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Tandem Nursing Mothers' Stories
Eliana Holgate, Pearland, Texas, USA
Photos: Stacey Herndon
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I breastfed through pregnancy and enjoyed tandem nursing my children after the second was born.

My husband and I have two wonderful children. Our son was not yet two years old and still nursing when I became pregnant for the second time.

Thankfully, I already knew that breastfeeding during pregnancy was generally not a problem. I had no risk factors, and my first pregnancy had gone smoothly, so I was not worried about the safety of continuing to nurse my son while I was pregnant. I know that some prenatal healthcare providers are sadly misinformed about the risks of breastfeeding during pregnancy. The midwives I saw for my obstetric care needed no convincing that I should not have to wean my son. I was also lucky not to encounter many naysayers in my social circle.

Because my son rarely nursed away from home, strangers did not generally know that he was still breastfeeding. I recall that one of my mother-in-law’s close friends was surprised when she learned he was still breastfeeding, because she did not know that a woman’s body could sustain a pregnancy and produce milk for an older child. I was happy to educate her, and if she had any negative thoughts, she was kind enough to keep them to herself. Having made many of my mommy friends through La Leche League, I found they were more supportive than others may have been.

I did think that my son might wean himself as my supply decreased (due to hormones) during the second trimester. Apparently he was not finished yet, because he nursed quite contentedly even when I apparently had no milk left. It became pretty uncomfortable for me at that point. I coped by limiting the length of our nursing sessions and trying to distract him with another activity if I was feeling particularly averse to nursing.

He had been nursing to sleep his whole life, but I knew that our new baby would likely need me during that time once she arrived. So, we began to transition to Daddy taking over bedtime. We would get ready together, I would lie down with our son and nurse him while Daddy read a story, then I would get up, say goodnight, and leave the room. Fortunately, he woke up at night rarely by this point. We mostly were down to nursing upon waking in the morning, at naptime, and at bedtime by the time our daughter was born. The night his little sister was born was only the second night of his life that my son had not nursed before going to bed.

Tandem nursing

Adding a new baby to a family is never an easy transition.

I felt really positive about being able to continue nursing my son as he adjusted to becoming a big brother. He is a sensitive boy, and I firmly believe that it benefited him greatly not to be forced to wean in addition to suddenly having to share parental attention with this new little baby.

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Breastfeeding siblings

There is a special bond between siblings who share time nursing.

I rarely nursed them at the same time. My son seemed so big compared to my tiny new daughter, and I did not want him to hurt her. But the times they did nurse simultaneously were special. There is something deeply touching about seeing your children receive comfort and nourishment at your breast. Sharing mama’s milk with each other strengthens the bond between brother and sister.

I am not saying that it was always easy. There are times when I wonder if I shortchanged my daughter somewhat because she only had my milk all to herself after she was about 18 months old.

My son eventually weaned on his own, shortly before his fourth birthday. He nursed a handful of times after that, mostly when he was sick, but even before that, he was going days or weeks in between nursing sessions.

It’s inevitable that any children after the first have to share their mother’s attention even if they are not tandem nursing. As parents, our relationships with our children are different no matter what. They are each unique and we will relate to them in individual ways. As my daughter’s personality has become more evident, it is clear that she knows how to tell us what she needs and she gets it. She is still happily nursing at almost three years old.

La Leche League has been a vital source of support.

Throughout the five years I’ve been breastfeeding, La Leche League has been a vital source of support. My family has been very supportive as well, but in our society where breastfeeding—especially full-term breastfeeding—is unfortunately still misunderstood and stigmatized, having a safe place to go to talk with peers about all of the challenges, joys, and adventures of nursing and parenting young children is indispensable.

Resources
pregnancy-breastfeeding-breastfeedingtoday

Erica Jean by Alicia Moss

A Natural Weaning

Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Tandem Nursing Is It Safe? Recent Research

Gentle Weaning: Breastfeeding “Forever”

Weaning Gently: Outgrowing the Need

Where’s the Harm in Breastfeeding Toddlers?


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