I can't tandem nurse -- right? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 04-15-2011, 05:44 PM - Thread Starter
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I had breast cancer many years before having a kid (diagnosed at age 26), so one of my breasts had several surgeries. I chose not to have radiation. Fast forward -- I got pregnant at 34 after bring in remission for the entire intervening time, had a healthy pregnancy and a great homebirth. DD (now 3 years old) has always nursed successfully from both breasts. Back when I used to pump, the breast that had had surgery produced about half as much milk as the other one. Now that DD is old enough, she has a very strong preference for the breast that never had surgery, and spends about 80% of her nursing time there.


She also switches back and forth between my breasts very frequently, I suspect as a way to get more milk out of them -- maybe she gets the most milk in the first few "sucks" on each side?


She is still very passionate about nursing. I would be very surprised if she weaned on her own anytime soon. She nurses about 3-4x/day on average (occasionally 2x, sometimes 7-8x).


I'm very newly pregnant again, and hoping this little one will stick!


I like the idea of tandem nursing, but when I think about the reality of it, I don't think it's an option for me. DD would not accept being told she has to nurse on the "bad" breast so the new baby could have the "good" breast -- talk about setting up serious sibling rivalry! And I wouldn't feel safe/comfortable feeding a baby exclusively from a breast that is, quite simply, broken -- it has permanent damage from surgery 11 years ago that probably saved my life. I assume women who only have one breast (for whatever reason) can't tandem nurse, and I don't think I can do it with 1 1/2 breasts, either. (Ironically, the breast that had the surgery LOOKS great -- if you saw me topless you probably wouldn't be able to tell which breast had surgery, and the scar is hidden by sheer luck of where my cancer was. But it's what's inside that counts, in this case...)


Beyond that, I think DD's constant need/desire to switch sides would also mean she'd always be mad at the baby for having whatever side she wanted. It just seems like I'd be setting them up for a bad dynamic.


So I think I will have to wean DD before the babe arrives, even though I'd rather not, and I KNOW she'd rather not.


The sad thing is that:

1) I've had several miscarriages in the 4-10 week range before, so I'm not going to even begin to wean DD until 12 weeks. If I were to lose this one, then there's no reason for DD to wean.

2) DD's memory is so good and long at this age that even if she's weaned when the baby arrives, she will clearly remember nursing -- especially if we have a somewhat gradual weaning process that lasts a few months. Then I fear she'll be terribly jealous when she sees the baby getting something she remembers loving and may still want.


Ack, this is hard!!! I'm feeling pretty afraid about it.


I welcome ideas/thoughts/experiences/confirmation/sympathy.






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#2 of 9 Old 04-15-2011, 06:05 PM
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I don't think there's any absolute answer for you, but my DD was a constant side switcher, and after DS was born I started limiting her to just nursing from one side. she's only 22 months, but was perfectly fine with saving the other side for her brother. I also don't usually nurse them at the same time. lots of people recommend nursing the baby first and then letting the toddler have what's left. remember, even if you're not producing as much on one side, it's still supply and demand, and your body will make more milk if you have both kids nursing rather than just one. there's also a chance your DD will wean on her own during the pregnancy, many do when the milk goes away. 

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#3 of 9 Old 04-22-2011, 07:36 PM
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Congratulations on your pregnancy!  Here's to a healthy, sticky babe!

I'm 16 weeks pregnant and still nursing my 27 month old.  My left breast has always been the main supplier, with the right being a faaaaaar second.  DD has always used the right one as more of a comfort nurse.  I had to supplement with DD, with both donor milk and formula, while using a Lact-Aid sns at the breast. 

I've told DD that she'll be able to nurse after the baby has nursed, and only for a short time.  I've told that she is big now, and can eat fun things like blueberries and cottage cheese, but that the baby is too small to eat 'real' food.  She gets it, and has told me a few times that when the baby comes she's going to nurse after the baby has nursed, so that the baby gets enough milk to grow up big and strong.

