Me… Tandem breastfeed?!

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.

Newborn baby held by parent, toddler sibling looking worried

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 birth:

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.

Colostrum:

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.

Positioning:

Smiling little girls embracing her mother

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.

The adjustment:

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.

For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

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.

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How to help your teen make big decisions

“I need to decide what to do after high school!”

This is the big topic of conversation in my house these days. It seems to be a cruel joke of nature that as teenagers approach one of the first big decisions of their lives, their decision making tool (the brain) is still under construction.

What will it be? Post-secondary education? Entering the workforce? Travel?

So many options and so many decisions to be made. Some kids have known what they want to be and how to achieve this since preschool. Others, like my daughter, well, it isn’t so straight forward and it can be exhausting following her circling train of thought.

Making decisions concept. Sneakers on the asphalt road with drawn arrows pointing to two directions.

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How to build a secure attachment with your baby

I remember being struck by how my son, David, looked at me – really looked at me. He took in my facial expressions, my words, the tunes I sang, and responded with his own changes in facial expression, babbling and body movements. Wow! Wasn’t he just the brightest, most wonderful baby ever! Of course that’s how every parent feels!

Having a good relationship with your child by responding to his cues and meeting his needs in a warm, caring way creates a close emotional bond referred to as “secure attachment”. By “cues”, I mean signals such as little frowns, wrinkled forehead, turning his face away, crying, smiling, imitating our expressions, rubbing his eyes, rooting, arching his back, cooing and laughing.

Why is this important?

When a child feels safe and secure, he’s more likely to explore his surroundings.  Knowing his parents are close by if he needs them, he may try new things, be more likely to interact with other children and adults, and develop confidence. Continue reading

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Kids in the kitchen: Independence is the main ingredient

When my three kids were younger my day would start at 5:30 am with breastfeeding the baby, getting the 2 year-old out of his diaper and figuring out what yogurt needed to be fed to the two and four year-old before it expired.

When I had at least five hours of sleep, I had a positive attitude and could even predict the colour cup ‘du jour.’ But when I woke up exhausted after a not-so-great night, I fantasized about the day when my kids would be more independent in the kitchen and I could drink my morning coffee HOT. Well, that day has arrived and now I’m faced with the challenge of giving up a bit (I mean, A LOT) of control over my tidy kitchen! I want my kids to be more independent without making it harder on me. I’ve started off by placing some apples, bananas and homemade snack mixes (read: Cheerios and sliced almonds in containers) on the table the night before. In the morning my eldest pours milk in cups for all three of them. Voila! A breakfast with four food groups and I don’t have to re-heat my coffee once. This is a major win! Continue reading

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So much to do at the library with your baby

If your baby is fussing and you need a break, maybe it’s time to head to the library!

Are you surprised?  Libraries are not what they used to be. Erase any mental images of furrowed brows and steel-like stares; things have changed! Libraries are a hub of activity for guests of all ages, and they want to get to know YOU.  Yes, you.

When I had my first baby I hadn’t visited the local library in years.  My Mom encouraged me to go after seeing a poster geared to new parents.  After weeks of putting it off, I shelved my worries and went.  Honestly, I shouldn’t have fretted so much, they had everything there: change tables, stroller parking, and quiet spots to settle and breastfeed my baby.

The children’s area at Burlington Public Library –New Appleby

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The Sandwich Generation: 7 Tips for How to Survive!

Yipee! Our two boys were becoming more independent, so my husband and I could now reconnect and perhaps have a bit of time for ourselves!

But that was not to be. One after another our aging parents’ health deteriorated. They’d been there for us and for our children. Now we needed to be there for them and we were the only family living in the same town.Three women, Senior woman, daughter and granddaughter sitting and embracing

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You are never too old to choke!

Have you ever choked on something? Have you ever had to perform abdominal thrusts (also known as the Heimlich maneuver) on someone or have it done to you? It doesn’t matter how old you are – anyone can choke! With little ones we worry when they start eating solids. We stay close by as they eat in the early years to monitor them. As our children grow, sometimes choking isn’t on our mind as much.candy 2

We went out for a lovely dinner as a family. We were with grandparents, cousins, aunt and uncle. As we were paying for our meal, our children were sifting through the very exciting bowl of hard candies at the front desk. I think you know where I’m going with this story! Continue reading

Posted in Parenting, Physical Health, preschoolers, Safety, School-aged Children, Teens, Toddlers, Tweens | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments