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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