Tandem Breastfeeding: An Unexpected Journey

I didn’t set out to tandem breastfeed. I had thought about it, but it wasn’t something that I had absolutely decided to do.

The journey starts with the birth of my first child, a sweet baby girl. Breastfeeding was difficult. But it was something that I was determined to do. I fought through the pain, the sleepless nights, and through the constant emotional ups and downs. She was a slow weight gainer, but I was determined to breastfeed her. We had to go through frequent weight checks, each one leaving me feeling like a failure. The nurses questioned me about how often she was breastfeeding, what her diapers were like, etc. She, we, didn’t fit into the “normal” box. I breastfed her on demand, which meant that sometimes she ate every hour, sometimes every couple of hours. But, the nurses never liked that answer. They made me feel like a horrible mom that couldn’t provide for her child. But, my daughter was happy, healthy, and meeting her milestones (often early), so I did my best to shake off what they said.

Eventually, through the stories of some friends, I discovered that my daughter had an upper lip tie and posterior tongue tie. Those contributed to her slow weight gain and her reflux. They also explained why breastfeeding was so painful. We saw a pediatric dentist (after being dismissed by a pediatrician) and got her ties revised. It definitely helped, my pain went away, but what I now know is that she needed extra help to relieve the tension in her body that was caused by the ties. She also could have benefited from some suck training. But alas, nothing I can do about that now. Even though breastfeeding was going better, she was still a slow weight gainer. At 4 months old she had completely dropped off the charts. We started brown rice cereal at the advice of her pediatrician. And so began my love hate relationship with pumping. I diligently pumped every day so that I could mix the cereal with breastmilk. Slowly, she started to gain at a “normal” rate. By the time she was 6 months old we no longer had to do weight checks. Oh, what a relief that was!

Because of the journey with my daughter, breastfeeding became something very emotional for me. I worked so hard at it. I had made small goals along the way. First I just wanted to make it to 6 months. Then I wanted to make it to a year. By the time she was 12 months old, neither of us was ready to stop our breastfeeding relationship. The benefits don’t magically disappear. So, I decided that I would let her decide when she was ready to wean (with the caveat that if I wasn’t pregnant by the time she was 18 months old, then I would start the weaning process).

And then I got pregnant when she was 15 months old. That’s when the idea of tandem breastfeeding first intrigued me. I was still going by the decision to let her wean when she wants. I figured if we made it through the whole pregnancy, cool, if not, cool.

Breastfeeding while pregnant was not always easy. It was painful at times and just plain uncomfortable. But, I knew that the discomfort wouldn’t last forever. I took it one step at a time. When she was 18 months old, I couldn’t handle the constant breastfeeding anymore. So, I began to set boundaries. This blog was particularly helpful and encouraging to me. We slowly cut down on the number of times she was breastfeeding. At one point my milk dried up completely and she dry nursed. I found another blog that also was encouraging to me. I’ll be honest. So many times I wanted to give up, and almost did. But my daughter wasn’t ready, and I guess neither was I.

Towards the end of my pregnancy she was down to about once or twice a week, until the last couple weeks when her frequency slowly increased. Things were not uncomfortable at this point and she was happy to be getting colostrum.

After her brother was born, I decided to give the tandem breastfeeding a go. It’s been 16 days now. Is it easy? Nope. Am I touched out at the end of the day? Yep. Is it hard to set boundaries with the toddler? Absolutely. Do I regret our journey? Never.

Some days are easier than others. Today the toddler was a hot mess crying for “Boobie” constantly when her brother ate. It broke my heart that I couldn’t give her everything she wanted when she wanted it. But, I also know that learning boundaries is good for her. We’re still figuring this whole thing out. The sweet moments when she holds her brother’s hand as they breastfeed or when they both fall asleep on the boob, make it all worth it. I don’t know how long this journey will continue, and that’s okay, I don’t have to know. We’re taking things one day at a time.

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1st kid vs. 2nd kid

​1st: every comment someone makes you take personally 

2nd: you don’t care what people say

1st: watch them at all times to make sure they’re breathing
2nd: leave them sleeping peacefully in the other room

1st: time going out so you minimize possibility of breastfeeding in public
2nd: breastfeed anywhere without worrying what others think

1st: overstocked diaper bag
2nd: yah, I think I have enough diapers

1st: hold the baby all the time
2nd: put the baby down, let others hold him
(This one has a bit to do with their personalities though)

1st: carefully swaddle baby and put to sleep in the rock n play, pack n play, bassinet, etc.
2nd: forget swaddling and bedshare from day one

1st: worry about every cry
2nd: he’ll be okay, oh he needs to be burped

1st: get emotionally hung up on how baby is developing, growing, etc.
2nd: trust instincts, advocate better, less stressed

1st: record every pee, poop, and feeding
2nd: who has time for that?

1st: I’ll go pee, eat, etc. later
2nd: multi-task and/or be okay with baby crying for a minute while you take care of your needs

1st: take 5 million pictures, record every milestone, new place visited, etc.
2nd: take half as many pictures, remember later that it was the first time doing something

1st: take on full responsibility for caring for the child
2nd: let others help

1st: worry about every noise, rash, etc.
2nd: it’s all normal

1st: stress about jaundice levels
2nd: know that everything will be okay even if phototherapy is needed

1st: spend hours stuck on the couch with a breastfeeding/sleeping baby
2nd: walk around while breastfeeding…yay for multi-tasking

1st: make sure everyone washes their hands before holding/touching baby
2nd: okay, you look clean enough and like you aren’t sick

Everett’s Birth Story

​Oh my sweet Everett, you are more than I could have ever hoped or dreamed for. Your journey into this world is not what I would have chosen, but it was perfect. 
Your labor and birth was so different, yet similar to your sister’s. She came 2 days early, and you made us wait until almost 42 weeks. But you came just when you were supposed to. You needed more time to grow and plump up.

