Tandem Breastfeeding – Part 5

By Carla Sargent

Go to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 or Part 4.

In earlier articles (parts 1-4) I documented my experience of tandem feeding Luca and Jonah during Jonah’s first two weeks of life (Luca is 17 months older than Jonah). This article tells of my tandem feeding journey through the next two months.

Tandem feeding has been going great for us all. I do spend a huge portion of my days, and a fair chunk of my nights, breastfeeding but for the most part, I find it an enjoyable and rewarding experience, so I don’t mind.

Luca has continued to eat little and breastfeed a lot. This was causing me some concern as I don’t know of any other 19 month olds who barely eat any solids, so I contacted a fantastic Le Leche League (LLL) leader for some advice. Speaking to her put my mind at ease. She informed me that, nutritionally, breast milk is providing Luca with everything he needs apart from fibre. Owing to the fact that breast milk has a laxative effect, lack of fibre isn’t really an issue. Luca certainly hasn’t been ‘plugged up’ – quite the opposite, in fact!

The LLL leader also informed me that many breastfed toddlers at Luca’s age go through a period of going off food and breastfeeding a lot more, with or without the addition of a new family member. This reassured me that what Luca is doing is quite normal and is likely to end without intervention on my part. Of course his behaviour may also well be meeting an emotional need at a time in his life when big changes are likely to be quite challenging for him. It feels very reassuring to be able to offer him the security and comfort that breastfeeding provides.

Interestingly, Luca tends to choose solids over breast milk when he is out visiting his little play-mates or is at Playcentre. He is probably influenced by seeing the other kids eating but I also think that he has come to associate ‘home’ with ‘breast’. Of course Jonah spends a lot of time feeding so Luca is probably inspired to have a turn when he sees his little brother enjoying a feed.

One wonderful benefit of tandem feeding has been that Luca hasn’t shown any jealousy or resentment towards Jonah. Occasionally he indicates to me that he wants me to put Jonah down so I can play with him instead, but for the most part he shows nothing but affection towards his brother. At least once each day Luca requests a cuddle with his brother, and every time I have tandem fed them (as in both feeding at the same time), Luca has either stroked Jonah’s head or held his hand. Talk about melting my heart!

Unfortunately I barely ever tandem feed them anymore. As adorable as it is, it has simply become too impractical because I need an extra hand to help Jonah out when my milk let-down happens. I have a very strong let-down and a huge milk supply so I tend to choke Jonah quite easily. Poor little fella! He typically comes on and off the breast a number of times each feed to cough and catch his breath, basically ruling out my ability to feed Luca at the same time. I had been really hopeful that breastfeeding two children might keep my milk over-supply issues at bay and initially that seemed to be the case. It took about three weeks for my body to start producing an over-abundant supply of milk. I shouldn’t complain – it’s a blessing to be able to nourish both my littlies so effortlessly.

An advantage of tandem feeding has been that if I feed Jonah off the same side as I have just fed Luca from, he is able to have a relaxing feed because he doesn’t have to battle with a full-on let-down. Neither Laura nor Luca had this opportunity until they were close to six months of age – the age at which they became mature enough to be able to easily cope with my milk let-down.

A few people have asked whether tandem feeding has been taxing on my energy levels. I am very fortunate in that I don’t seem to notice any negative effects on my health or state of well-being. I eat and drink loads and I spend a lot of the day sitting on the couch feeding – I am certainly not one of those super-mums who get out for some exercise every day. It is quite telling that I haven’t had a breast infection since Jonah’s birth. When my body is under stress I tend to get mastitis very quickly (as was the case with my first child, Laura, where I had two bouts of mastitis in the first two weeks following her birth!) Clearly my body is quite capable of feeding two children without becoming run down. In fact all those wonderful breastfeeding hormones that I am producing very frequently are probably making me feel more ‘loved up’ and happier than ever!

Another question I am often asked is if and when I intend to wean Luca. I don’t have any set time frame in mind. When I had Laura (almost 10 years ago) I decided that I would breastfeed her for as long as it was an enjoyable experience for us both (not counting the first six weeks when establishing breastfeeding was an excruciating experience for me!) I stopped enjoying it before she did. She was three when I weaned her. I guess I hold the same attitude with regards weaning Luca and Jonah. When and how it will end is anyone’s guess, but for now the three of us are enjoying our breastfeeding journey. Long may it last!

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 4.

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