THURSDAY THOUGHTS

Two to Tandem: Breastfeeding two at the same time

 

tandem breastfeeding

Being a mother means making tons of decisions, and leaves you with a lot of …. questions. Being a second-time mother somehow seems to double the amount of decisions needed, and sometimes double the number of questions you need to ask yourself about what you are doing. Is this best for the baby? The eldest child? The family? Me? But one thing I never questioned was whether tandem breastfeeding would be okay for all of us. I knew it may not be easy, and I might need to get advice from others, but that I could do it. After all, mothers with twins (or more multiples) do it all the time. And what I personally found out was that tandem feeding is an incredible experience (if it works for you)!

See, while I was pregnant, I thought Beatrice might naturally lose interest in breastfeeding. She was two years old, and she is independent, social, sweet, and a bit sassy. She’s a good eater, but she also likes to breastfeed at night. Those first few months of my pregnancy I felt so ill I couldn’t imagine the extra emotional impact (on both of us) of trying to wean her. I was too exhausted and we were both too comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding. Then I thought she might wean naturally as the baby bump got bigger; but she didn’t mind, so I didn’t mind. And when our baby arrived, I thought I would wait to see how it would go for both of them. Would they both want to feed together? Would this work? Would my body be able to supply them both with the milk they needed? I spoke to some incredible people in the tandem network, including my lactation specialist, Cordelia Uys, from my first pregnancy; I worried for a while about all these various questions; and then I finally realised that it would all happen as it was meant to.

breastfeeding siblings

While pregnant and considering the weaning versus tandem feeding options, I also came across the Instagram feed of Polly Geal, a talented baby and family photographer based in Richmond, London (who also took photos for Courtney of Marlow on her second birthday. In her Instagram post was a beautiful image with the hashtag #TheNursingProject, and a brief caption about how she had created this project to document and share the beauty and bond of breastfeeding. So I contacted Polly and told her that I was expecting my second baby in late Winter. And I also told her that there was a good chance I might be tandem breastfeeding. She was really keen to involve me as she hadn’t hand any tandem feeders take part in the project before then.

When I went to Polly’s home, which was the first time I had tandem breastfed out of my own home, with my 6-week-old little fella and my newly turned three-year-old girl, it made me realise that it was as natural for me to breastfeed both of them together as it was for me to drink water. I was just being a mama, in my way, that worked for me and my children. After all, in many places around the world breastfeeding is the norm, and tandem feeding isn’t that far behind it.

tandem breastfeeding baby and toddler

And the sweetest thing about tandem feeding is the beautiful bond that Beatrice and Joseph have while breastfeeding. While feeding, she likes to hold his hand, sometimes tries to ‘pet’ his ear (which we discuss is not so helpful since it makes him flinch), and most of all they both get equal attention from me simultaneously for a few shared moments a day. It’s very beautiful. Some studies say tandem feeding helps to eliminate sibling rivalry. I am not sure if that is true for everyone, but I know that the connection between them right now is so strong. She helps him to latch on, she sings songs to him if he fusses, and she proudly told my mom that she ‘shares’ mama milk with him. And we love when she is proud to share! We also found out when Joseph was 3 weeks old that he was tongue tied, but the reason that I had not realised it sooner is because it wasn’t affecting his health, weight gain, or my milk supply because his big sister was helping to keep my milk supply regulated. How amazing is that! She was helping without even realising it.

One day that big sister will walk away saying she doesn’t want any more mama milk (ever again), and I will feel a tug at my heart strings, but I will let go and know it is the right time for her. I will listen to her.

But I also listen to others enough to realise that breastfeeding is a big topic, with big emotions around it. And I now know tandem feeding is as well. Double the opinions even perhaps! Yes, breastfeeding a toddler isn’t the norm in our society, and breastfeeding two babies is definitely not typical.

nursing two children

I also knew that lots and lots (and lots) of people would think I was crazy, a circus act, a milk cow, an over-attached parent, a hippy, or all of the above. And lots and lots of people have raised eyebrows, and shown shock or surprise when I’ve told them. Some people even have told me they didn’t know it was possible to become pregnant while breastfeeding (it is!). And to those that think it is just ‘for comfort’, I say yes it’s for comfort (and what’s wrong with that?) but it is also for the health benefits too. This is why I avoided telling many people in the early months… to avoid being judged. But now, almost 6 months as a tandem feeder, I question it less, and I’ve learned to celebrate it, treasure it, and enjoy it more, despite the challenging days, the aversion I sometimes experience, and the tiredness I sometimes feel. Which is what all parents experience for various reasons.

Most importantly, both my babies are happy. She is healthy, and he is healthy, happy, growing, and getting lots of smooches from his big sister. And their bond is incredibly strong. And isn’t that what we all want our children to be… happy, healthy, and helpful little humans? That makes a mama proud. And hopefully people can see the beauty in it, and respect the decision this second-time mama has made.

tandem breastfeeding siblings

These special moments that Polly captured for me and my family are ones I will always treasure. Polly is now in the process of evolving the project to celebrate all kinds of feeding journeys, including combined feeding, bottled feeding, as well as nursing, to show the beauty in all paths taken to nourish your little ones. She hopes to one day publish all of her Project images and stories as a book, and I hope she does, she is so talented, (as well as being a mum of two with a big heart). Her Project uses art to illuminate real life. And both breastfeeding and tandem feeding is a topic which is natural and real so I think the more it is normalised the better!

