Tandem Nursing – Part II


Krystyna Bowman HeadshotKrystyna Bowman, AAHCC and her husband, Bruss, are proud parents to four children and Bradley Method® childbirth educators. They are passionate about teaching families the sacredness and the beauty of the natural process, while maintaining a realistic outlook that sometimes interventions are necessary and desirable for a Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby outcome.  She writes about pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding at Sweet Pea Births, and you can catch a glimpse of unplugged “real” life at Sweet Pea Families.  You can also connect with Krystyna on Twitter: @sweetpeabirths.

In Part I, Krystyna shared about her experience breastfeeding during pregnancy and how she came to be a tandem nursing mama. Now she continues with the nuts and bolts of day-to-day life nursing two children.

Tandem NursingI am not sure what people think when they picture tandem nursing, so I’ll share our experience.  While my fourth child was an infant, I would feed her around the clock as you would expect to do with a newborn.  My toddler would nurse maybe 2-3 times a day: upon waking, at naptime, and before bedtime.  Those were variable, and there were days when he nursed once, and other days when he nursed at all three points throughout the day.  As the year went by, she nursed less frequently, so there were definitely lots of spaces and times when the other things I do for our family+ got done.

You might wonder why would anyone decide to nurse two children who were not twins?  For me, it was all about the benefits of breastfeeding.  The healthy start, the brain building nutrients that children get throughout the breastfeeding relationship, the built-in feedback loop that provides perfectly formulated food at the right temperature, at any time of day, that meets our child’s immunological needs as well as their emotional needs.  I am in awe of the miracle of breastfeeding, and since I will no longer be participating in the miracle of pregnancy, I treasure all the days I get to breastfeed our children.

His third birthday came and went.  Now I was nursing two toddlers.  My daughter was down to 4-6 times a day, our son maybe 1-3.  As our son was approaching his fourth birthday, my husband and I agreed that I would take a more active role in the weaning process.  We started talking about how he was a big boy, and soon it would be time for him to stop nursing.  We talked to him about finding other soothing strategies besides nursing.

He is having none of it, and insists that he can still be a big boy and have his “leche”.  If he asks to nurse during the day, I invite him to bring me a book, or offer to do something with him, because I want him to know that we can still have special time even if he is not nursing.  If he asks, I will agree to nurse him first thing in the morning, or at night, whichever it is if and when he asks, and if it works for both of us.  I will not change what I am doing to nurse him if I am out of bed – I ask him to wait until the evening.  Sometimes he is right at my heels at bedtime, reminding me of my words earlier in the day.  Other days he is too busy playing and we do our bedtime routine and he doesn’t ask, so he goes the whole day without nursing at all.

We are now two years into this tandem nursing relationship.  Now that the “baby” is well into being a toddler, I do nurse him first if he wants to nurse and she is not around or ready to nurse at the same time.  We can go days without him asking to nurse.  If he starts feeling under the weather, or a situation occurs where he does want comfort, I will acquiesce and nurse him a little more often.

Toddler Nursing in PublicOur toddler is also pushing me out of my comfort zone.  She is a little pistol.  I have never nursed our children outside of our home past their second birthday.  I admit – the social pressure against breastfeeding older children does get to me!  This little lady does not take no for an answer.  We are working on having her wait until we get home to nurse.  I do not know if we are more passive because we are older as parents, or I just don’t see the big deal anymore…I am nursing this child, in public, without a cover, pretty much whenever she asks.

Our big joke right now is that “Mommy is not a milk bar”, which just proves the joke is on me.  One of my favorite nursing tops from Momzelle says “Milk Bar – Open” in French.  Our daughter will call out to my son and ask if he wants a turn when she is finished nursing. I love that they have this in common, and I will admit that on the days that I have been in a rush, those two do nurse together and it isn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it would be.

If you are thinking about tandem nursing, I would encourage you to plug into your local breastfeeding support group, visit with an IBCLC, and talk to other mothers who have the kind of nursing relationship that you want to have with your children.  Ask them what their advice is, and then arm yourself with the benefits for your family.  I can pretty much guarantee someone is going to question your choice.  It is much easier to manage the subject, and do what you feel is right for your family, if you “know that you know” why you are following through with your decisions in spite of the questions and the criticism.

I cannot write about tandem nursing without giving big kudos to my biggest fan, my very supportive husband.  He has been behind our decision to breastfeed from day one.  He believes in the benefits of breastfeeding – from the money-saving, to the health to the bonding to the role it plays in building a strong family unit.  He has never been threatened by it, or seen me as less desirable as a woman because I am still nursing.  He has been our biggest fan.  If you need help getting your partner on board with your decision, invite him to a partner-welcome support group meeting, or have them attend a partner-welcome breastfeeding class.  The two of you together can ensure that your baby has the best chance for a breastfed start in life.  And if it works for your family, you can allow your children to wean when they have realized all the benefits of extended breastfeeding.