Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pros and cons of tandem breastfeeding

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.

I was always intrigued by the idea of tandem breastfeeding but never thought I'd participate in it myself. We were going to have a large spacing between our children, after all — I figured the older one would naturally have weaned by the time we decided to get pregnant again.

I didn't count on my older son's tenacity!

My younger son was conceived when Mikko was three and born when Mikko was four. Mikko continued to nurse through the pregnancy, despite a lack of milk, and they've now been tandem breastfeeding for a year. Alrik is one, and Mikko is almost five.

Here are some of the upsides and downsides to nursing through pregnancy and going on to tandem feed, as I've experienced them. Remember that everyone's experiences are different, though, which is why I'm glad there's a whole carnival on this topic!

Tandem breastfeeding allows you to meet the older and younger children's needs.

When we were considering pregnancy, Mikko was still breastfeeding several times a day, to sleep for bedtime, and occasionally during the night. Younger nurslings would have even more nutritional, health, and comfort needs. I know a huge part of the reason I didn't want to wean Mikko before or during the pregnancy was to give him the chance to continue receiving the nurturance and nutrition he'd come to expect from breastfeeding.

Nursing multiple children requires some balancing.

When Alrik was a newborn, I made sure he always got to eat first. I still make sure he gets the lion's share of time at the breast. Other than that, supply and demand, and your kids' individual demands, usually even everything out. You might want to figure out who eats first and whether you want to feed more than one child simultaneously. I personally don't relish that (I prefer having them take turns), but other people like how efficient it can be.

Tandem breastfeeding can exacerbate any nursing aversions.

This is what's happened for me, and has been the worst part of tandem nursing. I've had an extreme aversion to nursing Mikko (fortunately, not Alrik) — I get the creepy crawlies when he wants to nurse. I've been able to deal with this to some degree through positive thinking, but I'm definitely working toward weaning Mikko at this point. In the early stages, when Alrik was on me nearly all day and Mikko was giddy about the newly refreshed milk supply, nursing two kids was making me feel touched out. And prior to that, due to hormones, nursing through pregnancy had been quite painful for me. It's all right to set limits, particularly with older nurslings, to make nursing through pregnancy and tandem nursing work for everybody. We used the pregnancy as a time to cut down and eventually stop night nursing for Mikko so I would have just one baby to wake up for, and I've determined places, durations, and times I'm willing to nurse Mikko, which are gradually getting cut down further.

Tandem nursing can demand a lot of your body.

I'm ravenous when breastfeeding a newborn. Add in a preschooler and pumping to donate, and I could eat a horse as an appetizer. I also needed to be drinking constantly as my milk supply and my thirst levels regulated. Obviously, all that breastfeeding can take a lot of your time as well. So try to take care of yourself — or, better yet, get someone to help take care of you!

Tandem nursing can help your body.

This is the good side of that coin. All that suckling can definitely help your uterus get back into shape faster. The more vigorous latch of an older nursling can bring your milk in pronto after the birth — mine came in within a day this time around.

Tandem nursing can help smooth the arrival of a new sibling.

I didn't want Mikko's weaning to be related to his new brother's arrival, as if he'd been supplanted. I know of other families who've handled weaning during pregnancy or shortly after birth with gentleness and made it work; since Mikko's interest in nursing was still so high, as was his interest in the coming baby, I didn't want to connect weaning plus baby in his mind. I've appreciated how little rivalry he's so far had for his younger sibling. I'm sure more conflicts will arise in time, but I'm enjoying how they seem to adore each other and giggle whenever they see the other one nursing.

Tandem breastfeeding is completely normal.

I don't know that this is a pro or a con, more like a neutral. I just want to point out that, globally and historically, it's entirely unexceptionable to choose to feed more than one child at a time. Some families might decide it doesn't work well for them, and that's fine, too. But if you want it to work out for you and your little ones, you can find a way!

What have your experiences been with tandem nursing or breastfeeding through a pregnancy? Would you ever consider nursing multiple littles?

Please visit the other participants. (Links will be live by the afternoon of May 29.)
  • 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.


Cassie said...

I forgot to add how much to eat. Like you, I'm always hungry. Even now. I had a low supply when my daughter was first born. My midwife was like you need to be eating at LEAST 500 more calories per day probably more.
I love this post. Like all of them it really resonates with me.

Unknown said...

What a great post on tandem nursing! I especially like how you don't list the topics out as "pros" or "cons" you just talked about them as aspects of a tandem nursing relationship :) Great Work! This is a really shareable one, Lauren!

You know that I have had the same type of struggles with nursing aversion during pregnancy and after the birth of our newest babe. . . but my aversions and conflicts with Abbey over nursing were definitely more centered around nursling TO SLEEP. Like you said, Abbey's tenacity was what I totally didn't account for when dreaming about tandem nursing. . . but, I made it work for the FAMILY, balancing all of our needs by setting limits, just like you and other mamas have!

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

My older nursling didn't do much to help physically, because his latch was so awful at the beginning. But I *do* love the way it has helped them bond. Seeing them looking at each other snuggled up (even if Kieran isn't nursing - which he often does not) is priceless.

Such good things to think about though. As much as each woman's nursing journey is unique, I think you've hit on some pretty universal experiences that we can all nod along with.

Unknown said...

My 3 year old doesn't nurse anymore now than I'm pregnant, but we talk about how my milk will come back when the new baby comes. She says she wants to start nursing again when that happens. If she wants to, we will. :)

I'm a full-time mummy said...

Agree with the milk coming in faster! My girl practically nurses on straight and my milk came in right after delivering her! She has no chance of losing weight at all (compared to my 1st child who lost about 300g after the meconium was out)!

I hope your weaning Mikko will be a beautiful and memorable experience! Thank you for being one of the person who supported me through my initial tandem nursing aversion!

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