Week 5 - April 7, 2017-April 13, 2017

7:17 PM

I'm late getting this posted! It's been a busy, busy weekend with work and festivities with the children.

There really isn't much to report this week. On Tuesday, however, D mentioned to me that I was definitely making more than normal. So this is happy news!

Still have been turning thoughts over and over in my head. Suckling is routine for us. It's nice and expected. If I never reach full lactation, would I still enjoy doing this? For now, the answer is yes. But it's definitely nice to know how pleased my husband is at my continuing increase in supply. He was sure to let me know he was grateful for it :)

And one more thing... my breasts are DEFINITELY bigger!

Week 4 - March 31, 2017-April 6, 2017

6:30 AM

I've been feeling somewhat down because I haven't reached a level 4 for lactation yet. On Saturday I worked an all-day shift in a city some ways away, so we missed our afternoon session.

I never got uncomfortable. The drive home, I turned things over in my mind. Where would this go? What makes me want to keep going?

D listened as I told him my concerns. We were doing this for us, we ultimately agreed. But still... patience is not a virtue I possess!

By now I should have reached a level 4. In our history, it says so. What's different form the last times we did this? It would occur to me that it was the medication I am on. So off I went to do some reading, and it turns out that the medication I take is often prescribed to counteract lactation disorder caused by other psychiatric meds. It all makes sense now! 

But... what do we do now? Nothing different. We keep doing what we're doing, though it would be dishonesty from me to say I am not somewhat disappointed in this turn of events. What if I never achieve full lactation? What do I really want from this? I discussed my findings with D and even suggested trying another medication, and he calmly told me, "No. You're doing so great on the mix you have now. I don't want to sacrifice that for anything." He's right. But really... isn't he always? :)

So now I face the possibility of never reaching full lactation. Were we doing this for just that? No! Of course not. We have reaped so many benefits from this practice, it's not worth it to stop. I truly love the little time slots we've carved out for each other. Feeling him in my embrace, contented and pleased for the time being. His breathing is rhythmic, eyes closed, and simply happy for the while. It's hard not to feel dedication and love toward him in these times. They're quite blissful.

One thing I have pondered on is how to show my husband more that I love him. This act is nice, but he's so wonderful and deserves so much more. I remember talking with him about the five love languages and learning that he definitely appreciates quality time. Perhaps that's why ANR is working out so positively for him. We spend time talking before and after a session and feel more close to each other. However, I do also value my alone time. My solitude is precious. And this doesn't bode well for "quality time." It's now a goal of mine to take some dedicated time every day outside sessions to give to him. I want to show him how much I love and truly appreciate him.

I have made a dedicated effort to increase my water intake. Surely it's working when D tells me it seems to be having a significant effect on my production! I'll continue to drink lots of water, for sure! And it gives me a little hope that I'll be able to keep making more for him, despite the medication.

Not a very exciting week. But it's been a week in which we had to re-evaluate what we are doing and why exactly we're doing it. And I feel it's safe to say we're doing it for the right reasons.

A whole month down! I love this more and more. :) Good day, all!

Inducing Lactation

Week 3 - March 24, 2017-March 30, 2017

8:30 AM

Another week. I find myself sinking into the comfortable, predictable routine we have. We haven't skipped a beat. I haven't had to pump, either! I'm really quite thankful. The time together is getting commonplace but it's nice to expect something to break up my day. Routine is something I need; it's comforting. D and I continue to be happy with this. It's familiar. It's comforting. And it makes the bedroom life so much better :)

This week has been somewhat sad. I do miss having little children and the amount of babies in my family is growing. Sunday, I was surrounded by these babies. I miss those times. I miss nursing a baby and nurturing it. But I'm grateful my sweet spouse is there to support me through these hard, emotional times. Having more children isn't in our future. It's not possible. And there have been times where I have found peace with this fact, and others where there is emotional turmoil. It's okay. I am so blessed to have my little family. Sunday evening after we put the kids to bed and crawled into our own bed, I cried and D just held me. Before long we were in the comfortable familiarity of suckling before bed and for that time, there was peace and comfort.

