If you had told me 3 years ago that I would be nursing a toddler, I would have laughed in your face. If you had told me I would be tandem nursing a toddler AND an infant, I might have had you committed. But now that I’m in the thick of it, it might be me that’s headed to the loony bin.
When I first considered the prospect of tandem nursing it seemed easy enough. You’re already feeding one baby, so how hard could it be to feed one more? Little did I know … there is a HUGE difference between breastfeeding a baby and breastfeeding a toddler! Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a great experience and I don’t regret it at all. But I’m thinking, hoping, praying we’re headed towards the end.
Maybe I should start from the beginning.
There was never any question that I would breastfeed, but initially I only planned to nurse for 6 months. I knew all about the recommendation to breastfeed for at least a year but my goal was 6 months. Sydney and I hit our nursing groove almost immediately so when I hit the 6 month mark, I knew I could make it to a year … but that was it. There was no way I was going to be one of those crazy moms that breastfed walking and talking children!!
But in those next 6 months, something in me changed. And then I met a few of “those” moms. They weren’t hairy, unshowered, tree-hugging hippies. They were regular moms, just like me. And like me, they just wanted what was best for their kids. As Sydney’s 1st birthday approached, she began to wean herself from both the bottle and the pacifier and I figured she would wean herself from me fairly soon too. Our nursing relationship was still going really well, so 18 months became my new cutoff. But when Sydney was 16 months old, I found out I was pregnant.
Breastfeeding while pregnant was completely uncharted territory for me; and apparently, for almost everyone else too. Not only was I getting the “when are you gonna cut her off?” questions, there also seemed to be a big concern as to whether or not breastfeeding while pregnant was safe. My OB had given me the green light to continue breastfeeding, though she did warn me (as had a several friends) that there was a strong possibility that Sydney would self-wean due to the pregnancy related changes in my milk.
At first, I was happy to continue nursing.
Sydney and I had a good thing going and I wasn’t ready for her to quit nursing. But I did expect her to wean based on what everyone had told me. But not my girl!!! My husband and I went on a 4 day Sydney-free vacay when I was 6 weeks pregnant and I thought that might be the end. But when we got back from Mexico, I don’t know who she was more excited to see: me or my breasts. And that’s when I knew I’d be tandem nursing!
Just in case you’re wondering, breastfeeding through pregnancy is no cake walk. Towards the middle of my pregnancy, I would not have been at all disappointed if Sydney had weaned. To say it was painful would be an understatement. If I could just get past the first minute after she latched on, I’d be okay. But that minute seemed to last an hour and it felt like shards of glass were being pulled through my nipples. I began to cringe every time Sydney asked to nurse. I would try and distract her but she had a one track mind. I had taught her the word nurse early on and she was NOT afraid to use it. And instead of nursing less, she seemed to nurse more and more.
On more than one occasion I considered forcing her to wean.
But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It wasn’t like Sydney just wanted to nurse. It was as if she needed it. And the closer we got to my due date, the less I wanted to rock the boat. A new baby was going to be a big enough change for the Queen of the World and I didn’t want her to feel like I was abandoning her. And everything I’d read said that children who tandem nursed typically had close relationships with their siblings and I loved the way that sounded! Plus, I’d actually had an oversupply the first time around and was looking forward to Sydney helping out with that. So outside of my own selfish needs, all I could see were positives – sure I’d be super tired – but who am I kidding? I worked in morning radio for 6 years and I’d been a mom for the last 2 – how much more tired could I get?
Another tandem mama had suggested I read, Adventures in Tandem Nursing – and even though it had become my tandem nursing bible, I was still a little worried about how it would all play out – but as it turned out, my concerns were misplaced because the transition was seamless … at least in the beginning – I ended up nursing Sydney while I was in labor (which probably helped move things along – lol) and then a few hours later, I nursed Myles minutes after he was born (in the car!) – later that day i nursed Sydney for a few minutes when she came to meet Myles at the hospital (which I was told not to do, but whatever, I’m a rebel!) and then when we came home the next day, I just began to nurse them both – at first, I tried to nurse them simultaneously – the nursing part wasn’t difficult and it seemed to work for the kids, but I was never able to find a truly comfortable position.
So we began to take turns.
Sydney had no problems with the fact that Myles needed to eat first, and when the engorgement hit she was happy to take the foremilk so I could save the fatty hind milk for Myles. Even though she’s only 2, Sydney had no problems comprehending that her baby brother had to nurse because he couldn’t eat real food. Sure, sometimes she would ask Daddy to hold Myles knowing it would free mommy up to nurse. And sometimes she would ask me to put Myles in the swing because she knew she was next in line. But there never seemed to be any animosity towards Myles. She adores her brother and there haven’t been any problems on that front. The problem now is me.
