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Tandem Nursing: How to do it without driving yourself and your nurslings crazy!

20 April 2009 6,304 views 18 Comments

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Welcome to April’s Carnival of Breastfeeding!

This month’s theme is “how to.”  Be sure to check out the contributing bloggers’ posts, linked at the bottom of this post.

As I come closer and closer to the birth of my third child, I’ve had to remind myself what a challenge the act of tandem nursing can be.  When my second baby, J, was born, I nursed her in tandem with M, her 2.5 year old brother.  I continued to tandem nurse for another 2.5 years, when M self-weaned at the age of 5.  While I was mostly glad to be nursing both my children for those years, I’m the first to admit that there were some struggles along the way.  I had to ask for help on more than one occasion, and there were some times when things were hard for me.  As a person who currently works as a volunteer helping women to breastfeed, I can well understand when pregnant women with older nursing children express nervousness about tandem nursing when another child is born.  I thought I’d write this post to tell all those pregnant women, “Fear not! Help is available!”  With a little preparation, reading, and help you can nurse multiple children. Even though the paths of tandem nursing are rarely predictable, I can attest that it can be a very rewarding experience for all the people involved.  So here are some of my ideas for making the transition as easy and happy as possible:

  • Read up, preferably ahead of time. There are several good resources out there with a wealth of information.  One of my favorite resources is Hilary Flower’s book, Adventures in Tandem Nursing.  This wonderful book not only covers the science behind nursing in tandem and during pregnancy (including issues of safety), but it also covers the psychological issues that may crop up.  La Leche League also has several pages on the topic, such as this or this.  And as always, Kellymom.com has a wealth of information.
  • Talk to other moms who have nursed their children in tandem. It can be so helpful to hear experiences from women who have been there before.  I’ll never forget when I found out from another tandem mom that I wasn’t the only one who had an older child who basically stopped eating solids for a month after my milk came in from the new baby.  It can sometimes be hard to find other local mothers who have done it, however.  One way to find contacts is to ask your local La Leche League Leader (find your local leaders  by looking here).  I’ve also noticed that a high proportion of LLL Leaders have tandem nursed themselves, so they are often a great resource.
  • Be prepared for criticism. Although I do occasionally meet other mothers who have nursed their children in tandem, I don’t think it’s all that common, at least in the United States.  Or maybe it’s that mothers just don’t talk about it a whole lot.  But either way, there is a whole slew of people, doctors included, that don’t realize it is possible, recommended, or safe to tandem nurse.  (Although they are wrong!) So be prepared to meet at least a person or two that will be shocked or alarmed that you are doing it.  One way to handle the critique is to read up ahead of time (see resources above).  Knowing the facts can help you to brush off the negativity.  You might also pick and choose which people you share your nursing choices with.  After all, it’s none of their business anyway.
  • Let go of your preconceptions. If there is one thing that tandem nursing isn’t filled with, it’s predictability.  How will I feel about nursing two children together?  How will my older child react once the baby is born? Some questions can only be answered with time.  You just won’t know how it’ll all work out until you are there, working it out.
  • Let go of the guilt. Many a tandem mom has felt guilty about something or other.  Am I giving as much as I can to the new baby?  How can handle the occasional feeling of resentment that I have towards the older child?  Why isn’t this working out the way I wanted it to?  Am I asking for too much help from my husband? By and large, these feeling are normal.  Talk them out with your partner or a friend that is supportive of your nursing efforts.  And remember that it isn’t only tandem mamas that feel guilt.  Even if you weren’t tandem nursing, you’d likely have any number of conflicted emotions when dealing with the changes that come with a new baby.  Allow yourself to have those feelings, and talk them out.
  • Concentrate on the basics. You know – eating,  sleeping, cuddling, nursing.  This is helpful advice for any mom with a new baby, but even more so when you are embarking on tandem nursing.  In the first few weeks, you and your children will be learning many new things.  Not only will you have to deal with all the normal learning processes of nursing a new baby, but also how to fit an older child into the mix.  So clear your calendar, stay in bed, and ask your family and friends for help with all the other stuff.  And don’t feel guilty for asking (see point above!)
  • Remind yourself why you are tandem nursing. Maybe you are in favor of self-weaning.  Or you know how much nursing means to your older child.  Perhaps you want your illness-prone older child to continue to ingest the antibodies in breast milk.  Or you want to minimize jealousy when the new baby comes.  We all have our own (ever changing) reasons for choosing to tandem nurse.  But when things get overwhelming, it can help to remind ourselves what those reasons are.

With 4 weeks to go until my third baby is due, I’m glad to have written this post.  It helps to remind myself of some of the challenges ahead.  But mostly, I’m just excited to hold my baby in my arms, and to share more of the joy of having two of my babies (the new one and the older one) nursing in my arms together.

Don’t miss these posts from other bloggers:

18 Comments »

  • Anonymous said:

    Mom Blogs – Blogs for Moms…

  • How to Teach Your Baby Nursing Manners : Breastfeeding 1-2-3 - Breastfeeding Information, News and Support said:

    [...] wean a breastfed toddler – BreastfeedingMums How to treat a cold while breastfeeding – Blacktating How to tandem nurse without driving yourself and your nurslings crazy – Tiny Grass How to deal with family members who are not supportive of breastfeeding – Happy [...]

  • Sam @ babyREADY said:

    I love this. Thank you!
    I really love 99.9% of my tandem nursing experience. I loved having both of my babies (3 years and newborn) nurse together. I loved that my eldest child didn’t feel that he had to stop reaping the multiple benefits when my youngest was born. He was able to continue on his slow and steady path to weaning at the time that felt best for him. It was a blissful (usually) experience.
    (He was also old enough to understand, on the days that I felt “touched out,” that he needed to snuggle and be happy to just hang out with mommy instead. His capacity for understanding that though, made it easier to me willing to give him what he was looking for.)
    GREAT POST!!!

