This post is part of the Carnival of Breastfeeding on the topic of “Extended Breastfeeding” hosted by Blacktating and The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog. See below for links to the other participants’ posts.
Benjamin was born approximately 3.5 months ago, and I’ve been tandem nursing ever since. What is tandem nursing you ask? Tandem nursing is the term used for breastfeeding siblings concurrently. Tandem nursing has been practiced by moms around the world for centuries. It happens when a nursing toddlers does not wean when his or her mother is pregnant. The toddler nurses throughout the pregnancy and continues nursing when the new baby is born. This is what happened in our case. Never did I imagine that when I started nursing Dylan over 3 years ago that I would be tandeming…but here I am! I’ve tried to be as honest as possible about my experience, and hope that I can help other moms who are tandeming or considering it!
There have been a number of benefits to tandem nursing.
First, with both Benjamin and Dylan nursing, my milk came in really quickly after Benjamin was born. Within 48 hours after birth, my milk was in. This was wonderful! So many moms have a rough time nursing before their milk comes in, as the baby can be very fussy, won’t sleep and often wants to nurse around the clock. This of course is normal – the baby needs to nurse extremely frequently to stimulate the milk to come in, but can be tough on moms who are exhausted from birth. By having my milk come in quickly, I avoided those issues – Benjamin wasn’t fussy, gained weight quickly and slept well, right from the get-go!
Tandem nursing also helped with engorgement! My milk supply was plentiful when it came in. Whenever I was feeling a bit engorged, I would ask Dylan to nurse and the problem was solved. This was particularly helpful at night when Benjamin started sleeping longer stretches. Sometimes I would wake up uncomfortably full and in pain and I’d latch Dylan on in his sleep (even though he had nightweaned during my pregnancy)! Much easier than trying to hand express or hook up a pump in the middle of the night.
Tandem nursing also helped Dylan adjust to all the changes in our lives. It was comforting and reassuring for him to know that he could still have “mommy milk” after Benjamin was born. Nursing Dylan during the early postpartum days was an easy way for me to give him attention – I could do it lying in bed, and it often led to a nap for him, which was a great way for him to get a bit more rest when our routines and schedules had been turned upside down!
I’m not going to lie. Not everything about tandem nursing is sunshine and roses. Firstly, it’s difficult to deal with all the doubters. My family basically thinks I’m crazy to still be nursing a three year old. I don’t blame them – while nursing past the age of one is common around the world, it is not common where we live.
I’ve also been battling with oversupply, and I believe that it has been made worse by tandem nursing. When Benjamin was around 6 wks old, I finally clued into my oversupply problems. He would often choke on my milk during a feed. It would dribble down his face and spray everywhere if he popped off during a feed. He was extremely gassy and spit up like crazy. He’d often be cranky and cry after a feeding, and he would rarely comfort nurse. So while it was wonderful in many ways to have an abundant supply thanks to the extra stimulation my body was getting from a nursing toddler, my oversupply was negatively affecting Benjamin. After recognizing that I had oversupply, we changed our nursing patterns and now my supply is mostly under control.
In the last few weeks I’ve felt DONE with nursing Dylan. This saddens me because up until recently I’ve really loved our nursing relationship. I am passionate about extended nursing and strongly believe in all of its benefits! I believe(d) in child-led weaning and wanted to wean only when Dylan was ready.
A wonderful resource for tandeming moms is Hilary Flower’s book Adventures in Tandem Nursing. I read it while pregnant, and recently started flipping through it again while trying to figure out how to deal with my new desire to wean Dylan.
On page 174, she lists red flags that may indicate that a nursing relationship needs some changes. They are as follows:
- You feel yourself withdrawing from your nursing child
- You hear an irritated tone in your voice when you say “yes”
- You feel you have no choice when it comes to nursing
- You are prone to snapping at your child while breastfeeding
- You are getting exasperated enough to consider weaning on the spot
I read this list and felt like it was written just for me! Dylan and I have always been so close, and lately I feel myself withdrawing from him. He just seems so BIG when he nurses, and nursing him is grating on my nerves. It is funny really, because I could nurse Benjamin all day and not be annoyed, but when Dylan nurses for even a couple of minutes I’m beyond irritated and start pushing him off and often snap at him, as listed above!
I call this the “ugly” because I feel like I can’t really complain about tandem nursing, because I created this problem since I chose to nurse Dylan this long. It is also very conflicting for me because I so strongly believe in extended nursing and in weaning when a child is ready. However, I have to honor my own feelings towards nursing and I’m allowed to want to wean Dylan.
Hilary Flowers says “sometimes a ‘loving, gentle weaning’ describes the space the mother is holding, and leaves room for the child to go through a range of feelings and reactions”. I take this to mean that while Dylan may be upset as I wean him and put limits on his nursing and say no, it is still possible for this to be loving and gentle, because that is my intention.
Wish me luck…I will keep you posted on what happens!
Update – April 17, 2011
Since I wrote this post on April 11th, we have cut down on Dylan’s nursing sessions. He was nursing when he woke up in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, and always before bed. We’ve cut out all nursing sessions except the one before bed. It has not been traumatic at all – there was a bit of complaining on the first few days but he seems used to it now. I’ve decided to keep the before bed one because it really is such an easy way to get him to sleep easily and peacefully. I’m quite happy with this arrangement. I’ve realized that I don’t need to fully wean Dylan right now…setting limits has really made a big difference in my mood!
Please be sure to check out all of the other submissions in this month’s Carnival
Jenny @ Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: The Highs and Lows of Nursing a Toddler
Christina @ MFOM: Natural-Term Breastfeeding
Rebekah @ Momma’s Angel: My Sleep Breakthrough
Suzi @ Attachedattheboob: Why I love nursing a toddler
Claire @ The Adventures of Lactating Girl: My Hopes for Tandem Nursing
Elisa @ blissfulE: counter cultural: extended breastfeeding
Momma Jorje: Extended Breastfeeding, So Far!
Stephanie Precourt from Adventures in Babywearing: “Continued Breastfeeding”: straight from the mouths of babes
The Accidental Natural Mama: Nurse on, Mama Sarah @ Reproductive Rites: Gratitude for extended breastfeeding Nikki @ On Becoming Mommy: The Little Things
Dr. Sarah @ Good Enough Mum: Breastfeeding for longer than a year: myths, facts and what the research really shows
Amy @ WIC City: (Extended) Breastfeeding as Mothering
TopHot @ the bee in your bonnet: From the Mouths of Babes
Beth @ Bethstedman.com: Extended Breastfeeding: To Wean Or Not To Wean
Callista @ Callista’s Ramblings: Pressure To Stop Breastfeeding
Amanda @ Postilius: Nursing My Toddler Keeps My Baby Close
Sheryl @ Little Snowflakes: Tandem Nursing- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Zoie @ Touchstone Z: Breastfeeding Flavors
Lauren @ Hobo Mama: Same old, same old: Extended breastfeeding
Tanya @ Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Six misconceptions about extended breastfeeding
Jona (Breastfeedingtwins.org): Breastfeeding older twins