Google+ Authentic Parenting: Tandem Nursing: A Blessing or a Curse?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tandem Nursing: A Blessing or a Curse?

breastfeedingcafecarnivalWelcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

 My daughter was three and a half when my son was born. I nursed her throughout my pregnancy and she was still nowhere near quitting when my son was born.
However, the tumultuous events following his birth left her puzzled and fearful, and she refused to nurse, telling me it was all for her brother. Even when urged, to help me with the milk supply in the hospital, it was hard to get her to nurse again.

Eventually she did, but her interest in breastfeeding had taken a blow.

In hindsight, I am happy that her appreciation for breastfeeding started to dwindle. My son turned out to be a fierce drinker and it was just draining to have them both at the breast. Gradually, my daughter lost her interest completely, and is now, at age five, nearly done.

To be completely honest, with a smaller child, it felt awkward to have her nurse. Not the fact that she's older, but because the sensation is different with her than it is with the smaller one, who's still drinking quite often. Maybe she's lost the habit and that makes for a different feeling... I don't know. I just know that pretty soon after my son was born, I started practicing don't offer, don't refuse and a little while later, I started trying to point her interest elsewhere when she wanted to nurse and I wouldn't feel up to it.
I don't feel like any of the weaning journey has been coercive for her. I took great care for it not to be so. There haven't been any tears and if she was very insistent, or I was quite calm and receptive, she wold still nurse (and still does on the very rare occasion).


Yet there are some good parts of tandem feeding. Sharing breastmilk in those early day really did help my children bond. Seeing their eyes meet, their hands holding, it's really sweet. I think it also helps the oldest one see that they're just as important and special as the newborn.
But it's no walk in the park.

Did you tandem nurse? How was your experience?



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2 comments:

  1. I did tandem nurse - you can read all about it in my post - LOL. I love how you articulate the don't ask, don't offer - it does help to make it a gentle weaning for it to be a mutual willingness when nursing does happen. I am not sure that we will be still be nursing our older nursling until he is five - I am happy he made it until his fourth birthday tomorrow! It does feel different - I tell him if he can't nurse properly then he has to try again. If he wants to keep nursing, he will adjust his latch, and if not, he'll just say "I'm done" and move on. So great to connect with so many tandem mamas - thank you for sharing your story. I don't feel so alone now.

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  2. I tandem nursed with my two girls. My goal for breastfeeding is to nurse at least until each of my children are 2 years old (or longer). I learned I was pregnant again when my first born had just turned one, and there was no way I was going to stop breastfeeding her - it wasn't her fault I got pregnant.
    There were times that it was so painful I would cry during her feedings. It was physically exhausting as well. I know my body is designed to nourish as many children as necessary but being sick well into my fifth month made it very hard; I almost gave up multiple times. To help me push through those difficult days, I backed off to nursing 3 times a day rather than on demand.
    I caught SO MUCH flack from everyone (lactivist friends excluded), especially my ObGyn. Fortunately, my husband was one of the supportive ones. He didn't fully understand my decision, but trusted me to know my body and take care of myself and our children, both born and in the womb.
    After I birthed my second daughter, I continued to nurse both girls for about 8 months. At first, I nursed them both on demand. I felt that would both help my supply become well established and help with any sibling rivalry or jealousy that my older daughter may be experiencing. After about a month, I continued nursing my infant on demand, but reduced my toddler’s feedings to 3 times a day again, upon waking, at nap time, and at bedtime.
    About 2 months ago, from the writing of these thoughts, nursing my 2 ½ year old became painful again, to the point that I would become so irritated with her it was spoiling the experience for both of us. It was a little like fingernails on a chalkboard. Because she also didn’t seem that into it and had weaned herself to only once or twice a day, I decided that I was going to quit nursing her completely.
    I was a little nervous about how she would respond to being cut off, but she handled it very well. When she would ask for ‘milk’, I asked her if she wanted ‘white milk’ or ‘chocolate milk’ (a little treat for adjusting so well) and I would offer her selection in a special sippy cup. I think giving her the choice helped empower her through the change.
    For me, the process was bittersweet. Knowing that I would never again feel the tug at my breast from my oldest was sad, another ‘letting go’ in the journey of motherhood. And yet, being freed to enjoy the special bonding time with my youngest, alone, brought me a lot of happiness.
    So, to answer the question “is tandem nursing a blessing or a curse?” I would have to say: a blessing! The moments spent with my children together, the special bonding that happened over the ‘dinner table’ between my girls, the nourishment I have been able to give, far outweigh the challenges of tandem nursing. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

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