Within a few hours of Juno being born I had both girls tucked in my arms and I was full of emotion, watching the pair of them breastfeeding to sleep. My two and a half year old stroked the hair of her brand new baby sister and it felt like we were cocooned in a blissful bubble of love and oxytocin. I couldn’t shed my smile; this was exactly how I imagined tandem nursing to be.
And then, 24 hours later, my milk came in and the gushing, uncontrollable force of it burst that bubble with a loud, chokey bang! Positioning Juno became quite all-consuming, I had to be flat on my back or stand up with her in a wrap to nurse her without her gagging non-stop. Breastfeeding her was a tangle of tiny limbs, slipping around on a Niagara Falls of milk. Bringing Ramona into the picture was impossible. Lots of tandem mums cope with oversupply by having their eldest child skim off the extra- but I was hoping to try and regulate my supply quickly by keeping Ramona on just three nurses a day. (Morning, nap and night time.) I admit I had to make that call for my own sanity too, I was worried about feeling all touched out and like a dairy cow.
It is a bit heart wrenching when Ramona asks for it at other times in the day and I gently explain “Not now”- I feel like I am arbitrarily enforcing rules that she can’t understand and I have to really convince myself that three times a day is better than nothing, despite those tiny pleas.
Bed time is a careful balance of needs- making sure Juno is full up and content so I can hand her to Daddy who wraps her on his front and takes a walk, I can then take Ramona to bed for a story and “Mummy Milk by hershelf.” Nap times mean me getting Juno to sleep on my front and then gymnastically making a mammary gland available for Ramona – and getting immediately on Twitter as a distraction , for that lunchtime nurse feels really quite physiologically aggravating.
Not quite the picture of two utterly content children and peaceful sofa languishing that I had hoped for! (Lazy, me?)
Nursing through pregnancy was quite a challenge, solely from the strange feeling of nursing without much milk, but I was committed to trying tandem nursing. (Despite at least one Doctor and two nurses telling me I mustn’t/ can’t- what is up with that?!) Not purely as I felt it would mean more sitting around in our PJ’s, girls on my lap, a cup of tea in one hand and Twitter in the other (although, I’m sure you’re picking up, that WAS a factor!) but because I was serious about letting Ramona decide when she was done with nursing. In everything I have attempted to let Ramona be autonomous in the things she has done; not teaching her to roll/ walk/ climb/ count but rather letting her explore those things in her own time, through babyled weaning we gave her the space to eat the stuff she was ready to eat, and she is still in our bed as she hasn’t chosen to leave yet. It makes sense for us to let her choose the moment when she will be content without Mummy Milk. (I don’t want this to sound smug, I know lots of parents have decided this isn’t for them or don’t have this luxury- employment needs/ lack of support/ personal reasons.)
While tandem nursing is different to the picture I had in my head, 7 weeks in I am glad we have taken this road. Primarily because it is SO obvious that Ramona still reaps the benefits of nursing, both emotionally and physically. It provides an anchor for her little soul, just like it does for newborn Juno, and keeps her strong and immune without me obsessing over what she is or isn’t eating.
I am sure that it has eased the arrival of her little sister, providing a buffer for the times when it must really be quite irritating to have a very loud baby launch herself on to the scene.
Those bedtime nurses with Ramona are so precious – I dwell on her little fingers, her flickering eye lids and my heart melts. They are daily 15 minute slots that remind me that Ramona is really still tiny.
I love that the girls share this really important, meaningful experience, albeit at different times. When Juno cries out Ramona attempts to soothe her by getting all up in her grill yelling “OH JUNO! YOU WANT SOME MUMMY MILK, YES YOU DO!!”
This tandem breastfeeding lark is no bed (*Homer voice* Mmmmm, bed) of roses, but like with many parenting, and life, challenges, there is so much goodness amongst the angst. And maybe one day, ONE DAY, once my milk has levelled out, I might get to spend the afternoon ensconced on the couch looking at the internet while the pair of them banquet on breastmilk gold.
PS Are you on Instagram? I am there: Lulasticblog and am trying to post a daily breastfeeding snap with the hashtag #bfing365 as a little effort in the normalise breastfeeding canpaign! Do join in with your own snaps when you can.