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Our adventure in tandem nursing

Throughout pregnancy with Joel, I was convinced that Andrew would self-wean from breastfeeding at some point. My milk supply had never been great, but I thought the dwindling in pregnancy would be enough to put him off for good. But as he still wanted it right up until the night Joel was born – I actually had my first contractions whist feeding Andrew before his bedtime – I thought that it showed how breastfeeding wasn’t about the volume of milk for him, but rather the comfort that he gets from cuddling up to me and sucking. Not that I had anything against tandem (two children of different ages simultaneously) feeding, but I was concerned that this wouldn’t be possible for us due to my insufficient glandular (breast) tissue or IGT. However, through my local La Leche League (LLL) group, I found out that it’s not out of the question to tandem feed with IGT – I wrote about this here.

So I set to and read bits from the LLL book Adventures in Tandem Nursing. If Andrew was going to carry on, I needed some info on how to meet the needs of both a baby and a toddler at the same time. This task seemed like something for a super-mum, and I certainly didn’t feel that I was a super-mum, but the book helped me see that it was more normal than I once thought. As Andrew has continued to breastfeed since Joel’s birth, I thought I’d share on here the beginnings of our adventure in tandem nursing, particularly as I have no idea how long this adventure will last. Andrew still seems quite keen at the moment, but you never know how a toddler’s mind can change from one day to the next!

Right up until the night Joel was born, Andrew was still breastfeeding twice a day, once first thing and once before bed, for about 20 minutes on average each time, plus the odd bit here and there in the day if he was upset/tired/grumpy and I needed to calm him down. We were only in the Birth Centre for less than 12 hours, so he only missed the feed first thing in the morning on the day of the birth (which was in the early hours), when Grandma got him up instead of me. The first few mornings and evenings he continued as he had done, but Joel fed first each time and then Andrew fed whilst Daddy held Joel, who slept between feeds anyway, in normal newborn fashion.

Unfortunately we had to go back into hospital when Joel was 3 days old because he had pretty bad jaundice and needed light treatment. So Andrew missed out on the bedtime feed on the one night that we were in, and the morning feed the following morning. Joel responded well to treatment and recovered very quickly, so the doctors were happy that he was well enough to go home on the second evening. The ward staff were very busy though, and asked if we wanted to stay in another night (suggesting that we might like to get onto a 3-hourly feeding routine before we left!), I guess because doing the discharge paperwork would take a while. But I played the toddler card and said that I wanted to get home to put my elder child to bed (I didn’t mention breastfeeding him, but that was part of it). They saw my point and agreed to send the paperwork later in the post. One of the hardest things for me about going back into hospital was leaving and missing Andrew; I was very emotional on the first day and night, partly because it was hard to see Joel on the lights and not be able to cuddle or feed him, but also because I felt bad about not being there for Andrew as I always had been. The hormones probably were also not helping then!

When we got home, Joel was having top-ups via the SNS, and due to his sleepiness from the jaundice he was taking a long time to feed, as he’d feed for a bit, fall asleep, so I had to wake him up and re-latch him, several times over. This meant that more often than not he was feeding at the times when Andrew woke up and went to bed. So what we did was Joel had one side, and after he switched to the other, Andrew fed from the first side. We’ve carried on like this until now. It’s through this arrangement that I’ve ended up having one on each side simultaneously – totally tandem nursing!

My boys and I on our adventure

At nearly 4 weeks into our adventure, I’ve noticed that Andrew’s nursing pattern has changed. He no longer has one main feed at the start of the day and one main feed at the end, but rather lots of smaller ones throughout the day when it’s just the 3 of us together. As I am feeding Joel for quite long stretches (up to an hour) every couple of hours, when that’s happening at home (as opposed to out at a group) and I’m sitting on the sofa, Andrew keeps coming to me and asking for milk – he’ll feed for a few minutes, then go back to watching his DVD or reading a book or playing with toys, and come back to me a bit later for some more, and so it goes on until Joel has finished. Andrew seems less bothered about lots of time with me just before bed than he used to, but overall I reckon on days when it’s just us, he’s feeding for a similar amount of time as before, just in short and sweet stints. When Tom or others are around, he’ll generally have a longer feed again before bed rather than more in the day.

It’s great that Andrew wants to, and feels that he can ask to, feed when I’m feeding Joel, because I feel bad about the fact that I’m spending less time focussed on Andrew these days, though I know that this is an inevitable part of having a second child, and at least by letting Andrew in on our milky cuddles, he knows that I’m still there for him too, whenever he needs me. I think this is important for him and means a lot to him – to know that I haven’t forgotten about him. When my 2 boys are nursing at the same time, I look down at them and think what a lovely way it is for them to bond; Andrew is very affectionate towards Joel when they’re nursing together, and often strokes his head and comes off and kisses him.

Overall I’d say that tandem nursing is so far a very positive experience. I do have to say though that I still have the feeling like I did in pregnancy that feeding Andrew is less pleasurable for me than it once was. It’s hard for me to put into words what I feel – it’s not painful or annoying, it’s just a strange feeling that having him suck from me is not the same as Joel sucking. Maybe it’s his size, maybe it’s because he moves around and therefore his latch sometimes leaves a lot to be desired (although at least I can ask him to come off and do it better!) I thought this feeling was mainly to do with feeding during pregnancy, but obviously it’s not the case now. Apparently this happens to other mums who nurse toddlers though, so I’m not alone. But I always said I would let him choose when he wants to stop, so I’m happy to carry on, despite the strange feeling, until that might be – I’ll let you know when I see any signs of him giving up completely.

2 Responses to “Our adventure in tandem nursing”

  1. Laura says:

    Fantastic post, thank you. As I’ve said before, I’m following this journey closely, what with our stories being so similar. Do you feel you have more milk than you had with Andrew? Are you topping up as much? I’ve read that breastfeeding helps more breast tissue to grow, and that usually women have more milk second time round. X

    • Ruth says:

      Thanks Laura. yes I thought you’d be interested. Definitely feel there is more milk than the equivalent week with Andrew – it took 14 days to even come in let alone start building up! I can’t remember how much exactly we topped up before, but I think it’s less this time, at least it feels like less. Joel is also following a weight curve already, whereas Andrew took much longer to get back to birth weight and very slowly went up and spent weeks around the bottom of the graph not following a curve. x

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