Baby Elma Family Motherhood Pip

Tandem Nursing: the almost four months update


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!

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  • Amy 18/12/2014 at 12:19 pm

    Hi carie, wow congrats on your tandem feeding journey! Little pip is looking so very delicious 🙂 Rose shows no signs of giving up breast milk (18months) although I’ve had a few family members asking me when I’m stopping aaagghhhh! Anyway, I take my hat off to you lady, you make it sound easy when I know dedicating the time to feed one is difficult enough let alone two. Completely inspiring and I hope mummies wondering whether to BF will read this and feel encouraged xx

    • Carie 19/12/2014 at 11:49 pm

      We’ve had a few “when will you be weaning Elma” questions, especially since Pip arrived and we’ve always just said “when she’s ready” – I hope we can stick to that, I know I could force wean any time I liked but I’d like it to be natural for her if at all possible.

  • Katie @mummydaddyme 18/12/2014 at 3:15 pm

    Aaaah I wrote a huge long comment and for some reason it didn’t save. I really admire you for tandem breastfeeding Carie and I found it really interesting reading this post as it is not something I would have considered with Mads. I had a few friends who fed into toddlerhood but for me 16 months with LL was long enough. I desperately miss our breastfeeding journey though and its the one thing that makes me broody for another baby, although I don’t know whether that is going to happen!
    Also I wanted to add I never had bad looks, tuts or attitudes in the whole time I was breastfeeding- which was exclusively with both of mine and we fed everywhere. I did feed in the toilets a few times but that was more my self consciousness at the start of our journey rather than anyone ever saying anything. I loved feeding both my babies! xx

    • Carie 19/12/2014 at 11:47 pm

      It is lovely feeding the babies isn’t it – though toddlers have a tendency to want to turn into little gymnasts which makes life interesting!!

  • Donna 18/12/2014 at 4:55 pm

    Well done for doing such an amazing thing for your children. I stopped with each of mine at about 13 months – with LP I stopped because I was pregnant again and she didn’t sleep at all so I wanted to make life as easy as possible for me – selfish I know but it worked in hindsight as she started sleeping too. I hope that it carries on smoothly for you all x

    • Carie 19/12/2014 at 11:43 pm

      thank you – and 13 months is brilliant for your two – I don’t think it’s selfish at all 🙂

  • preeta samarasan 18/12/2014 at 6:04 pm

    What you describe matches my experience exactly. Never liked feeding both at the same time, although while pregnant I had imagined doing so — nothing worked out quite like I imagined, though, and I didn’t love having to position both, and then, like you, I felt so touched out! What worked for us in the end was feeding one at a time, and I think the age difference being a bit more in our case, and the older nursling being a bit older, I was able to explain and she was mostly able to wait her turn.

    • Carie 19/12/2014 at 11:42 pm

      I will definitely feed one at a time if there’s any way I can, but I’ll admit it’s useful to know how to do both together when I’m on my own and there’s no one to hold Pip while I feed Elma.

  • Bex @ The Mummy Adventure 18/12/2014 at 7:25 pm

    Tandem nursing wasn’t something I ever fancied doing, and I weaned Archie at 16 months but I have a lot of respect for you! It sounds like it is only going to get easier for you from now on too. I fed my two for 9 months and 16 months and have never had a negative comment or look (other than my SIL) too

    • Carie 19/12/2014 at 11:41 pm

      I’m so glad so many people haven’t had bad experiences – sometimes the way the media paints it it’s as if we’re all constantly staring down a barrage of unspoken criticism and that’s enough to put anyone off!

  • sustainablemum 20/12/2014 at 9:29 am

    My children are too far apart in years to have tandem nursed is I have no experience but well done for finding a way to make it work for you and your children. My youngest is five and half and has only recently stopped nursing….

    • Carie 22/12/2014 at 8:43 pm

      Wow! Five and a half! Good for you – I think I might have encouraged a little weaning before then 🙂

  • Suzanne3childrenandit 20/12/2014 at 9:38 am

    Wow, I am in awe that you’ve managed to keep this up – well done, sounds a right juggle! I think this whole issue with breastfeeding in public is just archaic. We see people sunbathing topless for goodness sake!

    • Carie 22/12/2014 at 8:42 pm

      well quite – I just can’t believe that it’s a conversation that still has to be had!

  • sally 07/01/2015 at 2:42 pm

    I’m so glad your tandem nursing worked out, and have lots of respect for you for perservering! Hoping Elma weans herself naturally and happily, at some point that sits well with your preferred timescales. I didn’t have any tutting or negative experiences breastfeeding either, but I think I did embarrass the Headteacher at our school several times! I was, and still am, chair of governors at the school, all the way through both Venetia’s and Maria’s time as nursing babies (and toddlers!), and I found that breastfeeding discreetly in public is fine but breastfeeding in a meeting with our poor, male Headteacher, particularly when frequently it was just him and me (plus child) in the meeting, is altogether another thing! But if I was going to be chair there wasn’t much alternative, so we both kind of dealt with it! Happily he is a dad of 5 himself and dealt with it very well really. I think we were probably more embarrassed at meetings where I remember a very vocal, 2 year old Venetia repeatedly chanting ‘Boobie, boobie’ over and over again, whilst sitting on my knee and trying to find a way down my top! Those were the days!

    • Carie 08/01/2015 at 9:24 am

      Oh brilliant – there’s nothing quite like a toddler trying to undress you in public is there!