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!


Inducing Lactation

Week 1 - March 10, 2017-March 16, 2017

8:00 PM

While we have been casually suckling on a loose schedule for the past few weeks, we felt that last week was the time to officially begin our journey to full lactation.

And a blissful week it has been.

There's something to casual suckling/breastplay, but to dedicate real time out of your schedule every day to nursing, that's something special! D and I have experienced increased closeness and we find ourselves engaged in lots of pillowtalk every night before nursing and then drifting off to sleep. The words we exchange are loving, honest, and comforting.

When initiating an ANR, there is an extremely wonderful "honeymoon" period. I'll never forget the days of when we first delved into this world, and how excitingly new everything was. There was always incredible anticipation to see each other, to learn something new, to wait for new indicators of progressing lactation. We were so mad in love and the passion was fresh. Multiple times daily we would make love and retire in the evening exhausted from the emotions of the day. They were truly wonderful times. This time around, there is definitely some passion and most certainly the intense feelings of love and connection; however, the honeymoon isn't as exciting (still exciting, though!) as it was initially. That's how life goes. But we are committed and excited to be taking this step--and this time, with increased confidence. And we are relaxed and know that, wherever this takes us, we'll be happy in the journey.

I have already experienced the characteristic soreness in the armpits that comes with beginning stimulation for lactation. This came about a few days after starting our casual routine, so I haven't technically experienced it since beginning for real this week. I have been through indicator 1 ("Her breasts feel softer after a nursing session) for lactation. D is definitely getting my "fluid" so it's safe to say I'm experiencing indicator 2 ("He 'feels' her fluid on his tongue while nursing"). And it's only the first week! I have hope things will progress quickly.  I'm not sure how close I am to indicator 3 ("Her bra cup increases one size") because... I don't wear bras. I have never been gifted in the breast size department, so I simply choose not to wear one anymore. That, and three years ago when we first started our ANR adventures, D convinced me he liked how my breasts looked when I didn't wear a bra. Even after nursing two children, they're really still decently perky. Instead of a bra, I opt for these nipple covers which I really love! I only really wear them when I'm going out or seeing family. Wearing them too long is not advisable. The girls need to breathe!

Anyway--I'm expecting an indicator 4 ("She becomes uncomfortable if a nursing session is skipped") in the next month. In our history, that's about how long it has taken. And at indicator 4, our dedication is really tested because I will be unable to relieve the discomfort myself and will require him to help me. Full lactation ("She can pump, hand express, or spray milk") doesn't come for quite some time! So I'll have to rely on my dear husband. That's another beauty of ANR: it becomes a symbol of your dedication to each other.

I still get somewhat giddy seeing him walk through our bedroom door as I wait for him on the bed. He'll shut the door, lock it, and join me in bed. His hands pull up my shirt, pull down my undershirt, admire my breast before holding it and latching on. I love it. And I feel the same after coming home from work and seeing him. We put the children to bed and retire to the bedroom for time together. This time is so precious.

This week was very nice. We determined our schedule, which includes three nursing sessions (10 minutes per breast) a day: 6:30 AM (upon waking), 1:00 PM (when he comes home for lunch) and 10:30 PM (before bed). His schedule follows a typical 8-5 job, but we are fortunate enough to live close enough to his place of employment that he can come home for lunch every day. My employment involves on-call work in healthcare, and mostly involves evenings and weekends for a few hours that work within our schedule. We would ideally like to have a nursing session at 5:30 or 6:00 PM (when he gets home from work) but it likely won't work out for some time. That's one thing about ANR: it changes with your life (and your life changes with it!).

I must say also that I have been prepared with a pump. During our second attempt at ANR my husband purchased a pump for me. Truly, it was quite a gift and so appreciated! I use the Medela Freestyle. I'll write later on why I like this pump and the reasons we choose to use a pump in our ANR.

This week, I have had to pump a couple times. Once because I agreed to babysit my niece and nephew at 12:30 and we were unable to finish our nursing session (I pumped later as they slept) and another because D went to a convention for work for the whole day. The pump isn't even remotely the same as D's mouth. I cannot express milk yet and so it simply stimulates my nipples. While I pump, I miss D even more! And I am definitely not used to the pump yet--I have to pump at a very low level and for only 10 minutes. With time, I'll become accustomed to it, I'm sure.

