We used to talk about women like you, at kindy!” So said a friend of mine when she realised that I was breastfeeding a toddler…and a baby ….simultaneously! ; Tandem breastfeeding certainly raises eyebrows, causes discussion and elicits copious amounts of unsolicited advice…. So why do I tandem breastfeed? When my second pregnancy began, Isabella (then nearly two years old) showed no signs of wanting to complete her weaning. My intuition sensed the intensity of this need and I was hesitant to push the issue. Thus I tumbled into the area of breastfeeding through a pregnancy – a topic about which I had very little knowledge. ; Luckily I had a supportive midwife, lots of support from the Australian Breastfeeding Association or ABA (both valuable sources of evidence – based research as well as encouragement and emotional support), a number of friends and without a doubt, the most important source of support, my husband, who, whilst not always being “sure”, was always 100% supportive of my desire to trust my instincts about our daughter’s needs. Fast forwarding to just before Grace was born brings us to a place where Isabella is still an avid and enthusiastic breast feeder showing no signs of wanting to wean. My primary concern about the impending tandem feeding was the issue of feeding two children during the night. Whilst we had already adopted “family bed” as one of our night time parenting strategies I was still worried about “all those breastfeeds! When will I sleep?” So I adopted the strategy of refusing all requests for a breastfeed between bedtime and “when the sun comes up!” ; This took a few weeks to become fully operational and had the unplanned side effect of Isabella waking at dawn…during summer! So how do you do it? People are often curious about the logistics of tandem breastfeeding in action. Do they have a breast each or do they alternate and share? ; Will the baby “miss out?” Will there be enough milk? ; ; ; These were certainly questions I had asked myself as well. Most of the time they just have which ever breast is fullest; with due attention to the needs of “baby first” especially earlier on when Grace was fully breastfed. I too was worried about the baby “missing out” but nearly a year later Grace is happy and healthy. (I suspect she considers it “normal’ to tandem feed with a sibling!) And yes there WAS enough breast milk….there was certainly plenty of demand to get that supply going! The most confronting problem I faced was nipple thrush. Ouch! ; We all ended up with thrush and it took a while to rectify this problem. I hadn’t realised that I could get nipple thrush and for some reason was irrationally annoyed that I wasn’t prepared for this eventuality. An empathic ABA counsellor suggested various strategies I found to be effective. Another Mother suggested a Lactation Consultant. The Lactation Consultant suggested the use of daktarin oral gel for the nipples and mouths and modifications to our family diet. It took several weeks for the nipple thrush to clear and it was very physically painful for me. I found myself restricting the duration of Isabella’s feeds which she found difficult. I nearly weaned her at this time. Now for the good news. Blocked ducts and looming mastitis with a newborn? Try a toddler! Their skill and expertise, accompanied by boundless enthusiasm, has this problem nailed in no time! ; Indeed, Isabella turned it into a game – “you be the mummy cow and I’ll be the baby cow”. As in any breastfeeding relationship, I get “touched out” and the standard issues that emerge when parenting a toddler and an infant have the added dimension of ; having breastfeeds to tussle over. (That’s MY boobie!”) What does it look like? Grace and Isabella usually breast feed at different times. This is my preferred method as I find it the most comfortable physically. Sometimes however I do breastfeed simultaneously; usually whilst I am sitting on a couch and the baby is on my lap and the toddler is by my side. The simultaneous moments are usually delightful as Grace and Isabella play and giggle and I am in the middle just “being”. The hard times? ; The hardest times I have are not related directly to the tandem feeding but to people’s reactions to it. For example if I am finding the tandem feeding AND the parenting AND the housework AND the lack of world peace all just a bit too much and I just want to whinge about it all; the most common response is “you should give up feeding the toddler.” Continuing success? The main reason tandem breastfeeding has worked for us and continues to work for us is the unwavering support of my husband. Without his support, his encouragement and his defence of our decision making we would not be where we are. (He also makes a mean cup of tea…) Other supports come in the form of good quality information from solid sources including the Australian Breastfeeding Association, various websites (eg La Leche League) and numerous books in particular a book by Norma Jane Bumgarner called Mothering Your Nursing Toddler (2000) and Meredith Small’s book Our Babies, Ourselves(1998) about cross cultural perspectives on parenting and breastfeeding generally. Finally, and for me, most importantly, my instincts tell me that it is the correct decision for my daughters. They are healthy and happy and enjoy their parents and each other. What would I do differently if I had my time again? I would talk to more people who had tandem breastfed in the earlier stages of the process and continue talking! ;And now? I have a loosely held belief that child led weaning is of value in our family. However this is tempered by the reality that breastfeeding is relational and there are various needs within the family, including my own. Sometimes I just say no to Isabella’s requests for a breastfeed simply because I feel too “touched out” to do it. At this stage my guiding principle is to take each day as it comes; to respond to the breastfeeding needs of our daughters, and to, most importantly, enjoy this marvellous time in my life of parenting small children. Addenda By the way, Grace is now 10 months old and she breastfeeds on demand during the night (usually once or twice) and I have had two complete period cycles. I am surprised as I would have thought the frequency with which I breastfeed would have suppressed ovulation, but it hasn’t. Also, it was hard enough buying double ‘d’ bras when I was breastfeeding one child; it is impossible to buy f cups in any other colour except “blush” (hides the milk stains, dear!) unless you take a second mortgage on the house……….
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