My breastfeeding journey went so differently than I had anticipated. When I had my son in August of 2012 I never imagined I would be breastfeeding him until July of 2016! It never occurred to me that I would be tandem nursing for over a year either. My goal was to breastfeed my child to that magical 2 year mark that I heard so much about. The idea of nursing past that seemed gross and weird to me at the time. However, I was lucky enough to fall upon a due date group that was in a word: amazing. This group of women were so diverse in their choices and so supportive of each other. I spend hours upon hours with my August due date group, and after my son was born I stayed with this group for about a year. This group is where I first heard the term “Tandem Nursing.” Honestly, it wasn’t something that had ever occurred to me! Once I heard about it it stuck with me. It was this secret little wish that stayed in my soul.
When I became pregnant with my daughter in 2014 I was still nursing my son. Not only did he not seem ready to wean, but I wasn’t ready either. I wanted the tandem nursing experience. I got a lot of questioning looks throughout my pregnancy when people found out I was still breastfeeding my son. People made a lot of assumptions. It was assumed that I had to wean him before the baby was born because the baby would need the milk. Some people were concerned that there would be no colostrum (that magical early milk) for the new baby because my toddler would drink it all. I reassured the people who knew I was still nursing that there would be plenty of milk for the baby, and explained that I had no intention of weaning my son. At this point though I felt very judged and so I mostly kept my journey and my plans to myself. As it was, many people were surprised I was still nursing my son before I got pregnant. The criticism had started when he hit 6 months old and only grown from there.
There were some adjustments. My milk pretty much dried up after the first trimester and nursing became painful. This is a pretty common experience. In order to continue nursing I limited my sons nursing sessions to 1-3 times a day and I made them much shorter. Even after my colostrum came in the nursing remained painful. I was really determined to see it through though so we just took it one session at a time. He never seemed to care about the lack of milk or the change of milk when the colostrum came in. My son loved nursing. He would nurse all day if he was allowed. Looking into those sweet blue eyes and seeing the comfort my son was gaining really helped me pull through this tough time.
When my daughter was born in December of 2014 we had some trouble getting nursing started. I had lots of colostrum (one of the potential benefits of nursing through your pregnancy) but she was refusing to latch. We fed her my milk through a syringe with a small tube. When we got home a couple of days after her birth we were still feeding her that way, and I was really stressed and upset about it. Soon after we arrived home my son was brought home and I saw him for the first time in several days. He immediately wanted to nurse. While nursing him I felt a let down and asked my husband to help me try to latch our daughter. It worked! I am absolutely positive nursing my son through my pregnancy is what saved my nursing relationship with my daughter. I’m not sure exactly what was causing the problem but he seemed to have solved it. Nursing her was still challenging but we worked through it one day at a time and one session at a time. I didn’t always nurse them together but we did do it quite frequently. Nursing my toddler helped me deal with a myriad of nursing issues. My daughter would often choke and sputter because I had so much milk and I would have let down after let down (an issue I had also had with my son), so I would often nurse my son first. He also helped when I was engorged. If I was uncomfortable I would have him nurse, which he was always up for.
Over time we settled into a beautiful rhythm and had all those special moments that I had hoped and wished for. They would hold hands while nursing which just melted my heart. My daughter thrived and is still nursing to this day. I am so happy I got to experience tandem nursing. I tandem nursed my babies for 19 months in total and it’s one of my proudest accomplishments! Tandem nursing is not for everyone, but if you are considering tandem nursing there is a great book called Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond by Hilary Flower. It gives a really good picture of what to expect. You are also welcome to ask me questions!
- Johanna Goetz