I'm so excited for this journey. It feels so right. And I know this time, we'll get so far. The cards haven't been in our favor before, and we finally have a good hand.

Thank you again for joining us on this journey! I hope to help you somehow!


ANR and Mental Illness

9:35 AM

I don't believe anyone really plans on mental illness affecting their life like it does. We sure didn't.

If you read "Our ANR History" you'll recall that I told you I had bipolar, anxiety and depression. And looking back now, I realize the tremendous impact it had on our ANR. The sweetness of stability has come to me in the past year as I have sought treatment for my disorders. My hindsight is truly clear; with my newfound disposition I can see why we failed.

It's hard for me to believe how many ANRs fizzle out. The internet is a wasteland of abandoned ANR blogs and I wonder what happened to them. Sometimes I wonder if they ended in the same fashion that ours did.

Part of being bipolar is getting caught up in these extreme emotions and ideas. When we first began three years ago I was constantly in a high or "manic," thinking of the possibilities and becoming obsessed with it. These feelings made it easy to push my husband to nurse very often. Too often. My all-or-nothing personality and selfishness made me believe that this was the only way to have a successful ANR: to be nursing or pumping pretty much constantly and to obsess over it.

Obsession is never a wise choice. Obsession means there is a loss of balance somewhere.

D grew tired of my nagging and then, one Sunday afternoon, I asked him to come to the bedroom. And he didn't come. Our church was scheduled in the late morning and we tended to nurse twice before going to church, and this time, he didn't come. I remember writing frantically in my journal as he sat next to me, begging the words on the pages to spell out why he didn't come into the bedroom. Was he tired of me? (Yes, he was) Was he sick of ANR? (Yes, in the way we had been doing it!) Was there something wrong with me? (YES, though I wouldn't discover my personality traits were very much a mix of everything I would be diagnosed with!) Was he not attracted to me anymore? (Not as a nag, no!)

I was so caught up in the mania that it ultimately led to me destroying our ANR for a while. I was able to apologize when the mania subsided and we continued, but it wasn't fated to work out. The mania was horrible because all I desired to do was stay moving and busy, and ANR wasn't new anymore so I sought a new thrill. Spending money, hypersexuality (which I never acted on, but boy did it occupy my mind for days!), overeating (or, strangely, undereating) and increased emotions including excessive excitement and irritability.

Another facet of the bipolar is the extreme lows. Depression would overcome me and all I desired was to overeat, sleep and be by myself engaged in time-wasting activities. The creeping feelings of unworthiness consumed me. I would often go to sleep in the evening before we could nurse. Being touched, let alone suckled, was the furthest from my desires.

Though I pushed through a few lows and highs, nursing became a chore. Very seldom did I find myself in between the mania and depression. I enrolled in school later that summer, thankful because ANR would be difficult to maintain. All-or-nothing speaking again! If I couldn't have it all, I didn't want it!

There would be another time when the mania would peak and we would begin suckling again, but I lost interest easily. It was never his desire to quit; always, that fell on me. My emotions began to be the culprit in our failure. I told D that we would not be initiating the process again until I could stabilize my emotions. Oh, I did work to stabilize them--modified my diet, began exercising, having a more structured schedule... yet, it was to no avail. I truly had a problem and my denying help only worsened the issues.

I sought treatment in April of 2016 when I became suicidal. D urged me to get help and I did. Through the assistance of a psychiatrist and a wonderful counselor, a year later, I am finally able to function and my emotions are probably 85% more stable. My stipulation had been met. I pondered privately on reinitiating our ANR before bringing it up with D. He was very open to it and stated he never wanted it to stop in the first place, but understood and respected my desires at the time. My stability was apparent to him and he applauded my progress. This really helped my self-confidence. Could we really make it work this time? Instead of trying to push him into anything, we both agreed to test the waters by casually suckling on a very loose schedule. There were no expectations. It was great. We both began to want more, so naturally, we decided to begin suckling regularly.

