of clotting in the placenta or umbilical cord is high, meaning increased risk of miscarriage or pre-eclampsia. To prevent any clotting, I inject myself daily throughout pregnancy with an anti-clotting drug. While taking this medication, my risk level normalises and, as with M, there is no reason I shouldnt have a healthy pregnancy. Ironically for my OB’s advice, breastfeeding actually reduces the risk of clotting, minimising any risk further!
As soon as I suspected I was pregnant (1 week! Mothers instinct?!), I began to research tandem nursing and to question myself as to what I felt best. There is no doubt in my mind — nor ever really was — that continuing to feed baby M – and at 10 months he is still a baby – and to trust my body to nourish us all. The Koran advises us to feed to two years; if we can, if the child wants to continue. Research by the La Leche League supports tandem nursing and has shown no adverse effect to either the fetus or the nursling from breastfeeding while pregnant, and first hand tales from mothers who’ve been there convince me it truly is meant to be done. (Kellymom has some fantastic information for anyone who wants more info on breastfeeding while pregnant, or tandem nursing.)With pregnancy, no matter how good the hospital, the qualifications of your medical team, the outcome isn’t up to you. Your body (and I believe, God, too) decide if that fetus will become your child. Frustrating though it may be, during pregnancy you have to surrender to and trust in your body – nourish it as best as you can, both in body and in mind, but the rest is its job. I trust my body to communicate with my son. I trust my body to work as it should. Right now, I continue to have milk, and alhamduillah, breastfeeding is not painful and is still satisfying to M. I trust M to nurse if he wants to still nurse; and I trust him to wean when it’s right for him to wean. That may be next week, that may be next year..it’s really up to him. He tells my breasts what he needs; if that’s what’s right for us, they’ll give him what he needs. (Yes. I did just personify my breasts.) I have nothing to do but trust in him, trust my body, and ultimately trust God.
I get why my OB reacted as she did. I get why next appointment she was rather livid when I said I would be ignoring her advice. She has to cover her back–she’s protecting herself from me should the worst come to be. BUT. What I don’t get is how she can give me such advice with no sustainable back-up. No research, no information, no balanced anything for me to go away and consider for myself. This is Turkey, unfortunately, and people don’t demand that type of hands on health care: You’re expected to go to the doctor, do as they say and just leave it at that. No matter how long I live in this country and call it my home, this attitude will always be foreign and will always hang like lead. Feel free to give me your opinion, as my OB. Feel free to raise concern if you think I’m being unwise. Please remember it’s my health, and these are my babies: the final decision rests with me. Please, respect that.
Through Twitter, I’ve been priveliged to follow the stories of other Mums who have fallen pregnant while nursing. I’ve followed their trials when milk production has dropped. I’ve seen them struggle with painful latching and milk changes which the nursling didn’t necessarily like. I’ve heard how they’ve tried this tea and that pump to ensure they continued lactating. And I’ve followed their stories again, the other side, when they tandem nurse both their children. The medium that is Twitter and the generosity of these women in sharing their journeys had convinced me, before I ever fell pregnant, that I’d continue to feed if I can. I can’t thank the women I engage with daily enough for removing any fears I once held that breastfeeding my son is what is truly best for him.
As of now, I am 10 1/2 weeks pregnant with our second child and breastfeeding M 5/6 times a day. I don’t know when our breastfeeding journey will finish, don’t know how far we’ll get, but I do know that each feed is a blessing and I treasure every one.