Tales of a Tandem Mama
by Sara Bartlett
(Anchorage, AK, USA)
I can relate to nearly everything you mentioned on your tandem nursing page.
I, too, never imagined even nursing my first beyond the age of 1. I always knew I wanted to nurse, but only for a year, right?
That's what's normal in America!
But she didn't really like baby food. She didn't start eating anything besides breast milk until she was 11 months old. So when she turned 1 I couldn't bear the thought of weaning; in fact, it was the furthest thing from my mind.
When visiting family when she was 15 months, I received scrutiny from them for nursing beyond the first year, but it didn't deter me. I got pregnant with my second when she was 16 months old. Again, never thought to wean. At this point I was insistent on her self-weaning.
The only thing that really bothered me about nursing during my pregnancy was "twiddling", when toddlers play with the non-nursing boob.
I had to stop that habit, but it wasn't too hard to do. I just had to set limits.
Once my second daughter was born, it was just a natural thing to continue nursing her as regular, which included down for nap & down for bed.
I will be candidly honest & say that it was overwhelming nursing two children throughout the night, or period. I couldn't figure out how to comfortably position myself to nurse them both when they woke in the middle of the night to nurse. I luckily had two friends who I knew co-slept & tandem nursed & I sought their advice & support.
It's fortunate to know someone else who has gone through it & can understand all the ups & downs.
Ultimately, what was best for our family was to remove our then 2 1/2 year old from our bed.
It was hard on all of us but it turned out that all of us (including her) slept better like that. She had not slept through the night since she was 6 months old. And once she got in her own bed, she started sleeping 11-12 straight hours through the night.
I also had used bribery to wean her from needing to nurse to fall asleep. She handled it very well. And it took a lot of stress off of me, not having to nurse 2 children to sleep and all throughout the night.
Now, all that being said, today she is almost 3 1/2 & my youngest is 15 months. They are both still nursing. I don't nurse them together a lot, and I also don't nurse my oldest very much anymore.
Part of it was me trying to unsuccessfully wean her many times. She still asks several times a day & I don't always say yes. At the end of the day, she's just not ready to wean, and that has kept me from totally trying to wean her.
I do not want to take something away from her that she loves more than anything. We have always had a very loving nursing relationship & as long as she still loves my milk, she should reap the benefits from it. It still protects her & builds her immune system & provides her the ultimate comfort.
My youngest & I have a very different nursing relationship. I still nurse her to sleep & throughout the night, but I sometimes have to beg her to nurse. She is much more active & easily soothed in other ways besides nursing. I sometimes joke that she'll wean before my 3 1/2 year old.
Tandem nursing is not easy & I commend any mama who does it for any period of time. It's so important to remember that you have to do what works for your family & not listen to any other outside influence.
The times that both girls nurse simultaneously are so cute.
In the early days my older daughter was very tender, sometimes jealous. She would pull my boob out of baby sister's mouth a few times and we had to have a talk about not breaking her latch, it's her only source of food, etc.
As they've grown together, sometimes when I'm solely nursing my oldest, my youngest comes over crying from jealousy & tries to pull my boob out of her mouth. I assure her I still have two breasts & she can have the other side.
Something else I struggled with was the strength of my oldest's latch. I had to work with her to be gentle for a period of time and I told her it hurt when she nursed & she'd say, "I'll be gentle mommy." She would do anything to not give it up.
As they both get older, I have a feeling that their latches have become more similar. We have found a happy balance & plan to continue nursing for as long as we all feel like it.
Happy (tandem) nursing!