Tandem breastfeeding – the early months

Talitha and Ophelia in hospital

I transferred to hospital a few hours after Ophelia’s home birth because the midwives were unsure about the severity of my tear.

So, Talitha, who’d been at her grandparents’ house during the labour and birth, first met her new baby sister at the “hopsital” as she calls it.

She’s still a little confused about that. Sometimes she’ll say that Ophelia came out of my tummy at the “hopsital” and other times she’ll say that it was in the paddling pool in our livingroom (it was a real birth pool, by the way).

Anyway, she was so excited to see Ophelia, who was snuggled up in the stretchy wrap. She exclaimed, first thing: “Mummy, your baby is not in your tummy anymore! Your baby is in your sling!”

After the excitement of checking out the new baby settled down, barely, she wondered if she could have “milky”. I think I must have been feeding Ophelia at the time because I somehow ended up with one at each breast.

Laurence wondered if I’d want a photo of this first tandem feed but I asked him not to. It felt awkward and strange. I endured it for a while but then nursed them separately which felt much better.

Over the next few weeks, I kept trying to feed them together in hope that we’d all three get a nap, to include Talitha when she seemed to feel a bit left out or because I’d started nursing Talitha and suddenly Ophelia needed me.

It was frustrating for all of us. Ophelia needed a lot of support and kept slipping off. Talitha couldn’t get into a good position. I felt touched out and stressed in a way I’d only experienced while breastfeeding in the first trimester.

I felt angry at Talitha for being so demanding. I found her crying annoying. Ophelia’s cries drew all my compassion. Breastfeeding Ophelia was so lovely, so natural, all I wanted to do. Breastfeeding Talitha was a chore.

The nursing aversion was powerful. I wanted to throw her off me. To walk away from her. I felt guilty for feeling this way but, looking back on it, I was incredibly hormonal and still trying to find some balance.

Everything rushing through my body was telling me to prioritise the newborn who was utterly dependent, needing everything from me. My mind knew that my older child, only two-and-a-half still needed me too, especially now that her world was changing.

Friends who were breastfeeding supporters offered wisdom and empathy. Laurence was very supportive too. He took Ophelia at bedtime so I could spend that special time of day with Talitha and give her a bedtime feed.

I decided to limit her time at the breast for both our sakes. First it was three times a day, then two, morning and bedtime. Then I started counting to ten when it got uncomfortable. At first she would cry every time I asked her to unlatch.

I felt awful about it so would let her go on some more but then she kept pushing for more and I kept feeling like it was all too much. So I began to stick with ten for consistency.

It felt like an endless cycle and I dreaded feeding her, knowing it would only end in tears as she would go on and on, breastfeeding for far longer than her newborn sister would if I’d let her, which I just couldn’t bear to do.

Many times, I wanted to wean her on the spot. I talked to a few women who’d breastfed beyond infancy or tandem breastfed to get some ideas and encouragement. They reminded me that it was still really early days and that things would change and settle. I knew they were right but it didn’t feel that way at the time.

And I’m not sure when it did but it has settled. Breastfeeding Ophelia is still a dream. Breastfeeding Talitha twice a day is mostly manageable but sometimes quite lovely too.

It’s mostly just for a few moments, actually. She usually decides she’s had enough before I have. She’s also started asking for other forms of comforting if she’s sad, hurt or unwell in the day (times when I would nurse her if she asked) though she will still have the odd feed in those instances.

She is three now and I veer between thinking she’s weaning and that she has time yet to go. I know that I am encouraging weaning by placing restrictions but that feels right for us.

It also feels right to continue to allow this to be a gradual thing. She said something yesterday which convinced me again that it is so. I told her that it is alright for her to start doing more things for herself, without my help.

She replied: “I am big but I am still little.”

Yes, yes you are, my little big one.


This post had a giveaway attached, hence some comments are a little random.