  • Kimberly said:

    Great post. My older son self-weaned when I was about five months pregnant with my second, at about two years old. It was what worked for us, but I had no problem thinking about nursing them both other than, “how?”

    Kimberly’s last blog post..How to Increase Breastmilk Supply Using Supplements

  • How to Get a Good Start Breastfeeding | Strocel.com said:

    [...] Tiny Grass: How to tandem nurse without driving yourself and your nurslings crazy! [...]

  • How to Breastfeed Hands Free | Baby Carriers Downunder said:

    [...] Tandem Nursing: How to Do It Without Driving Yourself and Your Nurslings Crazy, by Tiny Grass [...]

  • Amber said:

    This is really helpful. I volunteer to help nursing moms as well, although I have never tandem nursed. It’s a question that comes up often. And while I know the information, I really think there’s a perspective that only someone who has been there can share. So, thank you for sharing it! :)

    Amber’s last blog post..You Are Your Child’s First Teacher

  • Steph said:

    Thanks for this post! It’s nice to know I’m not alone when there are days I’d like to snap-wean my elder child.

    Thanks for reminding me to get back to basics :)

    Steph’s last blog post..How to Breastfeed Hands Free

  • Melodie said:

    I wondered if someone would write a how to about tandem nursing! I tandem nursed for five months. I thought it might go on a lot longer because my oldest was soooo into nursing, but she surprised me and together we weaned her on the eve of her third birthday.

    Melodie’s last blog post..How To Become A Breastfeeding Support Professional

  • How To Become A Breastfeeding Support Professional | Breastfeeding Moms Unite said:

    [...] Tiny Grass – on how to tandem nurse without driving yourself and your nurslings crazy Share and Enjoy: [...]

  • Elisa @ blissfulE said:

    Fantastic post! I’m currently tandem feeding a 2.5 year old and a 14-month-old, and about to add another to the mix in four months. I live outside the US, but received an unbelievable amount of negativity from some of my US-based family and from US-trained doctors during my pregnancy since I was still nursing the older child.

    You’re right – people – even well-educated people – really don’t know tandem feeding is safe or even possible. I would not have been able to stand the onslaught of people who kept telling me I was harming my unborn child (he is extremely healthy and developing well, thankyouverymuch) if I had not done the research ahead of time.

    Thanks for writing a post that not only explains that tandem feeding is safe and possible, but also gives some great tips on how to make it happen. For me, “concentrate on the basics” especially during the “babymoon,” or first 6 weeks of the newborn’s life – but even long beyond that – was especially crucial.

    Wishing you a lovely birth and a peaceful, well-supported babymoon in just a few weeks time,

    ~Elisa

  • monica carling said:

    I am tandem nursing a 24 month old and a 4 month old and on the most part enjoy it. The situation with me is that my older nursling will not eat hardly any solids and hasn’t since the baby came! Help!

  • Trish (author) said:

    Hey Monica!

    Your situation is certainly not uncommon. Almost all the tandem mommies that I’ve talked to have had the older child go for quite some time eating very little solids after the baby is born. I think, in our case, that it lasted about 2-3 months. So maybe 4 months is a little on the longer side of things, from the stories I’ve heard. I think you are just going to have to use your best judgment as to whether it concerns you or not. Personally, it didn’t really concern me all that much. I felt good knowing that breast milk was still quite nutritious for my older nursling. I also felt good about the fact that the iron in breast milk is so easily assimilated by the body. But you might try maximizing the nutrition in whatever foods your older one *does* manage to eat. That will also help if your older one is having loose stools from all that breast milk! I have a feeling that the focus on bfing will eventually wane with time. Feel free to email me if you want to talk further!

  • Carisa said:

    I had no clue this existed. Thanks for sharing and opening my eyes to a new world.

  • Trish (author) said:

    Glad you enjoyed it. There are more of us out there than most people assume!

  • Lana said:

    thank you someone for writing about nursing in tandem!
    i have been told repeatedly by EVERYONE i have talked to that by nursing my older child along with my new child i will be “stealing” something from the newborn and “warping” my firstborn when all i could see happening by forcing my elder who’s still firmly attached to his “boobies” as a trauma, have come to the very short sharp and shiny “my tits, my babies, my choice” but this is excellent and i can now just tell them to “google it!”

    so thank you!

  • Tandem Nursing: Did you know you could nurse them both? | Bloomington Area Birth Services said:

    [...] There are numerous blog posts out there from moms who have or are currently nursing through pregnancy or tandem nursing (google to find more!).  Mine is far from the only experience to be had; for instance, I know of a couple moms who have seen jealousy from their older child over sharing nursing, which is not something I have experienced at all. This entry was posted in Breastfeeding, Parenthood, Pregnancy, Staying at Home, Uncategorized and tagged breastfeeding, tandem nursing. Bookmark the permalink. ← Earth-Friendly Ideas For Baby [...]

  • Tandem Nursing: Did you know you could nurse them both? | Bloomington Area Birth Services said:

    [...] There are numerous blog posts out there from moms who have or are currently nursing through pregnancy or tandem nursing (google to find more!).  Mine is far from the only experience to be had; for instance, I know of a couple moms who have seen jealousy from their older child over sharing nursing, which is not something I have experienced at all. This entry was posted in Breastfeeding, Parenthood, Pregnancy, Staying at Home and tagged breastfeeding, tandem nursing. Bookmark the permalink. ← Earth-Friendly Ideas For Baby The Family Bed → [...]