In January 2018 I gave birth to my second child. At this time my daughter was still breastfed. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be breastfeeding my newborn son. I had already decided that as Aoife had continued to nurse throughout my pregnancy that I would more than likely tandem feed.
Tandem nursing is what is referred to as nursing the “old baby” and “new baby” together. Tandem nursing often helps the older child with the transition of their new role as big brother or sister. It really is a truly heartwarming experience when you see your child bonding through holding hands and stroking.
I spoke to fellow blogger, Rebecca of The Ish Mother who also tandem nursed her children. Here is what she had to say about the experience…
“When I got pregnant with my second child, my daughter was three and a half. Old enough to have stopped breastfeeding, you’d think. Well, no.
I didn’t plan to feed her that long. When she was born, the challenges we faced meant that I set a goal of just one month. Then two, three, six, twelve… Then until she was ready to stop.
I didn’t quite manage that last goal. Pregnancy made me much more sensitive to the point where feeding felt almost unbearable at times so I gradually cut down her feeds from on demand 24/7 (and boy did she demand) to one quick feed in the morning. It surprised me how willing she was to go with this, I was expecting much more of a battle. I had hoped that once her little brother was born things would settle down but unfortunately I developed a strong aversion to feeding her. After trying to tough it out, we negotiated an end – she said she’d stop when she started school. Two weeks before she did, she decided she didn’t need my milk any more. In total, I tandem fed my children for five and a half months.
I sometimes wonder if it was worth going through all those uncomfortable feeds in pregnancy. Maybe I should have stopped breastfeeding my daughter altogether then? But then I think of all the positives my brief experience of tandem feeding brought.
One big positive was that engorgement, which first time round made me dizzy with pain, wasn’t really an issue second time. Any time my son didn’t do an efficient enough job of draining my breast I could simply offer my more experienced nursling a feed. Problem solved in less than a minute!
It also smoothed the transition from only child to big sister for my daughter. Continuing to breastfeed through pregnancy and in the early months afterwards seemed to reassure her that she was still my little girl. Even though to me she suddenly seemed huge!! I didn’t master feeding both at the same time – having a four year old and a bigger-than-usual newborn pinning me to the sofa was just too claustrophobic – but I think feeding her seperately, even for a few seconds, gave her the one to one time she needed to feel secure.
I also think it helped her bond with her brother. We didn’t get to enjoy those snuggly tandem feeds with siblings holding hands across me like I’d heard other mothers talk about, but breastfeeding was a way of getting used to “sharing” me. She didn’t really seem to get jealous at all in those early months, in fact she just fell into adoring her little brother.
Finally, I think allowing her to be part of the negotiations about stopping gave her a sense of independence. It was a big decision, and one that she needed to be a part of. It helped shape her impression of herself as a “big girl”, and gave her some control over a time of change and uncertainty.
Two years on, big sis and little bro still adore each other, she’s still adamantly a big girl and I’m still feeding my son. I’ve no idea how long I’ll feed him for but as I’m not planning on having any more children I know my tandem feeding days are well and truly behind me. And I’m glad they happened, even if I was relieved when it was over!”
So there you have it! Accounts of tandem feeding from myself and Rebecca. Another important factor in Rebecca’s story was the comments about feeding until the child was ready to wean. This is also my plan with my children. I feel no need to instigate weaning and I am perfectly happy to go for as long they need me. I’m sure I will end up feeling quite redundant when they both decide to stop!
Are you a breastfeeding mother? How long have you breastfeed for? Would you consider tandem feeding?