Ten things that happen when you’re tandem breastfeeding

Despite the universal-sounding title, this is just how it’s gone and is going for me, breastfeeding older and younger siblings at the same time. The first thing you learn when you start asking other tandem breastfeeding mothers about their experiences is that nothing is exactly the same for everyone. No one can predict how they’re going to feel or what they’re going to need to do. We can share ideas and offer solidarity but there’s no roadmap, no rulebook.

I tandem breastfed for sixteen months the first time around, until my eldest, Talitha, was four years old. Who knows how long we’ll get to this time but I’m now breastfeeding both three year old Ophelia and her nine month old baby sister, Delilah.

I know how crazy this sounds because, believe me, I never expected any of this. Until I met mothers who were tandem breastfeeding, I didn’t know it was possible. It’s not something I held up as an ideal or hoped to do, even when I fell pregnant the third time around. It just kind of happened. Each time, I had a toddler who still needed to be breastfed while also finding myself pregnant, which brings me to the first thing that happens when you’re tandem breastfeeding.

You discover it starts before the baby is even here.

The sore nipples. The disappearing milk. The sickness. The breastfeeding aversion. Already you are sharing yourself between the child at your breast and the one growing inside you. It happens sooner than you expect. Already they are in tandem.

It looks like it will happen. Like it won’t happen. Maybe it will happen.
I wrote a whole post about how I thought Talitha was weaning. I went through the range of emotions over this. She didn’t. And you know, I did it all again when it was Ophelia’s turn too. Except I really, really thought she’d wean in pregnancy. And I felt irrationally guilty because it felt too soon. But then she didn’t either!

You start to wrap your head around the possibility.

At some point, after wondering, “would we, wouldn’t we?”, it was evident that yes, this really was happening. I most likely was going to be breastfeeding my older and younger kids simultaneously. I borrowed and scoured the book Adventures in Tandem Nursing from Bristol La Leche League.

You have all. the. questions.
Is my nursing aversion normal? (Yup!) Will it go away when the new baby comes? (Certainly for the baby) Will I make enough milk? (All being straightforward, more demand = more production) Do I have to worry about the baby getting enough colostrum? (Nope! As long no issues on the baby’s side) Who feeds first? (Probably the baby but it doesn’t have to be a rule) What if one of them has a cold? (It’s good your milk’s going to get fighting it – they’re probably sharing the germs anyway) WHAT IS IT GOING TO BE LIKE? (Sorry, no one can help you there!)

You fumble with positions.
You see all these photos online of mothers peacefully breastfeeding their two together. I persevered a bit more with it with Talitha and Ophelia but it’s never really worked for me. I find the experience of breastfeeding two at literally the same time utterly overwhelming from a sensory point of view. It makes me want to throw things.

I saw a photo the other day of someone tandem breastfeeding on her side with her baby lying on top of her toddler. It looked so lovely. I might try that out of curiosity and because it would give all three of my kids the giggles but, realistically, we have a one at a time deal going here.

In the earliest days, I could never latch the baby well enough with the older one in the way or coach the older one on where to go without the baby slipping off so it was a no-go from that perspective too. I know breastfeeding together absolutely works for some but I’m not alone in finding it really tricky.

You hit a sweet spot.
The older one holds your breast to “feed the baby”. They hold hands while breastfeeding together. You reconnect after a difficult toddler day with a simple breastfeed. You find a way to get them both to sleep.

You hit a hard place.
Your older child finds it hard to share. Your nursing aversion, though not an issue with the baby, hasn’t gone away with your older nursling. You navigate impatience, theirs and yours.

I’ve had to insist that we reserve breastfeeding the older child to when I have another adult around, in case I need someone to hold the baby. This isn’t how it works for everyone but it’s something I find takes the pressure off the situation.

Sometimes it’s hilarious.

Breastfeeding has acquired a new dialogue these days. My older two sometimes give me a replay by laughingly pretending to breastfeed each other.
“OK, we’re going to need to stop now.”
“But I want MUH!”
“It has to be nice for both of us.”
They obviously find it amusing, which makes me feel better about needing to call the feed to an end most of the time.

Your younger baby gets possessive.

Delilah isn’t there yet but I remember Ophelia hit a stage where she was absolutely unwilling to share me with Talitha. She would try to pull Talitha off me if I was breastfeeding her and needed to be distracted.

