My Journey to Becoming a Tandem Nursing Mama

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Paula Wood HeadshotMy name is Paula. I’m a stay-at-home mom to three beautiful daughters five years and under. Lots of estrogen and pink in our family, but we love it!

People in the West who nurse toddlers are few, but people who nurse a toddler in tandem with a baby are quite literally far between. My own baby story is very unlike that of my daughters. My mom sadly, listened to her doctor, who suggested that formula feeding was better, so wanting to do the “best” thing for her child, she took the pill that stopped her milk. Fast forward 7 1/2 years and along came my brother. By then, the pendulum of poplar thought on breastfeeding had swung to the opposite extreme, so he was the blessed recipient of at least 12 months of liquid gold. I don’t really blame my mom for her decision about giving me formula, since that was the generation who really believed in relying on your doctor’s advice and often following  it exactly.

In college, I majored in communication disorders. I took some classes on swallowing, but none of my training involved understanding normal breast feeding,  let alone the awesome benefits. I later worked as a speech pathologist, but my practical experience was was with adults and children.

It wasn’t until I became pregnant and enrolled in an incredible prenatal class in the Middle East that my wheels started turning about how my husband and I wanted to parent, and most importantly about the kind of mother I wanted to be. I am a Christian (Jesus following), so I immediately started praying about my desires for the birth of my child and the postpartum period that would follow. I started attending a La Leche League group and reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. To be honest, it was a lot of foreign thinking to me, but I stayed the course and continued my journey.

tandem nursingMy daughter was born, and with lots of love and support from the baby friendly hospital staff, including a lactation consultant and a very supportive husband, I was able to meet the demands of my 11 lb, naturally born baby. Things went well with nursing, and unlike a lot of months, I never really put a cap on when we would stop. It was a day-by-day process. My family calls milk, “nunny,” so there was never any thought of future embarrassment as she began to talk and ask for it. Around, her first birthday, I became pregnant. As soon as I realized I was going to have another baby, I quickly purchased the book, Adventures in Tandem Feeding. At the nine week mark, I went to have my first prenatal visit, and to our dismay, the baby didn’t make it. We were going to be traveling, and my firstborn was still nursing, so we opted for a DNC. As hard as it was to accept that loss, I am so thankful that my nursing relationship with my daughter remained unaffected. That year we had some other tragedies, so it was almost a year until we tried again. By that time, my daughter was two and still happily nursing. I decided to let her continue though my pregnancy to see how it went. All was well for a time. She potty trained, slept through the night, etc. However, around my 6th month mark, when she was 2 1/2, things starting changing. We went from 10-15 nursing sessions at night to 45 mins of her crying and telling me, “the milk isn’t coming.” After a few weeks of that, we decided to stop nursing, but not without replacement. She started squeezing my elbow with her lil hands, almost as if I was her milk cow. She’s almost 5 now, and is still quite curious about “the nunny.” There are times when she asks me to squeeze a little bit on her finger as a reminder taste.

Three months of not having a nursing baby went fast. At the end of that time, we welcomed my second daughter. She seemed to have some silent reflux-like issues. I was also not very conscientious about my diet, so I believe the dairy was literally giving her fits. I would feed her and hold her up 30 mins after each feed. It was exhausting for the first three months. Thankfully, my very supportive husband worked mainly from home, so his presence was a true life saver. The passing of time brought maturity and development of her bodily organs systems, so by 6 months old, she was truly “sleeping like a baby.”

We moved back to our home country after living abroad for 5 1/2 years. My husband began working on another degree, and life was becoming fairly manageable. My second daughter was 8 months, when the + (plus sign) showed up on the pregnancy test. I was quite an emotional wreak, not knowing how I would ever make it through the pregnancy with two preschoolers and a husband in law school. My toddler continued to nurse, and it was such a blessing, for she had a heightened gag reflex and barely ate anything till she started eating completely normally at 12 months old. She never once complained about the milk not coming. I think my body was steadily producing milk to meet her needs at the same time it was growing a little sister inside of me. At times it wasn’t easy to continue the nursing relationship, yet I knew it was the best for her, despite the nay-sayers.

Toward the end of my pregnancy, I contacted the token tandem feeding mama in my area for any tips on tandem feeling. She was very helpful and encouraging. The morning arrived, when it was time for us to meet #3. I gave #2 a huge feed to last her as long as it would take, knowing that if everything went perfectly, I would be in the hospital at least 24 hours after baby was born. Labor progressed, but at one point we considered bring in my nursing daughter to get me to the goal of pushing. We ended up not needing to use her in that way, but it was a great option to have.bi was very blessed to have yet another baby friendly hospital with very supportive midwives, nurses, doctors and other staff.

While visiting me in the hospital, my toddler nursed and was excited that I was coming home. The first few nights of being the mommy of two less than two were tough, trying to coordinate the nursing whether simultaneously or taking turns. Seventeen month olds don’t like to wait, so it was challenging. However, the hours turned into days, the days months, and here we are with a tandem nursing duo, currently consisting of a 24 month old and a 7 month old. Some days are easy, and some are hard, but it’s so worth all the time I feel like I have “sacrificed” to nurse my babies. They are only little once, and I selfishly want to soak up every ounce of them while they’re little and still want me. I have no idea how long we’ll continue our current arrangement, but it sure is helpful with comfort in teething, sickness and any pain, do we’ll continue our one day at a time philosophy.

My older daughters faithfully nurse their baby dolls. Hopefully, they will grow up with the desire and determination to do whatever it takes when the time is right to pass on to my grandkids that legacy, we call NUNNY!

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