Until I did it, I had little idea of what tandem nursing involved. It’s possibly an even more hush-hush topic than toddler nursing, and it can be one of the most intense but rewarding experiences of motherhood. It’s not for everyone, and even mothers who do tandem nurse have mixed feelings about it.
Tandem nursing or tandem feeding involves breastfeeding siblings of different ages concurrently. For example, when my second daughter was born, my elder daughter was 3 and continued to nurse until she was four. So for a year I was nursing a baby and a toddler. If this is the first time you have heard of tandem nursing you might be wondering why on earth anyone would attempt this incredible feat! After all, nursing children of two different ages involves a balancing act and demands on mommy’s time, attention and body that would thwart many people.
But tandem mothers are not martyrs. We do it for a reason, and the reason is usually that both children continue to have a need to breastfeed, and the mother wants to meet those needs. It can be tricky to balance the differing needs of a toddler and a baby, especially if a toddler is feeling especially needy after the arrival of a new baby. Many mothers find that after an initial settling-in period, gentle limit-setting comes into play for the older child and perhaps baby steps toward weaning (distractions, don’t offer/don’t refuse, greater involvement from dad or other helpers, an offer of snacks/drinks instead of nursing). Some mothers find that feeding the baby and the toddler at the same time works well and builds a bond between the siblings as they hold hands, look at one another and play with each other while they are nursing. On the other hand, some mothers find this experience too intense and try to keep nursings separate.
For a tandem toddler, taking turns to breastfeed and sharing their most special thing is a marvellous teaching tool. The child learns that mommy loves both children, that it’s ok to share and that nursing is good for both siblings.
For the tandem mommy, it’s easy to feel tired, touched-out and constantly in demand. Self-care becomes even more important: a hot bath alone while daddy or another helper looks after the little ones, a nourishing meal lovingly prepared by someone else, some internet surfing, a good book or the chance to immerse oneself in a magazine are all small ways to get some me-time when everyone else seems to be saying, “Me, Me, Me!” Feeling short-tempered, irritable and fatigued are all good signs that you need to recharge your batteries. A weekend away or a trip to a spa may not be practical right now as you prioritise your childrens’ needs, but with the support of your partner or helpers you may be able to find time for you during this short, but intense time of commitment and generosity.
For more information on tandem nursing visit LLLI’s Tandem Nursing page or find a Local LLL group for support.
About Lisa Hassan Scott
Lisa Hassan Scott is a stay at home mother of three little ones, age 2, 6 and 9. An American living in Great Britain for over 15 years, Lisa is a Yoga teacher certified by the British Wheel of Yoga, and a La Leche League Leader. She blogs about mothering, breastfeeding, Yoga and the mind at http://www.lisahassanscott.co.uk. Follow her on Twitter: @lisahassanscott