People ask when you’re going to wean your younger baby

You smile to yourself. Little do they know…

All of a sudden it’s over.
In a sense, Talitha’s weaning was a long time coming. Well, obviously, it was as she was four years old but I mean she was gradually breastfeeding less and less frequently. And then that was it. I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t known the last time was the last time. That was that.

I also didn’t know I’d one day do it again.

More blog posts on this topic:
Tandem breastfeeding – the early months
Things I’ve learned while breastfeeding through pregnancy
How weaning happened – the end of our breastfeeding journey

Information on tandem breastfeeding:
Pregnant and breastfeeding? – an La Leche League Great Britain resource on breastfeeding while pregnant and tandem breastfeeding.


34 weeks pregnant with baby number three

Six plus weeks to go still feels a long time but a look through our calendar with most weekends booked up until then and it really isn’t a long time at all.

Physically, all is looking as it should. A midwife appointment last Thursday confirmed that the baby is head down and that my iron levels are in good shape. A Spatone smoothie a day has kept the anemia away so far. This is my first non-anemic pregnancy.

The girls went with me this time. Talitha was delighted to hear the baby’s heartbeat and fascinated when the midwife took my blood. I’m not sure how much Ophelia understood because she was mainly fixated on showing the midwife her boots, repeatedly.

Other than being a bit sore and stiff at the end of a day when I’ve overdone it, pelvic girdle pain isn’t an issue this time so far, which I’m so grateful for because I haven’t been able to make it to an osteopath as I did in my second pregnancy and I was practically housebound at points in my first.

I do have to watch it, though, and am trying to listen to my body in terms of walking and lifting. The kids inevitably keep me active, which is a good thing, even if I pay in soreness later. I’m finding a shower in the evening really helps with that.

I am, however, feeling utterly, utterly exhausted. I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this tired in my life. Not even in that first sleep deprived year with Talitha when she woke all. the. time. I’ve upped my vitamin D but I think feeling tired just going to be the theme for the next few weeks. I remember feeling so much better after having Ophelia so I’m hoping that will happen again.

A pregnancy massage at the Lido in Clifton yesterday was just what I needed. Laurence bought me a voucher for my birthday as he had in my first pregnancy five years ago. I may have drifted in and out of sleep, hopefully without snoring! I’m still feeling its effects today, despite nursing a headache.

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Emotionally, I am really looking forward to the birth. I’ve been listening to Katharine Graves’ hypnobirthing CD and despite falling asleep by the first few affirmations (I need to start listening in the day time too!), it’s been helping me to get into a really positive, empowered mindset. Maybe it’s reminding me about the things I loved about the last home birth?

We also went to another Bristol Home Birth Group meeting last night, which was interesting because it raised a big topic for us. We’ve been discussing whether to have the kids there. We planned to just keep Talitha home last time but I changed my mind last minute as I found her too distracting. In retrospect, though, I was still in the early stages of labour and had quite a long way to go. If she had been around, perhaps I wouldn’t have given my surges more attention than they required too soon.

Talking about it last night, we realised we had a conflict of approaches. I want the birth to be normalised as a part of our everyday life as far as possible and I feel it’s better to focus on what we want and expect to happen than give to much energy to what might happen. Laurence, on the other hand, is being far more pragmatic, probably because he’s the one who will be saddled with their care. In the end, I think we’ve seen that both perspectives have value and balance each other. So, we’ve made arrangments with various family members (we’re so lucky to have so many in Bristol) and we’ve agreed to wait and see.

I’ve almost completed the blanket I’ve been crocheting for this baby. The last bits are boring so finishing them feels a real labour of love, which it is. I love her already. It’s my first project of this size so it’s been a real journey getting here, even though it’s far from perfect. I hope to share it with you soon.

Practically, I haven’t sorted most of what I had by this stage the last couple of times. I’ve gathered clothes here and there but I haven’t actually laid everything out to see what I need. Hilariously, a pregnancy website I was looking at was telling me that at 34 weeks, it might be worth giving the hospital bag a last minute check! I’m definitely not there yet.