Part of my treatment involves multiple medications. I've mentioned that one reason I wanted to relactate was to donate to babies in need. But, as you can imagine, nobody wants milk tainted with psychiatric medications (D's totally okay with it though) for their baby. This makes me sad. Talking with D about it helps, though. And he assured me that he still wants my milk, regardless, and if it made me feel better, I could pump and save for him. We both look forward to this.

I will say that the medications provide a convincing scapegoat in the event that I leak in front of family members. Lactation is a known side effect to MANY psychiatric medications--not necessarily the ones I'm on, but it's an easy enough excuse!

Despite the setbacks in our ANR, we have learned so much about ourselves. Bipolar, depression and anxiety have all been almost essential to building my character. I love my newfound stability and logic. And I really love ANR. It will undoubtedly be a part of our life for some time to come.

Education

Pumping and ANR

1:35 PM

Many couples choose not to incorporate pumping into their ANR, and some do. Some claim their ANR is for them and not a pump, and that's okay. Some use pumping to fill a missed session and others use it the boost their production or speed up the process (I'm not going to say that does or doesn't work--while inducing lactation, nothing quite works like a mouth!).

We decided to use a pump for many reasons: 

First, to fill a session we may have missed. Sometimes D travels for work. It's my hope that D won't have to travel again for work until I'm fully lactating... that could really affect our efforts! Often, things come up that keep us from finishing or even initiating a nursing session. When I am able, and sometimes with planning beforehand, I can pump or hand express off-schedule so I at least get some stimulation. Sometimes life happens and we just need to improvise. But that's why we have the pump!

Second, when I finally reach indicator 10 and am fully lactated, I want to be able to readily increase my supply and pump to save milk for D for his own consumption. We have discussed using my milk instead of cow's milk in his protein shakes. It has to be healthier! I also have recipes for milk candy, ice cream, cake and other things that I plan to make for him. What better treat than breastmilk treats? He is looking forward to this prospect, as he claims my milk is simply delicious. :)

The pump can also help with vacations. We're planning a few vacations this summer, and two of them will be with extended family. It won't be easy to sneak away and nurse when in-laws and siblings and nieces and nephews are all around, especially when privacy will be limited! This is another main reason D got me the pump. It'll be much easier for me to sneak away with the pump somewhere discreet and do that while the rest of the family chats or plays games or whatever it is they'll do. The same can go for holidays or general time spent away from the comfort of home. Getting away for our afternoon nursing session could be challenging sometimes.

I love lactating, and I love nursing my husband. I also loved nursing my babies and hoped to nurse many more. It was my hope that I could have enough of a supply for donation to babies in need; however, that dream has had to be put on hold. Still, to help fill the loss of that goal, I would like to pump and save for D. And under the right circumstances, I would like to donate. So I'll prepare for those circumstances--just in case!

D found me a pump that he figured would be able to meet all the needs I would have as a nursing wife. He is very analytical and definitely does his research. That's why he chose the Medela Freestyle and a hands-free pumping bra. It's a double electric breast pump that's battery powered and can operate while plugged in, too. This pump has a letdown setting and multiple suction levels. This means I am not limited to having an outlet nearby to pump--points for discretion! The only downside is that it's electric, and electric pumps do make noise. This is why a hand pump would be more desirable. However, given all the pros and cons, we feel the Freestyle is the best choice.

I'm not the hugest fan of hand pumping and would rather use the Marmet technique for expression if it really came down to it. The Marmet technique does much more in the way of stimulation the nipples than pumping so you make more milk but it is very hands-on. So if you're trying to hurry along the process of inducing lactation, I would definitely recommend hand expression via this technique.

Ultimately, you both need to decide if you'd like to incorporate pumping into your ANR routine. We felt like it was what we both wanted. Some couples are more casual and not so concerned about lactation. And that's okay! Every ANR is different. We decided that full lactation is what we want to achieve, if we can. And really, it's not all about the milk... it's about the connection, the dedication, the nurturing, the love...