Polly is available for newborn, baby, and family shoots too as well as the Project. She captured my early days so beautifully, that now when I look back at them I get super sentimental!

baby after tandem breastfeeding

What about you…Would you (or have you ever) tandem feed? How do these images make you feel? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Lara. xx

ps The last photo with just Joseph and me makes my heart melt. It is that super, sweet, milk drunk, and content newborn baby face that Polly captured so perfectly at the very end of the tandem shoot.


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Comments (10)

Lisa
August 11, 2016

Hi Lara! Congratulations on your beautiful baby. I wanted to carry on nursing when I was pregnant with my second baby. But we lost the baby and I somehow managed to convince myself (I know that I was not scientifically correct) that I had lost the baby because I was nursing. My progesterone levels were very low and I convinced myself nursing was suppressing them and not allowing my levels to rise enough to sustain another pregnancy. So when I got pregnant again I weaned. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. She cried; I cried, I felt awful guilty like I was denying her. I actually had to ask my sister to fly from London to sleep with her at night. (We also co sleep ). I have gone on to have five children and have gotten pregnant each time fully nursing throughout the night and my last pregnancy I hadn’t even had a period before becoming pregnant again. I am now nursing my little boy and will continue to do so for as long as he wants; he will be my last, forever my baby, and I am enjoying this beautiful time and I love nursing. Best wishes to you!!!! Xoxo


Kate
August 12, 2016

Beautiful photos! I am enchanted by your story and appreciate your sharing. I am a mama of twins and nursed tandem nursed them until they were 17 months old, supplemented with bottles because my supply was low. I cherished those times all together in our chair. My mother-in-law sent me a photo of a woman tandem breastfeeding a baby and a goat and said it reminded her of me! Well, you can’t please everyone. You are listening to your heart and your children and that is always the right way.


se7en
August 12, 2016

What a beautiful post… and the photographs are magical. I really do wish that I had ever thought of taking photos of our little nurslings. We tandem nursed all our babies, I just felt that we chose to have them one after the other, before any of them had chosen to wave nursing good bye, so we just kept at it!!! I ended up nursing for about 16 years straight… crazy I know, but my babes are all better for it… Here is a post I wrote on Tandem Nursing a while back, you may like to browse it: http://www.se7en.org.za/2010/08/05/se7en-tandem-nursing-questions-asked-and-answered


Estelle
August 12, 2016

I tandem fed my two boys for around 1 year, although not in the true sense. I found feeding 2 at the same time was too overwhelming, but continued to feed them separately. Mostly I continued throughout pregnancy and beyond because I felt my first child wasn’t ready to stop. I thought he may wean himself if my milk supply dwindled during pregnancy, but that didn’t happen. To me it felt perfectly natural, but I never made a conscious decision to continue, it just worked out that way. Thank you for sharing your story.


Jennifer Leighton
August 12, 2016

Today is my due date with baby number 2 & I’ve just read this whilst nursing my nearly 3 year old to sleep. I’ve a lot of anxieties about what’s coming but I know I can do it and as you say it will be as it’s meant to be. Felt like this was just what I needed to read today. Thank you. i think more and more mothers nurse their toddlers and perhaps even tandem nurse than we know as its not openly discussed and shared in public, usually for fear of judgement I suspect so well done on sharing this here. Thank you again.

Nurse their toddlers and perhaps tandem nurse tha


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Lucia Ciccioli
August 14, 2016

Dear Lara
Your beautiful story and those gorgeous pictures brought tears to my eyes.
Congratulations for such an amazing job!
You are a true inspiration and I do hope I will be able to follow you down the same path – currently 21 weeks pregnant and breastfeeding my 3 year old. I do wonder how it will all work out- I wonder how she will take to sharing such a big thing for her with the new baby. When I ask her she makes it sound so easy “one each!” 🙂
But already reading success stories like yours is very encouraging.
Thank you from the heart and huge congrats again!
Lucia


Sarah
August 14, 2016

Thank you for sharing this lovely, positive story. Beautiful x


Monika
August 15, 2016

Thank you Lara! This is exactly what I needed to read to validate and give me confidence with tandem breast feeding. I have 3 children, and my last two are 18 months apart. I was breast feeding my son when I got pregnant with my daughter and since I did not get my period between the 2 of them I didn’t know I was pregnant, plus the breast feeding threw me off. (Although I always knew that it is possible to get pregnant while breast feeding). In the beginning I was feeling just fine with tandem feeding, but then as my patients wore off, comments that i was hearing and I was worried that my baby is getting enough milk I began to have aversions. But after reading your story and everyone else’s I feel so great about tandem feeding. In fact I have noticed a bound between my son and daughter and now appreciate more so then ever. I will in fact look into a photo shoot to capture the memory. Many thanks.


Nellie
September 1, 2016

Thank you for the lovely story and the beautiful pictures – they are gorgeous!

There is something that has always puzzled me about tandem breastfeeding and maybe you (or one of the ladies here) can solve it for me! I have always understood that when a woman gives birth and starts to breastfeed, the body ‘adapts’ the milk to the age of the baby. So, when the baby has just been born, there will be colustrum, then it will turn into a type of milk appropriate for a newborn, then gradually a type appropriate for a 3 month-old, then a 6 month-old, etc. – which is why the content of formula milk differs according to the age of the baby/child. How does this work with tandem breastfeeding? Is the milk produced ‘designed’ for the newborn, or for the older child? Any insight would be greatly appreciated!


Samantha
February 11, 2018

I have also tandem breastfed. I loved it. The best part was having the older child nurse to take down the excess milk slowly. It really helped to not be engorged. Blessed to breastfeed.


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