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18/12/2014

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Tandem Nursing: the almost four months update

18/12/2014

Way back when Pip was still just a giant bump I wrote about feeding a toddler, feeding through pregnancy and our plans for the future.  Well now it’s the future, and as Elma showed no signs of wanting to even consider weaning before Pip arrived I’ve been tandem nursing ever since. Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And as we’re rapidly approaching four months in I thought I’d share a little about the realities of nursing two babies, what worked for us, and the challenges along the way.

When Pip was first born he was basically feeding around the clock, and Elma was nursing morning, nap time and to go to bed, plus a little extra here and there whenever she asked. I think I spent the first couple of weeks solidly nursing.  And to start off with at least I was nursing just one baby at a time. Pip always got first ‘go’, and I had to pay attention to make sure that he was getting enough hindmilk as well as the foremilk but as my milk came in that became easier and having a toddler around is very helpful for sorting out engorgement issues!

Pip grew and grew and thrived and thrived and for a couple of weeks Elma became gorgeously solid and plump on her share of newborn milk before turning it all into another upwards growth spurt. And while there was someone else on hand to cuddle and rock Pip while I fed Elma, or vice versa it was all OK, albeit a little stressful sat up nursing one, desperately willing them to sleep because I could hear the other starting to ramp up into a full on protest.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But after a couple of weeks H had to go back to work and we had to figure out nap times and bedtimes with just Mummy around.  To start off with I tried having both of them in a rugby ball hold, heads supported by my arms and hands (and a lot of cushions) and their bodies down to either side of me.  It worked, in that the babies got fed, but I never really found it easy or clicked with it; it just wasn’t that comfortable for me, no matter how many cushions we used, I couldn’t really move if one of them needed adjusting or Pip needed burping, and I pretty much needed H’s help to get everyone and everything into position.

And at the same time we hit a road bump with Elma.  For her bedtime meant bath, story time while tucked into Kitty’s bed and then curling up in the nursery rocking chair for her milk and cuddles, and at 20 months it was as much about the cuddles and Mummy time as it was the milk. Suddenly she found herself moved to Mummy’s bed, and expected to go to sleep in this new and exciting place, with the light on, and with her new brother there too. There wasn’t a chance she was going to sleep if she didn’t really really have too and the resultant gymnastics were both painful and left me feeling horribly touched-out. I started to wonder whether it was all a horrible mistake, whether I should wean her now, whether I should have weaned her when I was pregnant, all the niggling worries that itch away at your subconscious.

I took to the internet certain that I was doing something wrong but the common consensus seemed to be that bedtimes are hard with two, and it does just take time to figure out.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But just before I hit crunch point it got better. So what helped? Well firstly Pip grew.  He stopped being that teeny tiny fragile newborn and became a little baby with a bit of heft to him, and I stopped worrying that the occasional wildly thwacking arm from his little big sister would really hurt him and that meant that they could be nearer each other, or possibly overlapping and so I got to change our tandem feeding position.

Now I feed Pip on one side with what is essentially a cross cradle hold on a bit of a diagonal  (his head resting on my forearm, bottom across my tummy and legs dangling down to the other side, while Elma sits up snuggled to my other side with my arm around her and then turns and latches herself on. I know this would be much easier to explain with a picture but there are limits to what I’m prepared to put out there on the internet which is why all the pictures are of Pip instead!

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And at the same time Elma became more settled with all the changes, she got used to sharing milk with Pip, and she’s started to move away from nursing until she falls completely asleep.  She’ll nurse until she’s had enough and then quite happily snuggle down and go to sleep in my bed until we move her over to her bed after Pip is settled too.

It’s never going to be my most favourite thing to do, and I’ll still try to nurse each baby separately but I think we’ve found our groove, and I’m glad we persevered.  And as for when I’ll wean Elma, well at the moment it’s still up to her. I know that she can and has done just fine without milk on the days and couple of nights I’ve been away. If she gets to three still nursing I might give her a little prod in the right direction but for now I’m happy to keep feeding her as long as she likes.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And the same goes for her brother.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And on a slightly different note, because the issue of nursing in public has come up in the news again, I wanted to say that in my four and a bit years of near constant nursing I’ve fed my babies wherever we’ve been; cafes, restaurants, the library, walking around the supermarket, walking around a reservoir, in numerous play parks and in church more times than I can remember.  I’m discreet and most of the time I think the only people who know what I’m doing are other nursing mummies, but if you really stare at me you probably will see more than I’d be wholly comfortable with you seeing, just as if you stare down someone’s low cut top in the summer you’ll see more than they would like you to. But I’m happy to report that I’ve never been tutted at or asked to cover up and if someone’s given me the stink eye I’ve been too busy feeding my baby to notice.  I’ve also never fed my babies in the toilet unless you count the times I’ve tucked the babies into the bath with me rather than get out of my haven of bubbles! And more than I hate the fact that this is still a discussion that the media feels we need to have in 2014, I would hate that the publicity it’s attracting would put mummies off feeding their babies for fear of judgement and condemnation. Just remember everyone is far too interested in themselves to be really paying attention to what you’re doing!