It’s World BreastFeeding Week and while I guest posted on Joyful Mama’s Place and Se7en Tips for Nursing in Public I thought it was only right to have a post about nursing on our site as well. So I thought I would tackle one of the most common mothering topics I am asked E.V.E.R…. Really. I have had so many mothers come up to me and ask: We are hoping to have our next child and I would like to know more about tandem nursing… I think a whole lot of moms do tandem nurse and I think people just don’t talk about it… one of those tricky topics. Like admitting your children sleep in your bed!!! Just this week the media world was shocked when Supermodel Gisele Bundchen announced that breastfeeding should be made law – can you imagine what the media would say about Tandem Nursing.
For nursing mom’s that have their babies close together the question is not so much should they be nursing an older baby, they have already chosen the path of extended nursing for their baby. The question is more about the logistics of nursing a toddler and a newborn… and it is a bit of a juggle, believe me!!! This post is not meant to be the ultimate guide to Tandem Nursing, but rather my experience having nursed at least one baby, mostly two and sometimes three at a time over the last twelve years. I should also say that tandem nursing isn’t easy but for our family it was well worth it. I always intended my children to nurse as long as they needed to and I didn’t see why they should wean because a new sibling was on the way.
That all being said: Here are the questions I am most often asked:
- If I am still nursing can I fall pregnant? Of course you can fall pregnant while breastfeeding… if there is anyone who believes otherwise I can disprove that myth se7en times. According to LA Leche League there are certain factors that need to be in play for breastfeeding to be the “slightest contraceptive”: Your baby has to be younger than six months old, you need to be amenorrheic, your baby should not have started any solids and your baby has to nurse two hourly (If your baby has a three, four or five hour core sleep… need I say more). When any one of those factors is not satisfied you can fall pregnant.
- Can I nurse while I am pregnant? Yes you can, but it is not all that comfortable. Just as your body is uncomfortable when you are pregnant the first time round – you will be uncomfortable during subsequent pregnancies… only now you will have an older baby, and at least for some of your pregnancy a toddler roaming around your body!!! Not easy!!! But that being said… I have managed to get a lot of rest while pregnant by nursing an older baby… and a good many afternoon naps when we would lie down together, nurse and nap. When I am pregnant I do set limits, I can only stand nursing for so long at a time before somebody on my skin starts to irritate me. So once I am pregnant there is no more nursing to sleep I tend to nurse until they are finished and then will lie with them while they learn to fall asleep on their own. Towards the end of your pregnancy you will have Braxton Hicks contractions and apparently they are worse if you are nursing, I can’t really say I have been tandem nursing for all except my first pregnancy and assume the Braxton-Hicks were all part of the pregnancy package.
- Will my baby get enough milk while I am pregnant? Your unborn baby will get all the nutrients it needs from your body. Your older baby will get the milk it needs but from about three months into the pregnancy your milk tends to dry up, it may feel completely… but actually all my nursing babies have received sufficient milk and continued to thrive… I do take good care though to ensure I am as healthy as I can be – lots of rest, heathy eating and so on to make sure that my body can nurture the unborn baby and make the milk my baby requires.
- When the baby is born will I still get colostrum? Yes you will and your newborn depends on it. When you tandem nurse your milk tends to “come in” a lot sooner than for a single nursling… so it is important that your newborn nurses as often as possible close to the birth, to make sure that your newborn gets the most benefit from the colostrum.
- Will I get engorged if I tandem nurse? You can get engorged, but there is nothing more efficient than an older baby to relieve engorgement. I find that my older nursling is so thrilled at the copious amounts of milk that they tend to overdo it the first day or two, especially as it gives them time to be close to their mama. After a couple of days, especially if it is freely available, they tend to lose interest and get on with their busy lives and return to their routine of nursing at nap time and bed time.
- Does Tandem nursing help to relieve Sibling Rivalry? I believe it does. Just because my older nursling has a new sibling doesn’t mean they are ready to lose their “baby status” and I have quite banned the whole “big brother, big sister” pedestal in our house. Frankly my babies are babies as long as they need to be and if we have another baby enter our home that doesn’t take away the older siblings need “to be babied.” I think the fact that they can continue to nurse provides a lot of security and comfort in a time which is often tumultuous. Let’s face it a new baby in the home is a big adjustment for us as adults and for an eighteen month old it must be right up there maximum “adjustment required.” Otherwise I have found all my older siblings to be very caring and aware of their nursing partner and eager to stop nursing and let the newborn have a chance – I do quite a bit of preparation for siblings and a lot of it has to do with the older child being “responsible” (not really but it is a job that they can achieve) for reminding me to nurse the baby… my kids have all loved this task and have taken it very seriously!!!
- Do you always nurse the younger baby first? No, as I have said before the toddler nurser is a much more efficient nurser than a newborn and quite often just needs a very quick nursing session (a minute or two) to be satisfied. We all know newborns can take ages – absolute ages. I have found that if my toddler wants to nurse desperately, especially at bedtime I will let them nurse first because they tend to be content and drop off to sleep and then nurse the newborn for as long as it needs. To try and cope with nursing a newborn for absolute ages while a desperate toddler waits is one of life’s worst experiences and could only have been decreed, in a lot of breastfeeding books by an author who has never tandem nursed. I have always found it hard to nurse both babies at once, it is awkward and I also find that they have different rhythms and styles of nursing and I find it difficult to focus!!! That being said desperate times call for desperate measures and I will nurse both at once if need be.
- Where can I find more information about Tandem Nursing? Probably not your “medical person,” whoever that may be. I have never had a medical person discourage me from tandem nursing, that being said I have never had one ask if I was tandem nursing.The assumption was always that I wasn’t and I wasn’t actually going to go there… I was fighting hard enough for a number of home births and I am sure some bright spark would have suggested I could have a home birth only if I wasn’t nursing an older baby!!! Most books on pregnancy, parenting and even breastfeeding have at most half a page on the topic… I just wrote more and I haven’t really said much!!! Here is what the La Leche League has to say about Tandem Nursing, lots of brilliant articles. And my favorite resource is of course Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond. This book by Hilary FLower is packed with well researched information and heaps of information from the real experts: mother’s who have been there and done that!!! If you want a brief summary then have a look at this Official FAQ. Really Tandem Nursing in a nutshell.
And the se7en + 1th thing:
There you go… an honest nitty gritty post on tandem nursing. Is it easy? – not always, but neither are a number of parenting tasks. Is it worth persevering when it gets tough? Absolutely. Would I do it again? In a blink!!!