Friday, May 3, 2013

Room for Two {A Tandem Nursing Story}

I've had a lot of "I'll never"'s as a parent.  I remember when I had two babies, saying "Well, I'll breastfeed and wear my babies, but I'll never cloth diaper."  I cloth diapered our next baby and each one since, in some capacity.  With the third I said "Well, I'll breastfeed, wear my baby and cloth diaper, but I would never birth at home."  The fourth, fifth and sixth babies have been welcomed here in my own bedroom, yes, intentionally.    With my fifth I said "Well, I'll breastfeed, wear my babies, cloth diaper and homebirth, but I will never nurse two babies."

Well, guess what?

Things change.

I wanted 6 children, a lovely, even number.  After Peter, I never once said "we're done," because I've been at this mothering thing long enough to know that sometimes planning out your life can mean missing out on some of the best gifts life has to offer.  That being said, I was not ready when we found out about our little Rosemary when Peter was just one year old, meaning that they would be under two years apart.  As close as my first two were, yes, but then my parenting style has changed quite a bit since then.

I aim to nurse my babies until around their second birthday, as recommended by the World Health Organization.  Our number 6 baby arriving when Peter was 20 months old meant I would either have to abandon that thought, or I would have to nurse two - tandem nursing.  I wanted to savor Peter's time as a baby, yes, even when a new little one came along, so I began to look into tandem nursing for the first time.

Ask anyone who has tandem nursed about their experiences, and you'll get a mixed bag of sentiments.  From "It was the worst decision I ever made!" to "I loved it and treasured that time together," it seems to me that everyone has a slightly different take on it.  As I had never juggled a newborn and a toddler nursing before, the thought made me more than a little nervous.  I decided to wait to decide and see nursing went during my pregnancy.

The night Rosemary was born, Peter woke up shortly after.  Jason brought him into my room and in the wee hours of the morning, I introduced him to his new sister.  He kissed her and patted her and smiled so big - and was then ready to nurse.  For him, the comfort of our nursing relationship eased him through these first few weeks of big brotherhood.  His gentle and happy nature has held strong and he has welcomed Rosie into  the family.  When we nurse all together, he strokes her hair or holds her hand (and yes, my Mama's heart catches at the sight!).  When we have our separate moments together, we are reveling in our own unique and precious relationship with each other.

For us, tandem nursing has been a blessing, has allowed me to continue to "baby" my little Peter and has smoothed out our journey from a family of 7 to a family of 8.

I don't know when Peter will wean, but I'm not worried.  For now we are taking it one day at a time and it is working out better than I could have anticipated.  For me, the benefits have been marvelous - not only close, precious moments with my two littlest, but no engorgement or tenderness.  I feel great and nursing a newborn has never been more simple.  My biggest concern was Rosemary gaining enough weight, but a trip to the doctor has shown that she is certainly getting enough, growing very well.

So add this to my list of "I'll Never"'s that I've left behind.  And remind me? Not to say "I'll Never" ever again!

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  1. Lydia - how did this work with your colostrum? O have wondered about this. <3 Summer

    1. I'm not entirely sure. My Midwife said it must be mixed in there somewhere. I don't think I was producing much at all while pregnant, so I think when she was born it changed into newborn milk naturally. She gained a half pound by 2 weeks old (after losing and then gaining back to her birth weight), so her pediatrician said she was doing just fine!

  2. I was in the exact same boat, discovering I was pregnant again after my oldest turned 1. I kept nursing them together, then when baby #2 was 8 months old (and still exclusively nursing), I became pregnant with #3 (due in October).

    I'll admit that it can be draining. The almost-3 year old still nurses during the night. The 1 year old has been depending on me for his fluids. Yes, part of me hopes they'll self-wean as my supply dips. If not, I'll make them share one side and let the new baby have the other side. :)

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  4. I am facing this. I've never said I wouldn't nurse 2. In fact I learned with #1 that saying "I'll never" would quickly turn into "I do" (co-sleeping was my very first concession as my first was born and I didn't want to be apart from her).
    Natalie is 2 and 1 month now. She'll be 2 and 3 months when #4 comes. She only nurses a little bit but she is so not ready to give that up. And I am not ready to force her to wean.

  5. I was quite willing to nurse two, but not nurse two overnight (Thing 1 was 2 when I became pregnant with Thing 2). Over the course of my pregnancy I was able to nightwean my older son, which was a help. He was a devoted nurser and apparently kept nursing even when my milk mostly dried up since around 3 days post partum he announced "There's MILK in here!" I had no idea it had ever gone away. He got some chubby cheeks for a few weeks :)
    It's my understanding that colostrum doesn't ever go away. What happens is "Mature milk" is added in - adding in more fluid and sugars and things. Many moms find that once their baby weans they seems to have colostrum again. It's because it's the first to arrive and the last to leave, and hangs around the whole time being super amazing stuff.

    1. Thankfully my older baby was nightweaned and sleeping on his own before the new baby came. His nursing picked up a bit since she's been here, and yes he's got the chubby cheeks too! But so far it's working well. Thanks for the information on breastmilk is some amazing stuff!

  6. Thank you for this post! I've felt a little negative about tandem nursing after the painful time we had weaning our eldest 'baby' each time, but you've reminded me of the two biggest bonuses-

    1. Easing into being a big sibling and having that reassurance from Mama.
    2. No engorgement! Man that was great!!

    Oh I thought of another- for me, breastfeeding in pregnancy all but eliminates my first trimester nausea.

    And for Summer- colostrum always seemed plentiful for the little one, but for me, changing toddler nappies when they've been drinking colostrum is a little unpleasant- colostrum partly being designed to 'move' the newborn bowel. I always made sure to feed little one first anyway, just in case I was worried they'd miss out.

  7. I've been tandem nursing my boys since the oldest was 1 1/2 and the youngest was born a year and two months ago. Sometimes it is hard/crazy/inconvenient but for the most part I love it. I should write my nursing story too someday.


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