I pumped after each feed for the first couple of months after dd was born, so I figure she can be the pump, being that I never produced for the pump and so never used it to supplement.  I used the pump more as a stimulator in hopes of boosting my supply.

Long and rambling post to say that I'm not forcing weaning, but we are talking about how things will change when the baby comes. 

Again, good luck on a fabulous pregnancy!

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#4 of 9 Old 04-23-2011, 03:31 PM
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Things change a lot with pregnancy, and I'm sure her nursing habits will definitely change as your pregnancy continues. Your milk will likely dry up after a couple months, so a lot of her nursing habits will surely change. I'm no expert, but I don't necessarily see why you can't tandem. Some people nurse triplets, so that's like less than a boob per baby. I'd just be cautious in the beginning to be sure your LO's gaining well before giving your older one free reign of which boob, how long, having both, etc. Good luck!!

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#5 of 9 Old 04-24-2011, 05:30 AM
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I wouldn't assume that the switching is related to your breasts. Lots of kids switch a lot. It's a common question. I personally didn't allow it as I considered it bad nursing manners. Tandem nursing is not for me so I can't comment on that. Good luck with your pregnancy!

DS (6.06), DD (10.08), DD (05.11).

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#6 of 9 Old 04-25-2011, 03:54 AM
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I thought long and hard about tandem nursing, but it ended up never being an issue- DS1 weaned very naturally (almost without me noticing!) at 22 months when I was about 4 months pregnant. I then thought long and hard about whether I would "let" him nurse if he asked again after the baby came, but he never asked. So- maybe a wait and see approach is best at this point. Good luck!


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#7 of 9 Old 04-26-2011, 03:18 PM
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Try reading the LLL book Adventures in Tandem nursing.  I found it very interesting (and I think it is somewhat mis-titled - there is a lot of weaning going on in that book). 


Don't borrow trouble from tomorrow - you don't know what your DD will be like in 9 months, and there are a lot of great ways to get her used to the idea of either being done nursing or sharing it with a little baby.



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#8 of 9 Old 05-04-2011, 12:12 PM
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I think that at 3, she may be able to understand that the baby has more nutritional needs for breast milk than she does. Once you are comfortable (and feeling safe about a sticky pregnancy) I would start talking to her about the new baby coming and needing to nurse and explain that while she will still be able to nurse, the baby needs mommy's milk to grow big and strong like she did. Continue to reiterate the idea that by letting the baby have more milk she is "helping" the baby. It may also help her feel involved on days when all you are doing is nursing, etc. 

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#9 of 9 Old 05-05-2011, 09:27 AM
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Hi there. I totally understand hesitancy to wean.  She will be nearly 4 when the baby comes?  I agree that she may self wean if your milk dries up, or you may prefer to allow her to wean if nursing causes discomfort (I night weaned my son because it was very uncomfortable to nurse him at night).  I do think that you could tandem in your situation.  


You could ask your daughter to nurse only from one side per nursing session.


You could have a time limit for her.  (Ds was allowed to nurse for the length of a song, eventually).


You could limit her to certain times of the day and your body will adjust by making more milk at that time of day.  If you eat and drink enough, you will make enough milk.  If someone always nurses on the slow flow side, it will increase production.  One of my sides is way faster.  It is the favorite for my toddlers and despised by my newborns.  May be a best of both worlds kind of thing.


I personally never mentioned that the baby was the reason for my limits, and all the changes came before the baby except limiting nursing to certain times of day.  When my milk came in, he was asking more often than she was and I felt like we needed more limits for my sanity.


I once read a magazine article about a woman who had been badly burned and lost one of her nipples.  She successfully breastfed twins with one breast.  Our bodies are amazing and it's totally possible.  I can't find anything about it online or I would send you a link.  It was a really inspirational.  


Just wanted to chime in with, totally possible.  Good luck.


ETA: It's wonderful having a nursing toddler when engorgement sets in.  Like woah.  When a baby drifts off nursing and you're still way too full, it's very nice for a wandering by toddler to ask if they can jump and polish everything else off.

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