Tandem Breastfeeding – Part 4

By Carla Sargent

Go to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 or Part 5.

In previous articles I have written about my experiences of breastfeeding whilst pregnant. Well, now I can begin to write about tandem feeding as our baby has finally graced us with his presence!

Jonah Sargent was born at home on May 8th by way of a very peaceful and wonderful water birth. I am still in shock that he is a he (you might recall me referring to him as a her in previous articles such was my conviction that I was carrying a girl) and that he is so small (7lb, 9oz compared to my previous almost 10lb babies). Jonah took to breastfeeding like a duck to water, a new experience for me as my other two were tongue tied and initially struggled to latch well. This has been such a blessing!

Before I write of my tandem breastfeeding experiences, I will begin by writing about my last few weeks of solo feeding Luca. Really my milk supply didn’t seem to change much over the last weeks of pregnancy. I doubt there was much milk there at all, but Luca was always content to feed long past any significant swallowing could be observed. In fact, if left to feed for as long as he desired, a feeding session would typically be between 20 and 40 minutes. I guess feeding for him was more about the snuggles and closeness than it was about the milk.

Near the end of my pregnancy Luca got into the habit of waking early (between 5am and 5:30 – too early!) and coming into bed with his Mum and Dad to have one of his long comfort feeds. At the end of this feed his Dad would bring him out to the lounge leaving me to rest for a while. If we ever tried to rush Luca off the breast he would complain fiercely. I was a bit worried that this was setting us up for battles when the baby arrived, but ultimately took the attitude that we would deal with that at the time and that Luca and I might as well enjoy these sweet pleasures while they lasted.

Apart from that morning feed, Luca would also be fed off to sleep for his daytime sleep (a process that typically lasted 25 – 30 minutes) and would have a feed before his bedtime. He consistently had those three feeds on a daily basis and there would be any number of feeds in between those times depending on Luca’s mood and needs. During the last weeks of my pregnancy I didn’t put any limits on Luca’s frequency, or length, of feeds. I figured that after the baby was born and my milk came in, Luca’s time at the breast would decrease quite dramatically owing to the fact that he would fill up with milk rather quickly.

Leading up to Jonah’s birth I became quite nervous about how Luca would be during the actual birth. If I birthed at night as I had done with my other two, my birth sounds might wake him as he is a very light sleeper. My Mum had been assigned the role of ‘Luca’s carer’ during the birth and I knew she would do whatever she could to keep him happy, but if I could hear him crying I would find that distressing and distracting. I contemplated the idea of having him at the birth though quickly decided that that would be a foolish move. He would no doubt want to feed and, for me, during labour that most certainly would not be an option. Also, at his young age (17 months) I really didn’t see much benefit for him being at the birth of his baby brother. Big sister Laura (aged 9), on the other hand, wasn’t going to miss this birth for the world.

Fortunately Luca slept soundly throughout Jonah’s birth. I laboured from 10:30pm until his birth at 3:40am. Mark, Jonah, Laura and I finally snuggled up in bed (King-sized!) at 5:15am – right at Luca’s wake-up time! He came into bed with us and was far more interested in getting his morning feed and cuddle than he was in his new brother. No surprises there! Mum had bought Luca a couple of new toys and so he was happily enticed out to the lounge to hang out with his Nonny, leaving the rest of us to get some well deserved rest.

The following two days and night saw Jonah feeding almost constantly. Clearly he was working hard to bring my milk in. Luca wasn’t bothered in the least that there was another little person sharing his Mama’s boobs. He was quite affectionate with Jonah, giving him little pats and waves – very cute! Initially Luca didn’t seem to mind that his Mum’s time was being taken up by his new brother, probably because he had his Daddy at home to play with and oblige his frequent desire to venture outside.

The second morning following Jonah’s birth gave my boys and I our first taste of ‘true’ tandem feeding – one boy at each breast at the same time. With Mark’s help to latch Jonah I managed to pull this off quite easily. I was lying on my back with one arm under each baby to prop them up a little. However, the angle that Luca was on meant his feeding felt somewhat uncomfortable for me – it felt as though his teeth were biting in a bit. The next time I fed them together I was sitting up on the couch and that was a lot easier and more comfortable.

With two babies feeding from me I expected that my milk would come in faster than usual, though this did not end up being the case. Day three saw my milk come in and Jonah was instantly more satisfied, thus spreading out his feeds to 1 – 3 hourly and getting good sleeps in between. Luca didn’t seem phased by the sudden change in milk flow (I thought he’d be quite excited), nor did the change alter his time at the breast as I’d expected and hoped. This reiterated the point for me that Luca’s time at the breast is much more about comfort and closeness than it is about food.

On that note, Luca’s appetite has decreased dramatically of late, and he is getting notably chubbier, plus wetting and soiling a whole lot more nappies! That breast milk he is getting sure is working its magic. I’m not sure if I should be cutting back his breast feeds and trying to get more solid food into him or whether to just go with the flow. Advice welcome!

With my first two babies I had an overly abundant milk supply. This caused me some grief with regards to an extremely strong let-down reflex which caused my babies to choke and get upset, and the annoyance of very leaky boobs. One of the big bonuses of tandem feeding has been that my milk supply is a lot more manageable. I don’t get a strong let-down reflex so Jonah doesn’t have to battle the flow, and I’m not having anywhere near the leaking that I had with the other two. Yay! Furthermore, Jonah has been an excellent feeder from the start so I haven’t had any nipple trauma like I did with Laura and Luca. Breastfeeding has, thus far, been a breeze and little Jonah is rapidly gaining weight.

Although Luca coped well with the new family dynamics during the first week of Jonah’s life, the second week has seen him become a lot more clingy with me, and much more grizzly in general. When I am feeding or cuddling Jonah, Luca frequently gestures for me to put Jonah into his crib. Mark and I do our best to give Luca a lot of our time and energy when we can, but I think the reality that this baby is staying for good has probably hit home for him. I’m sure he’ll thank us one day for providing him with a playmate but for now it’s quite a difficult adjustment. Thankfully Luca still has the comfort and security that breastfeeding provides to help ease him through this transition. I am so grateful that I am able to at least offer him that.

Carla Sargent lives in the Waikato and is a mother of three home born children. She has worked as an independent midwife and secondary school teacher. She is happy to be contacted at carla.sargent@gmail.com.

Go to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 or Part 5.

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