As far as progress goes on the milk-making front, I think things are coming along nicely. I had my period this week and there is a typical lull in production around this time. But before it hit, D remarked to me, "Do you feel different? I would think you do, you're definitely making more!" I did have very sore breasts, but I chalked the discomfort up to hormones around menstruation. The soreness went away after a while. But it's nice to hear his pleasure at my production! It's something I can do for him that no other woman can--well, no other woman should, at least. ;)

The girls are fuller and perkier, though still generally soft. Their size hasn't seemed to increase too much but there are times where I think, "They definitely look bigger!" and times where I think, "Hmmm, I'm not so sure." Part of that could be that I've been trying very hard to lose weight and have succeeded in losing ten pounds in the past few weeks by switching over to a more plant-based diet and cutting out refined carbohydrates. And when I lose weight, I lose it up top first! So I'm going to assume that the girls are developing at a reasonable rate and I'm just losing weight too fast for them to grow a bit. :) In that vein, I've been doing a lot of reading on weight loss while nursing. The biggest thing is I need to drink (I've started using a large mug to track my water intake) and eat enough (I'm not restricting caloric intake in any way, though I do eat less than I used to). So I think things will keep on keepin' on and we'll see more progress.

I was hoping to report that I had reached a level 4 for lactation, but honestly, we haven't missed any sessions. It's been really wonderful. I have utmost faith in my body's ability to do this because we got so far before! There's been great effort on my part to avoid stressing over the situation. And it's amazing how much nicer ANR is when you're not stressing about it.

Still waiting for that post-period boost in supply. I'm thinking it will happen about a week after my period started. Regardless, D says things are definitely coming along nicely, and morning continues to gain and catch up to afternoon and evening. He has also said that sometimes, the time when I have the most trades between evening and afternoon. I'll do some reading on how to get morning to catch up. It's probably just that I'm an odd one--most women have the most in the morning, and the least throughout the day. I'm the opposite. But I've always been an odd duck :)

There's still a lot of hope that I'll reach full lactation by mid-August. That will have been five months. But if it takes longer, that's okay, too. We can be patient. We're trying to enjoy the journey.

Inducing Lactation

Week 2 - March 17, 2017-March 23, 2017

9:47 AM

Another week has passed. We're still feeling the love and feeling more committed to each other. Maybe it's the physical contact, or the time we spend together, or this little secret we have. I will say all this extra oxytocin makes me feel very lovey and patient and happy. It's a great thing :) See why ANR is amazing?

This week has been incredibly stressful. I feel like my hands are trying to adjust and maintain all the facets of my routine but it's become a lot for me. Even with the oxytocin boost, it's a lot. I hadn't been very interested in nursing due to these preoccupations. I told D I didn't know how I could do it all. He listened intently and offered advice to try and help; unfortunately there's nothing he can really do except offer words of encouragement. But if I can hold out until summer, I think things will be okay. I felt better and the racing thoughts were hushed by D nursing to sleep. We were content for at least that moment. And I knew I really wanted to continue this for a long, long time. He says, "I don't know why we'd ever want to stop." He's right. I don't know why, in the long term, we wouldn't want this.

One prime thing I've noted this week is increased breast tenderness. I'm not sure what exactly is going on but I do know that my breasts are more tender before a nursing session. My nipples are a little more tender as well, and always erect! D says my areolas are darkening and enlarging just the slightest bit and that my breasts seem to be getting bigger, too. While examining them in the mirror before my shower one night, I noticed they were definitely looking fuller, at least. They're becoming round! And the veins have appeared. Dark, blue veins sprawling across my breasts.

In our history, morning sessions have always produced little compared to our afternoon and evening sessions. This week, D remarked that mornings are "catching up" to the other times. My supply is increasing!

On Sunday, while the kids were out exploring the field near our home, I sat with D on the couch and discussed with him thoroughly what having this ANR meant. What an obligation and commitment it would be to have me fully lactating. We couldn't just stop or be casual about things once the milk really comes in. I don't want to leak in front of family or in public in general, and I don't want mastitis again, or blocked ducts! "I am going to need you more than ever," I told him, and he replied that he was very much expecting and anticipating it. He was very sweet about it. His calm, understanding demeanor (with an undertone of excitement!) is one of the things I completely adore about him. I smile thinking of how he smiled during this conversation. This just feels so right for our relationship.

We also spoke about how to manage it on vacations... especially our vacation with his family. There's a possibility I could be fully lactating by then. He seemed intimidated by the task of managing full lactation in secret when privacy will be scant; but we both decided we were up to the task, should it be necessary. That is why we have my little Medela Freestyle. It would be easy for me to sneak off to the car, or out and about somewhere and pump if we cannot manage to find time away from family. And we're on an easy schedule of three times a day. Morning and evening shouldn't be a problem. I think we'll be okay.

