Tandem breastfeeding wasn’t something I set out to do, it just sort of evolved. Here is my story:
I was breastfeeding my first child when I became pregnant with my second. Although I wasn’t totally ready to wean, the idea of breastfeeding a newborn plus a two year old was daunting. I pictured myself sitting on a spit-up soaked sofa, tandem breastfeeding a baby and toddler with play dough stuck in my matted hair, surrounded by piles of dirty laundry and stacks of unwashed dishes. Not a pretty picture. I also thought my son would be less jealous of the new baby if he was weaned, and so we stopped. A couple months after weaning, the baby’s arrival ROCKED my first child’s world. He was angry that the new baby disrupted his life and he saw the new baby as a challenger for my attention.
Fast forward two years, I was breastfeeding my second and pregnant with my third child. My second, now a toddler, wasn’t ready to wean and neither was I, so I wondered about tandem breastfeeding. Would it help my toddler adjust to his new sibling? Would the baby get enough colostrum? How would I position a baby and a toddler? Would I feel overwhelmed? I had more questions than answers. I decided to do some reading to educate myself. Then I approached tandem breastfeeding with an adventurous attitude and decided to take it one day at a time, without too many preconceived ideas about how it would go.
Here is what I discovered:
Before the birth of the baby, I talked to my toddler about his needs as a baby and how I responded to them so he could begin to understand the new baby’s needs.
Making enough milk:
I wasn’t concerned about milk production because I trusted that my breasts would respond and make as much milk as needed, based on the amount of milk that was removed. I knew that the baby would let me know if she was getting enough with the usual cues and clues.
During the first few days of tandem breastfeeding, the baby got first priority at the breast to ensure that she received the colostrum she needed.
After the first few days, I tried breastfeeding them at the same time but this wasn’t comfortable or enjoyable for me. Rather than monkeying with tandem breastfeeding positions, I opted to feed them separately. I explained to my toddler that if the baby is hungry, she gets to breastfeed first. After a few times of baulking at the reality of having to wait his turn, he adjusted. I provided positive reinforcement by saying to him “I really like how you waited your turn”. Soon thereafter, he would proudly declare “Mommy, I let baby go first!” And let’s be honest, giving my toddler a snack to eat while he waited his turn was REALLY helpful, too.
Initially, when my toddler saw me breastfeeding the baby, he temporarily increased his requests to breastfeed. Breastfeeding provides nourishment and it is also a source of comfort and closeness for toddlers. When he felt anxious or threatened by the new addition to the family, he turned to breastfeeding as a reassurance that he was still loved.
Feeling “touched out”:
At some point in my tandem breastfeeding adventure, I started to feel “touched out” by all of the cuddling, holding and breastfeeding and I wanted some physical space to myself. I reminded myself that these feelings are common and that even if I wasn’t tandem breastfeeding, my second child would still need me for closeness and comfort. Dedicating a few minutes for me each day to sit in complete silence and isolation while my husband took care of the kids was really helpful. A few minutes to yourself is a necessity for any mother, whether you’re tandem breastfeeding or not. And I don’t count time you spend in the bathroom with your kids banging on the bathroom door.
On days when I was feeling tired and emotionally frazzled, breastfeeding my toddler was a great way to re-connect with him and put a quick end to a crying episode without saying a word. Plus, I got out of making dinner on many occasions because I had a legitimate excuse to sit on my butt. I am not entirely sure, but I think my husband secretly wished he was able to breastfeed just so he could get out of dinner duty! Who needs super powers when you can make milk?!
Tandem breastfeeding worked for my family and I. Are you thinking about tandem breastfeeding? Have you given it a try? We would love to hear from you.
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About this blogger:
Devon Clarke, RN – I am a Public Health Nurse and mom to three, lively children. I have been supporting parents and families for over 14 years and I understand how challenging and rewarding parenting can be. My time away from work is focused on my family and savouring those rare, quiet moments.