So let’s get to the details of your story.

I went to the hospital on Friday, July 1st to start the induction process. Even though I had been having contractions for 3.5 weeks, I was only 2cm dilated and you hadn’t made your way down yet. So, we needed help to get labor started (the doctor didn’t want you to stay in past 42 weeks). Even though induction is not what I wanted, I had peace about it. I was ready to meet my baby boy!

We checked into the hospital around 4pm and were greeted by a familiar face. Our nurse Misha had taken care of us before when I thought I was in labor a couple weeks prior. She took good care of us. I had a cooks catheter placed at 7 something. This device helps dilate the cervix and can start labor. Around 3 hours later it fell out. I had some mild contractions, but things still weren’t starting. The midwife let us get some rest overnight and wait until the morning for the next steps. By Saturday morning things still hadn’t started yet. I was dilated to a 3 which got stretched to a 4. We waited a little bit longer to see if things would happen, but they didn’t. So, we started pitocin and the first round of penicillin (thanks group b strep) around 9:40. That got the party started finally.

Contractions were consistent, but still not strong enough. Each hour the dosage of pitocin got upped by 1 until we were at a 5. It was my goal and desire to be able to get off the pitocin before birth actually happened.

I have to pause here to say that during this whole process, I felt very empowered, encouraged, and respected. All of the midwives were supportive of my desire to have as few interventions and drugs as possible. Though Chrysantha’s birth was much smoother, I didn’t always feel like everyone was on board with the plan and I had a hard time speaking up for myself. This time I made myself heard and was able to have good discussions about each step of the process.

Back to the story. Contractions started picking up and getting consistent in the afternoon. The pitocin was working to dilate my cervix. We were able to turn down the pitocin, which I was very thankful for. I was definitely nervous about having pitocin. I had heard from several people that it made contractions really intense and the natural rise and fall and rests don’t necessarily happen. But my body was kind and though the contractions were more intense, they still had a very nice pattern that made them bearable. Contractions were happening consistently and building, I was dilating more and we were able to turn off the pitocin completely. I was so relieved! Things kept happening, but progress was slow. Everyone was fine with taking things a step at a time. I was thankful for the opportunity to let my body do what I knew it was capable of on its own.

I got to labor in lots of different positions. With Chrysantha I was a lot more tense at times and didn’t want to change things in case they didn’t work. It was good to try a variety of things.

A few things came up. When I was getting my last dose of penicillin, my arm started hurting really badly. Dealing with that in the middle of intense contractions was NOT fun. After my nurses tried to fix things, I ended up just having them take it out. It was sooo much better to labor untethered. I had more freedom to move around and things were finally going how I hoped they would.

Everett’s water broke a little after midnight on Sunday July 3rd. We thought that would move things along. Well, Mr. Ev had different plans. He moved back up the birth canal and managed to keep some of the bag intact in front of him. 

Unfortunately my contractions started slowing down. The monitor wasn’t very good at picking them up anyways. But because things slowed down we had to discuss our next options. I was thankful for the rest I was getting in between contractions, but I knew that things couldn’t go on forever. So, we agreed for the midwife to break the bag of waters that was left. Again, we hoped that this would get things moving along. It helped the contractions pick up, but they were too far apart. They were super intense though and I did my best to gently push Ev down during the contractions, but he just wasn’t budging.

Finally it’s around 3 am, my contractions are slowing and the OB on duty is pressuring my midwife to move things along. She comes to talk to me and we agree to having her place an internal contraction monitor and to start me back on pitocin. The thought of being hooked up to the IV again and having that potential pain was not sitting well with me. When my midwife was inserting the internal monitor I started getting painful contractions. So, we abandoned the plan and she helped me push Ev out. It was just the jumpstart we needed! It took 4 painfully long minutes of pushing to get Ev to come out. He was a lot harder to get out than Chrysantha was. Once her head was showing it took less than a minute. With him, these 4 minutes, though not long in actuality, felt like they were forever. I was thankful to have a mirror to see the progress. Seeing his cute little hair gave me the energy and strength I needed to fight through the pain and push him out.

After he arrived we figured out why things had been more difficult. He came out with one of his arms touching the opposite shoulder and the umbilical cord loosely wrapped around his belly. He needed the extra help to move down and get out.

Meeting him was definitely worth all of the waiting and the pain. The nurse kept remarking how he didn’t have any of the signs of a past due baby. The amniotic fluid was clear, he wasn’t peeling, he wasn’t big, etc. She said he looked like a 38 week gestation baby. All of those things just reinforced my conviction to wait for him to be born. I’m glad we didn’t force him out sooner, he clearly wasn’t ready. He came at just the perfect time. He was brave and strong in his entrance and he brought peace. I love my sweet Everett Ninghai and I am so thankful for him! I learned a lot through his birthing process. And sweet boy that he is pooped on me right after birth!