In case you’ve never breastfed before, it takes a lot out of you … both physically and emotionally. In fact, it can be downright exhausting. So imagine what it’s like to breastfeed 2! Those first couple of weeks, there were days when all I did was nurse – Kelley and I basically traded babies all day long and in between nursing sessions, I tried to remember to eat and sleep. Myles was still sleeping a lot and I was really engorged, so I would encourage Sydney to nurse for a few minutes “to take a little off the top” – plus it gave us some alone time that we might not have otherwise had, so I was okay with it. To be honest, I even enjoyed it – but I also assumed that at some point there would be an end in sight – and so far, that’s yet to be the case.
I’ve now been nursing Sydney for 28 months, and tandem nursing for 6 and she doesn’t seem to be any closer to weaning than she was a year ago – she still asks to nurse several times a day – and while it’s driving me crazy, I have to admit that she is quite polite about it (“Mommy, can I nurse?”). But she is also quite insistent:
“Mommy, can I nurse?”
“In a few minutes.”
“Mommy, can I nurse?”
“In a few minutes.”
“Mommy, can I nurse?”
“In a few minutes!”
“Mommy, can I nurse?”
“I SWEAR IF THIS CHILD ASKS ME AGAIN I’M GOING TO RIP MY ARM OFF AND USE IT TO BEAT MYSELF SENSELESS!!!”
As much as I would like for Sydney to wean, I still feel like I’m fulfilling an emotional need for her rather than merely a physical want – but I’m also starting to feel like there needs to be a light at the end of the tunnel
I am WAY touched out these days and Sydney has become even more touchy-feely if that’s possible. Unlike Myles, who is still content to be held and snuggled while we nurse, Sydney has to do the holding and snuggling – she has to move and reposition herself several times throughout our session and she has to touch me. Not just by resting her hands on me, but by fondling my (jiggly) belly or arm or elbow or cheek or ear. And it can’t be over my clothes, it has to be actual flesh. Not good for a touched-out Mommy! She’s also started to get a little lazy with her latch. It’s hard to explain the feeling and while it doesn’t hurt, it is irritating. If we get to the lazy latch point, I tell her that “Mommy’s going to count to 10” and then we’re done. Usually that appeases her, but sometimes it brings on a meltdown and then we have to nurse to calm her down – do you see the cycle?
Sydney also recently potty trained so she’s not sleeping as well as she had been and has taken to coming into our room at 2 or 3am and asking to nurse – and because nursing 2 babies all night long is more than I can currently handle, I’ve taken to lying to her. That’s right, I’m lying to a 2 year old to save my sanity. I either tell her that Mommy’s breasts need a rest (which is true) or that Mommy’s breasts need to make more milk (which is kind of true), so it’s not TECHNICALLY a lie, right? Instead of nursing, I try to offer to hold her and sometimes that works – but usually when I tell her no, she gets upset and starts to cry which wakes up Myles – then I have to nurse him for at least a few minutes so he’ll go back to sleep which means Sydney still doesn’t get to nurse!! Another cycle. *sigh*
So where do we go from here?
Honestly, I have no idea. If it was up to me, Sydney would already be weaned and Myles and I would continue our perfect nursing relationship. It’s weird, but despite my being ready to end things with Sydney, I still feel like I could breastfeed Myles another year or so. I guess just like everything else with your kids, your nursing relationship is individual to each child. I wish it was as easy as just going cold turkey (which has been recommended to me), but I’m uncomfortable with that idea and I doubt it would work for us anyway. I’ve been told by all of my extended nursing mama friends that nursing is a 2-way relationship and that it has to work for all parties involved.
I’ve also been told that it’s okay to set limits and that it’s okay to tell Sydney “no”. Believe me, I’ve tried. I do a LOT of nursing til “Mommy counts to 10”. I also tried to implement the “you can only nurse if you’re going to sleep” rule. But the only thing that has done is teach Sydney to say “Mommy, can I nurse? I’m tired!!” Clearly this child is too smart for her own good! I think if we could get it down to a session before nap time and bedtime and to calm the occasional tantrum, I’d be okay. But on the days when she is literally begging me to let her nurse all. day. long. Telling her no seems cruel and the guilt gets me every time. So for now, I’ll continue on and pray that I’m not inflicting irreversible damage on her fragile psyche (sarcasm) … and that she’ll wean before she turns 3!
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