Mutually Desirable: Navigating a Tandem Nursing Experience

Welcome to the Carnival of Tandem Nursing
This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Tandem Nursing hosted by Mommying My Way. Our participants have shared their personal stories of the highs the lows and information on what to expect if tandeming is in your future. Please read to the end of each post to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
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When I became pregnant with our second child, Joseph, I was elated. Instantly, I thought forward to tandem nursing Abbey (who would be 2.5 years at Joseph’s due date) and our new baby, and I was really looking forward to enjoying the experience of nursing two children and the bond that it would form!


When the actual tandem nursing experience came to pass, elated wasn’t quite the right word for the feelings that surfaced. At times I found myself feeling like a mommy dog, nursing a litter of pups! But it still was wonderful, and it’s been an interesting and beautiful experience, and a stunning example of how our bodies are made to mother and how our mothering is meant to evolve.


Tandem Nursing During the Newborn Period


One of the first things that Abbey said about her baby brother was “Mommy, you need to give my brother Mamas. He wants mamas to drink!” and she started to undo my nursing tank and gently nudge Joseph’s head toward my breast. Sharing was not an issue for Abbey. She constantly wanted to “share mamas” with Joseph, and was happy to do so. But she wanted to share with Joseph every time that he ate. . . and as a newborn eats upwards of 12 times per day, I had to tell Abbey that sharing with him every time he nursed was just not feasible nor was it a comfortable thing for me.


When planning to tandem nurse, I urge you to do some meditating on the newborn stage, and prepare some appropriate limits and explanations for your older child about why a newborn baby nurses so frequently, and how that is different from the pattern of nursing that they use as an older child. You’re not a baby; you’re my big girl: For Abbey, it was vital that I explain to her that she just could not nurse all day long. . . statements like “Babies drink mamas all the time because they’re growing really really fast. You’re a big girl, and big girls drink mamas sometimes AND eat food to grow tall and strong!”

Abbey still enjoys eating her snack and then running around the house showing off her strong muscles and long legs.Abbey while Joseph nursed in mid-morning or mid-afternoon was also helpful. I’d preface her snack with “Wow, won’t Joseph be excited when he is old enough to have this yogurt like you! What a special snack!” and then when she was settled with her snack, I would settle down to nurse Joseph.



Tandem Nursing an Older Baby and a Preschooler


Simply saying “No thank you” and asking Abbey to respect my words when she would ask me for “mamas” started to happen more and more as Joseph grew into a crawling infant and would need to nurse for reasons other than just sustenance.

When he would [and still] “ask[s]” to nurse by rooting at by breast or signing for milk because his gums were sore from teething pains or if he fell and bumped his body while trying to learn a new gross motor skill, I would scoop him up and nurse him. . . and Abbey wanted me to do the same for her. 

At this point, I just had to start saying “No thank you” to her requests to nurse. . . evolving my child-led-weaning ideals to save the happiness of the household, and do best by both of my children.

 I was feeling touched-out and challenged by Abbey’s intensity and demanding nature regarding my “mamas”. And mommy off balance is not good for a family.

Teaching Bodily Integrity:

I needed to come back to a place of balance and peace, and setting limits with my nursing preschooler allowed me to reinstate balance and peace in our tandem nursing relationship and in our household.

I had planned on letting Abbey naturally wean and not imposing my feelings on her requests at all. But this type of all or nothing approach just didn’t work out for our family, and so I taught Abbey a respect for my bodily integrity right alongside teaching her about her own.

Committing to and explaining bodily integrity: I told Abbey, “This is my body, and these are my “mamas”. I choose to share them with you because I love you, and I know you need to nurse sometimes. But I can’t nurse you all the time, and I feel so unhappy when you throw a fit over nursing. Ask me calmly about nursing, and then mommy can enjoy nursing you!”

If you find yourself feeling touched-out by tandem nursing, I urge you to contemplate the WHO’s recommendation on breastfeeding past infancy, and meditate on what it means for you.

