Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Built for Two

Welcome to the Carnival of Tandem Nursing
This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Tandem Nursing hosted by Mommying My Way. Our participants have shared their personal stories of the highs the lows and information on what to expect if tandeming is in your future. Please read to the end of each post to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Outside my bubble of breastfeeding, attachment parenting minded friends, most people couldn't understand why I would continue to breast feed my almost 2 year old. When I got pregnant with my second child, a few people thought it would be time for us to wean. My son didn't think so, and neither did I. So, I started reading, readying myself for what I could expect from tandem nursing. It sounded perfect. Feed my new baby, and have a way to still my toddler for a few minutes. I could nurse them both down for naps at the same time! When I was too tired to get up for snacks, I could offer to nurse. It would ease the transition to sibling life and teach them their first lessons of sharing with each other at the breast. For the most part, it was great. And it was all of those things. But, there were a few things i wasn't prepared for that made things difficult for me to continue to tandem nurse. (In fact, we even weaned for a time.) I want to share them, not to scare anyone away from the idea of tandem nursing, but so that you can prepare for it, in case similar issues arise for you.

 My oldest child, L1, is the sweetest little boy. He loves me, and loved to breastfeed. Our first night apart was the night I was in labor with his brother. He was 23 months old. We had started doing bedtimes with daddy so he didn't need to nurse to sleep every night, but had not worked to night wean otherwise. The new baby, L2, was a GOOD sleeper. Not waking most of the night after the first few days. But, L1 was waking frequently to reconnect and nurse. More often than the baby. I was frustrated and tired. So we started using Daddy as the first responder. Daddy would offer cuddles, water, snacks, whatever we could. I made an effort to breastfeed during the day more frequently to make sure he wasn't trying to make up for lost time at the breast at night. Eventually, L1 was able to sleep through the night again. When my third child came, we had learned our lesson and started practicing Daddy at Bedtime. Which was especially helpful to start early enough he was sleeping through the night by the time the baby came and my husband started working nights.

The other issue I came up against was the distinct fear and overwhelming feeling that I was not safe when I tandem nursed them at the same time. I have always had some issues with confined spaces, and being "trapped" under two children was difficult. What I was able to discern was some primal need to be alert, to be able to defend my children at a moments notice. How could I do this when I was so EXPOSED and weighed down? I could generally get past this feeling by limiting these moments to spaces I felt secure and relaxed. Mostly at home in our bed. Also at the house where I nannied, so I could get all three children to nap at the same time. For some reason, because the prospect of a few minutes of all of them sleeping at once was so enticing, I could manage it. Finding that space to feel relaxed helped us continue to have that special time together.

 The last issue I needed to address wasn't so much a problem with my first two children, but with my newest addition. We had weaned for the last part of my pregnancy, then had a hard time establishing breastfeeding, prolonging our temporary weaning until things were better. By then, I was breastfeeding my new baby, had taken on pumping milk to donate to another mother and baby, and my middle child was interested in unweaning. It has been a lesson for us all about sharing, self-care, and patience. Working to teach a more sensitive child to wait while the baby eats is not an easy task. Especially when your toddler thwarts your attempts at distraction with offers of flavored milk with a sad face "Nursies are better than ice cream milk!" I think things have gone pretty well as long as I keep communicating "First sister gets nursies, then I will pump for Baby Buddha, then you can have nursies. BUT, you can sit with me and help."

Through all of that: I would do it all again. Maybe even better. I believe in tandem nursing, if that is what works for you and your baby.
  • My Tandem Nursing Journey: Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy is sharing her tandem nursing journey so far...
  • Built for Two: No matter how much you read and plan, things may not always go as you expect. A few things that Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy wished she knew when she was planning to tandem feed her toddler and newborn.
  • Tandem Nursing - Magic Cure?: Jorje of Momma Jorje had high expectations of tandem nursing easing her toddler daughter's transition from being the baby to being a big sister.
  • Mutually Desirable - Navigating a Tandem Nursing Experience: Amy Willa at www.amywilla.com talks about limit setting and meditations that help her navigate an intense tandem nursing experience.
  • My Adventure in Tandem Nursing: Alicia at Lactation Narration tells her story of nursing her daughter through pregnancy and then tandem nursing.
  • 4 months in: the good/hard: Becca at Exile Fertility writes about the joys and struggles of having two nurslings 17 months apart.
  • Tandem Nursing: One at a Time: When tandem nursing resulted in a nursing aversion, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children looked for ways to meet everyone's needs.
  • Why Nurse a 4 Year Old?: One of the questions Dionna at Code Name: Mama keeps getting is, "but why breastfeed a four year old? What are the benefits?" Today she answers that question.
  • My Hurt Feelings: Shannon at The Artful Mama shares how her first son reacted to nursing after the birth of his brother and the gift she received the last time he nursed.
  • Carnival of Tandem Nursing: A Letter To Myself 7 Years Ago: Dulce de leche shares the advice and reassurance that she would have given to herself if she could go back in time.
  • Nursing Both My Babies: Cassie at ThereĆ¢€™s a Pickle in my Life shares her experience with nursing and transitioning into tandem nursing. She also gives tips for struggles.
  • Our Tandem Nursing Journey: Kim at Life-is-Learning describes her journey into tandem nursing and why it is important to her.
  • Based on her own experience, Lauren at Hobo Mama dishes about the benefits and downsides to nursing multiple children.


  1. I'm tearing up reading this, Jennifer. I love you.

  2. Wow - I have the same problem being cramped/unable to move, and I'd never related it to how I feel when nursing both at the same time.
    And I continue to be amazed at the fact that you tandem nurse and pump for a third!!

  3. Can I just say I am amazed that you are tandem nursing AND expressing milk for another baby!? That is awesome!

  4. When I'm nursing both of my children I too feel 'trapped' but more in the sense of out of control of my own body - I have a need to hold at least one of my breasts with my hand. the other day i was texting too handed while they both nursed and started freaking out. ha. i definitely prefer nursing only one at a time but we do what we have to do!! :) Thanks for sharing!

  5. Awesome post! Kudos to you for tandeming and expressing as well!

  6. Great post, thanks so much for sharing. I was wondering-- so L1 had not weaned when you went into labor with L2. How did he do while you were gone at the hospital? This is one thing I'm really nervous about if we don't do a homebirth in the future.

    1. I did have a home birth, but he went with my adult sister who lives with us, to my mom's house a few miles away. They kept him well occupied and he managed fine.