Tandem Nursing: How to do it without driving yourself and your nurslings crazy!
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:
- Marketing Mama: How to pump successfully at work
- Mama Saga: How to breastfeed (or just look like you know what you’re doing)
- BabyReady: How to get baby to take a bottle
- Strocel: How to get breastfeeding off to a good start
- Baby Carriers Down Under: How to breastfeed hands-free
- Blacktating: How to treat a cold while breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding Moms Unite: How to become a breastfeeding support professional
- Breastfeeding Mums: How to wean a breastfed toddler
- Mama Knows Breast: How to get a spouse to help with breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding 1-2-3: How to teach your baby nursing manners
- Zen Mommy: Using YouTube to stop nosey questions!
- Natural Birth and Baby Care: How to improve milk supply through nutrition
- Happy Bambino: How to deal with unsupportive family members
- The Bee in your Bonnet: How to be comfortable around nursing mothers
- MoBleez: How to naturally increase your milk supply – try seaweed
- Milk Act: How to care for a sick nursling
- Maher Family Grows: How to to increase milk supply using supplements