They recommend breastfeeding to 2 years of age and then after that, as long as is mutually beneficial and desired. 

I asked myself, “I know that breastfeeding my older child is normal and healthy for both of us. But I am having a hard time. What would make this nursing relationship desirable once more for me? What can I change to make it beneficial for ME?” So that I could provide a peaceful and comforting nursing relationship for Abbey instead of one filled with strain and struggle.

Finding Peace:

What I needed was peace in our nursing sessions. With some work, establishing and enforcing nursing limits for Abbey, we have once more come to a place of peace in our tandem nursing story. Now, Every day when Abbey comes downstairs from her nap, she asks to nurse on the sofa – she offers her brother one breast or the other, and takes the other “mama” for herself. Switching after a couple minutes, holding hands, playfully tickling and tugging at each other, my little toddler and beautiful child tandem nurse at my breast . . . and I am finally, actually elated about tandem nursing, just like I dreamt I would be.
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  • My Tandem Nursing Journey: Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy is sharing her tandem nursing journey so far…
  • Built for Two: No matter how much you read and plan, things may not always go as you expect. A few things that Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy wished she knew when she was planning to tandem feed her toddler and newborn.
  • Tandem Nursing – Magic Cure?: Jorje of Momma Jorje had high expectations of tandem nursing easing her toddler daughter’s transition from being the baby to being a big sister.
  • Mutually Desirable – Navigating a Tandem Nursing Experience: Amy Willa at www.amywilla.com talks about limit setting and meditations that help her navigate an intense tandem nursing experience.
  • My Adventure in Tandem Nursing: Alicia at Lactation Narration tells her story of nursing her daughter through pregnancy and then tandem nursing.
  • 4 months in: the good/hard: Becca at Exile Fertility writes about the joys and struggles of having two nurslings 17 months apart.
  • Tandem Nursing: One at a Time: When tandem nursing resulted in a nursing aversion, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children looked for ways to meet everyone’s needs.
  • Why Nurse a 4 Year Old?: One of the questions Dionna at Code Name: Mama keeps getting is, “but why breastfeed a four year old? What are the benefits?” Today she answers that question.
  • My Hurt Feelings: Shannon at The Artful Mama shares how her first son reacted to nursing after the birth of his brother and the gift she received the last time he nursed.
  • Carnival of Tandem Nursing: A Letter To Myself 7 Years Ago: Dulce de leche shares the advice and reassurance that she would have given to herself if she could go back in time.
  • Nursing Both My Babies: Cassie at There’s a Pickle in my Lifeshares her experience with nursing and transitioning into tandem nursing. She also gives tips for struggles.
  • Our Tandem Nursing Journey: Kim at Life-is-Learning describes her journey into tandem nursing and why it is important to her.
  • Based on her own experience, Lauren at Hobo Mama dishes about the benefits and downsides to nursing multiple children.

Comments

  1. I have the same feelings of needing Little Man to respect my personal space when I am nursing Little #2. He likes to have his hands inside my shirt when he is falling asleep but it is awkward when I am trying to position a newborn for nursing/burping. In the beginning I felt terrible by putting myself and L#2 ahead of LM but these were things I needed in order to be a good mom so I allowed myself to be okay with that decision.

  2. Not only should you allow yourself to be ok with making the decision to set limits for your nursling, but you should be proud that you’re able to see your needs through and balance the needs of your family! :) kudos, mama, and love your way!

  3. Great post! Good to read you’re feeling good with your adventures in tandem nursing!

  4. Wow! Thanks so much for sharing. Definitely bookmarked this for future reference.

  5. This was exactly what I needed to read at exactly the time I needed it. I am four weeks into Tandem nursing and my 25 month old is wanting to nurse non-stop. I am feeling extremely touched out and frustrated by DD1, but also feeling extremely guilty for thinking of setting limits on when she nurses. She has also reverted back to not eating anything and relying solely on breastfeeding. It’s been so difficult to know what the right thing to do for her is since she has been so angry at us for bring home DD2, but also knowing what the right thing for myself is to be the best mom I can be.

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