I'm curious about how close I am to indicator 4... on Monday, about 1 1/2 hours before D got home for lunch, I felt fairly full and somewhat sore. Moreso than was typical. It felt much better after nursing, thought there was still discomfort due to developing breast tissue. I haven't had that feeling in the evening or in the morning, but I think I'm abnormal. I make the least in the morning, and the afternoon I make the most; evening is in between the two.

I'm very much looking forward to week three. I'm hoping I can report that I am at indicator four. I anticipate a session or two that might need to be a pumping session instead of nursing. If it leaves me feeling still too full and sore, that'll be a pretty reliable sign of indicator four!

Education

Ten Indicators of Lactation

9:45 PM

I love the site Land of Milk and Honey. It's a good place to start if you're considering beginning an ANR. D and I frequented this site in the days of the birth of our ANR.

Some of the most helpful content is located under their tab called, "A Guide to Adult Nursing Relationships." There, it lists ten indicators or levels for the relactation/induced lactation process by partner suckling. The levels are as follows, taken directly from their site:

1. Her breasts "feel" softer after a nursing session.

2. He "feels" her fluid on his tongue while nursing.

3. Her bra cup increases on size (buy new bras).

4. She becomes uncomfortable if a nursing session is skipped.

5. He swallows her fluid occasionally while nursing.

6. Her bra cup increases one size (new bras again).

7. He swallows her fluid regularly while nursing.

8. She will leak if a nursing session is skipped.

9. He swallows her fluid continuously while nursing.

10. She can pump, hand express, or spray milk.

It's so nice to be able to track progress with this list. In the past when we've relactated we have gotten to at least a 7. D used to comment on how much milk he was getting and it started to affect his appetite. Now, I've never had a problem with leaking when I've nursed my babies (except at night in the early days of their lives) so I don't know if we got any higher than 7. It's possible but I'm not sure. Perhaps we were actually at a level 9 and I just have really stubborn breasts (remember my problem with oxytocin?).

Regardless of where we were before, I feel like we're progressing faster this time and my body seems to know what it's doing.

Each new indicator is even more exciting. Every day we get closer to full lactation! I'm tempted to say we're currently drifting around a 4. Today when D got home for lunch, I told him I was so ready for him. My breasts were very sore and nursing relieved that. I'll wait a few days to see if it continues and then we'll decide if I'm really a 4.

Education

Feeling That Oxytocin

8:55 PM

Some couples swear by ANR affecting their relationship for the better. I'm in one of those couples! We've had a wonderful time together and our dispositions have changed pretty significantly.

It's all that OXYTOCIN! Yep, the love hormone!

I've been reading a lot on oxytocin and its effects on the human body and human relationships. It's really a wonderful little hormone/neurotransmitter, and am I ever thankful for it. In case you didn't know, here are some of the actions of oxytocin:

  • Eases Stress - While I wish it instead eliminated stressors (if only!), we get that laid back, everything-will-be-okay feeling very often. My irritability is lower after regular nursing and I often feel more positive about things.
  • Aids In Sexual Arousal - I think I used to have trouble with releasing oxytocin. But with treatment for my disorders and regular nursing sessions, sex becomes fun--much more so than it used to be ;) I remember journaling about my experiences with ANR and sex and I felt like it bridged the gap in intimacy that we had. It was more exciting and everything... felt so much better. See? ANR is amazing!
  • Calms You - This kind of goes along with easing stress, but overall D and I have become pretty mellow as a general rule. We smile more. We relax more easily. It's great.
  • Increases Nurturing Instinct - I have trouble feeling like a nurturing person. Again, having trouble with releasing oxytocin, perhaps? Since beginning our ANR I feel like it's had an effect on us both. D is a very nurturing man and loves to care for our children. Me? I tend to have a schedule and it's difficult for me to do things out of that schedule. I'm not very good at spending quality time with our children, though I do try. This oxytocin boost has been wonderful so far, relating to spending time with, being patient with, and having good memories with our children.
  • Reduces Cravings - I'll be the first to tell you I have a serious problem with sugar--a different story for a different time and/or blog. Truthfully, I have been without refined sugar for over 2 weeks, so I can't really tell you if all this oxytocin has had a direct effect on my desire for sugar, but I thought this one was interesting.
  • Various Social Effects - Encourages bonding with your baby, assists in building relationships, promotes attachment, fosters generosity... the LOVE hormone, you see?
I'm not going to say ANR is a cure-all for social and sexual maladies and poor demeanor, but I will say that I have really enjoyed the benefits of ours. Because we've been on-again off-again before, it's easy to tell that it makes a difference.

