Attachment parenting, Breastfeeding, Parenting

Our experience of Tandem Breastfeeding

19 June, 2013

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.
Tandem Breastfeeding
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.)
pregnant breastfeeding
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.

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  • Becca 19 June, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Great post! Ip we are 17 months into our tandem nursing journey and its the same mix of joy and daily struggle. My older child is 34 months. I’m glad we made this choice though its not always easy. Thanks for your honesty – I think more people need to hear about the realities of tandem nursing.

  • Lindsay 19 June, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Really interesting to read this, did you ever read Adventures in Tandem Nursing? I’m due with baby number 2 in 12 weeks and still haven’t got round to reading it yet! My little boy is just over 2 and is still nursing, although not on demand as I work part-time and my milk completely dried up at 12 weeks which was unexpected. It feels a bit sore at times so looking forward (with trepidation) to the milksplosion in a few months. Any more tandem tips as you discover them would be appreciated!

  • Tanya 19 June, 2013 at 10:53 am

    I’m still feeding 12 month old and am 12 weeks pregnant. We plan on continuing through pregnancy but I know my supply has completely dropped off. I am giving some cows milk while pregnant as recommended by the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). I find my little guy gets cross if I try and breastfeed him when he is actually hungry but enjoys it once he has actually had some milk. How did Ramona go feeding though pregnancy?

  • Tanya 19 June, 2013 at 10:53 am

    I’m still feeding 12 month old and am 12 weeks pregnant. We plan on continuing through pregnancy but I know my supply has completely dropped off. I am giving some cows milk while pregnant as recommended by the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). I find my little guy gets cross if I try and breastfeed him when he is actually hungry but enjoys it once he has actually had some milk. How did Ramona go feeding though pregnancy?

  • Janine Fowler 20 June, 2013 at 1:33 am

    Ohh, I wish I’d thought to do a BF 365 starting the day little Zeke was born!

    Nursing Sebastian (he’ll be 3 in September) has been physiologically horrible since the beginning of my third tri or so. I so hoped it would get better after the birth but nope, not so much. Maybe a little bit better just because I’m so much more comfortable in general. Of course, now that I have milk (or maybe because he sees me nursing his brother. probably a combination.) Sebastian wants to nurse several times a day. By the end of pregnancy, I had him down to a couple short nursing sessions before sleep. He wouldn’t nurse himself to sleep but rather nurse (for a length of singing “The ABC SONG”) and then we’d cuddle to sleep.

    But now he is demanding to nurse TO SLEEP, which takes a very long time. I simply can’t handle it, which has resulted in crying to sleep which sucks for everyone. My husband doesn’t understand why I can’t just give in, no matter how many other people’s tweets and blog posts I show him. It IS much better than pregnancy, when I sometimes imagined jumping off bridges to escape nursing. And as time goes on, sleep without milkies is going more smoothly. But he still asks quite a bit.

    Very short tandem sessions are nice. Sebastian strokes Zeke’s hands and back and head. But I’m not sure that alone is worth the negatives.

    I’ve noticed that if I nurse immediately upon waking, the aversion isn’t there and I’m comfortable even nursing the toddler. Another mom in the same situation said she found the same to be true for her. Have you experienced this?

  • Orla 19 June, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Love your blog. We are 15 weeks into tandem breastfeeding (my eldest daughter is nearly 5 but feeds A LOT (which is fine)), and I also imagined having the two of them in blissful milky heaven at the same time, but found in practice it was too much for me, too over stimulating, feeling too over touched, antsy. Having that “milkies just for me” time for my eldest at bedtime has really made it easier for her and more enjoyable for me. I don’t have the Niagra falls effect to it was interesting to read about that! Looking forward to reading about the trip abroad! Órla

  • Xanthe 19 June, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Wonderful to hear the honesty in this post (and the last few) about what life is REALLY like when a second child becomes reality for a family making such similar choices to our own. As someone who has been so totally decided on (particulary) bed sharing and normal term breastfeeding, I am finding myself less and less sure of what will come next – not in a worrisome way, just with less ‘fixed’ ideas than normal. Will we bedshare? Probably: I doubt that at just over 2, Joshua is going to realise that toddlers can and do sleep alone, and ask for his own bed/room… though we can’t predict what it will look like and who will sleep with who and where. Will I tandem feed? Probably: Joshua still feeds a few times a day, and asks a few more… and with exactly 3 months to go and him not losing interest despite very little milk I can’t imagine him self weaning in time. The one thing I’m sure of? We will work out a way to suit us all. Thank Lucy 🙂

  • Mammasaurus 25 June, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    I just love this, those photos just make me feel so maternal x

  • Karina 29 August, 2013 at 11:26 am

    You are a fine mummy!

  • Giorgia/Mammaeco 17 September, 2013 at 2:43 am

    Hy Lucy, this is Giorgia from Italy!
    I’m mum of Rebecca (18 months) and pregnant (5° month) 🙂
    I’m interested about BF tandem and would like to write a post on my blog but unfortunately I do not have images about it and after searching via Google I’ve found your blog….so…I would like to ask you if I can public your Amazing and lovely photo (obviously citing your blog)
    thanks for your attention and great kisses from Italy 🙂

  • Hayley Stevens 11 May, 2018 at 10:28 am

    I have just stumbled across your Instagram and YouTube accounts, and now I’m investigating your website. So, firstly I think I love you. And secondly, today, reading your content my fear over getting preggers again whilst still boobing my two year old has GONE. I’ve been so afraid it shouldn’t be done etc etc, and now I’m not. Lushness. X