Of course, there are other ways to release oxytocin into your system. ANR is just my favorite way of doing it :) You can:

  • Nursing. It could be a baby, it could be your partner. This is obviously my favorite way to increase oxytocin.
  • Have sex--LOVING sex!
  • Be a good person. Give love, gifts, compliments, etc. Exercise trust. Build empathy.
  • Smile!
  • TOUCH. Hugs, holding hands, etc.
  • Meditation
  • Have a pet
  • Many more I'm kind of too lazy to remember. I could say have a baby, but that might complicate things. :)
Thanks for indulging me by reading. I have loved researching oxytocin and seeing that it really has affect me so much!

ANR Isn't Always Perfect

9:41 AM

Venturing into this exciting new territory led me to believe that ANR was always a blissful, wonderful, amazing and PERFECT. While yes, in its essence, I think it's a perfect way to share a bond and show your dependency on each other, it isn't always as perfect and worry-free as I've understood it to be. My aim with this post (and, honestly, with the blog in general) is to show you an honest peak into ANR without trying to make it seem unrealistic. Now that is not to say that this was the intention of my other favorite blogs on the internet. Perhaps my views were skewed because I was so excited about this new aspect of our lives! But I digress...

As you've likely read, our first attempts at ANR were pretty unsuccessful. We got decently far--about 15 weeks, nearly to full lactation--but I went back to school and was, honestly, thankful that "things weren't going to work out." I got touched out easily. I was irritable. Then, I started feeling annoyed and taking things too personally, instead of regarding ANR as a time to really connect and relax with my spouse. I began to think that the only reason D loved me was for my breasts. If this were truly the case I can understand ANYONE wanting to quit ANR. But it was not. It was my own conception, and getting easily touched out and irritable made this conception feel very real.

Of course, then I got help for my mental illnesses. It helped with the irritability. And getting touched out? That has changed as our children have gotten older and I've learned more patience and kindness and how to better nurture those around me. Our ANR definitely was not perfect. Not then.

Is it perfect now? I don't expect it will be. "Perfect" in my eyes means it's always exciting, always new, always blissful. But is it? Not really. But as I learn more and more that I'm doing this for US, not just him, not just myself, but US, it's easier to see past the fact that it isn't always perfect, but it is beautiful.

Mornings, I will admit, are blissful. He happily suckles away and I'm not distracted by my phone or anything else. I love the feeling of the breeze coming in the window, our bodies buried underneath heavy covers and our warmth being shared. I drift in and out of sleep and he is content. They're about as close to perfect as our ANR gets.

But there are some nights where I just want to go to sleep because I'm thoroughly exhausted. Coupled with a very busy schedule including volunteering for 15-20 hours a week, working, and keeping up a house and carting children to extracurricular activities and making dinner and engaging in activities with my church and everything that comes with being a mother and housewife, exhaustion is inevitable! And the medications I take generally don't help either :) But if I can just hold out until 10:00 or 10:30, we stay up talking, nurse on schedule and fall asleep cuddling and feeling much better about things.

ANR isn't always... well, exciting. It can get to feeling routine and like an obligation. And, yes, it is, an obligation to each other. It is a very strong commitment to make as the woman nursing will fully rely on her partner to help avoid embarrassment, pain, and illness. But just because it is, doesn't mean I don't pull out my phone to pass the time. I'm not always fixated on him and his suckling. It's a long 20-35 minutes! So I'll pass the time with reading. But I do check in on him now and again. Talk to him a little. I'm not a big talker but I do make it a point to tell him how my day went, how I'm feeling about something, how I enjoy his company while he's nursing.

There are times we get into arguments or have negative feelings about things. We don't argue often, but one of our key flaws is that we don't communicate very well. Both of us are afraid of hurting feelings or... something, I guess. I can't really place the blame anywhere but myself for my failure to communicate. There are misunderstandings, and then frustration, and then hesitancy to nurse. In the past, this has only caused problems! You can imagine the discomfort I felt when we skipped a nursing session because we were feeling negative! With time and treatment, however, I've learned to let the little things go. And our communication has become more open with increased pillow talk, which is a direct result of our ANR. But do we still feel cold to each other sometimes? Of course. It's how couples go. But those feelings dwindle with ANR, if you're in it for each other, and not just yourself :)

While it is, generally, a beautiful, blissful practice, it has its flaws. These flaws can be worked out over time and with experience. But if you're committed to building each other up and helping each other grow, your ANR will FLOURISH!