Nappies weren’t sorted up until the weekend when a friend sold me her cloth stash at a bargainous price. I said I was going to make cloth wipes since all of ours are pretty much threadbare but it doesn’t look likely now and having seen the quality of some Cheeky Wipes the same friend had, I may just buy a set of those.

34 weeks pregnant-2

I’ve also been starting to think about what I’m going to wear after the baby’s here. I didn’t give this any attention in either of the last two pregnancies and found myself with clothes that were either annoying to breastfeed a newborn in or didn’t fit well in the postpartum period. So I’m appreciating getting my wardrobe started with this blue dress [pictured] sent to me by Vertbaudet. I can wear it now while pregnant but it also has poppers for breastfeeding once the baby is here. I think I may well end up in dresses until the autumn now, especially when it’s hot.

Parenting feels like it’s evolving as we get ready to add a third child to our family. I’m aware that having a baby sibling will be different for Talitha at five than it was at two years and eight months. Yet I’m also aware that it will be different for Ophelia than it was for Talitha, not just because she’ll be three months younger but because she is a different person.

While they’re both more conscious of my bump than I am a lot of the time, Ophelia is the one who draws most attention to it, probably because she’s the one who most needs a lap, a cuddle in bed or to be carried. It melts me when either of them talks to the baby but Ophelia is the one most prone to do so.

Ophelia is still breastfeeding, albeit for only a few moments at bedtime, only ever on one side. Often she will decide she’s had enough. I find it a relief because I’m experiencing even more nursing aversion than I did with Talitha. Perhaps my body is saying, “Too much.” Her latch has also changed and I’m not convinced that she is getting any colostrum, though it is there.

It seems entirely possible that she could wean in the next month. Part of me feels sad to think that she could wean so soon when I breastfed her sister to age four. There may also be some guilt there because I know I’ve encouraged her quite a lot, with more limits than her sister had. Yet, breastfeeding isn’t something that can be measured or predicted.

I wonder how both girls will adapt to a new sibling. Attentions already divided will become more so. Already they don’t always get what they want or need. It’s just not possible. I have to trust that what I give will be enough in the long run and appreciate how much they have already gained in each other.

I look at these two, how different they are and how easily I love them both, and wonder what my love will look like when it expands to a third.

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Read more updates from this pregnancy with baby number three:
31 weeks pregnant
28 weeks pregnant
25 weeks pregnant
22 weeks pregnant
20 weeks pregnant
18 weeks pregnant
16 weeks pregnant
12 weeks pregnant


Things I’ve learned while breastfeeding through pregnancy

I’m 24 weeks pregnant and this is my second time breastfeeding while pregnant. Believe me when I say this is not something I imagined doing once, let alone twice.

Struggling for months to establish breastfeeding with Talitha (y’know, tongue tie, low milk production, the most stressful experience of my life), the idea of making it to a year seemed a vague “maybe”. So I couldn’t have expected that not only would age two find us still breastfeeding but that I’d fall pregnant around then and wind up breastfeeding her for two more years.

As I said before, baby number three wasn’t totally expected but we’d been talking a lot about having another. Somehow, in all that chat, I never considered about the possibility that I could be breastfeeding Ophelia while pregnant.

Even now that she’s two and we’re well beyond halfway through the pregnancy, I couldn’t place bets on whether or not I’ll go on to tandem breastfeed again when the new baby is born. The only certainty is that I’ve learned and am learning a lot through these less-discussed experiences. Here’s a little of what I’ve been reflecting on.

Every baby is different
This is obvious, isn’t it? Well, it should certainly be by now. From newborn days, Ophelia made it clear that she was not a carbon copy of her big sister. She breastfed differently, slept differently, learned to move differently, wanted different things and expressed those desires and needs in different ways.

Yet, my first child kind of laid my expectations for what would happen and when. I fell pregnant with Ophelia and night weaning was a relatively easy process. Laurence took over going to her in the night (at two, she’d just moved into her own bedroom) and she was upset about it at first but he stayed with her and within a couple of nights she accepted that this was the new arrangement. Soon after, she began to sleep through.

I have to say that this experience made me wonder when mothers said that their kids wouldn’t accept comfort from their partners whether it wasn’t simply a case of them needing to persist more. That’s because I hadn’t yet met Ophelia.

From the start, she has only wanted to know me. It took a long time for her to even let anyone else hold her and if she settled when I left the room, she would cry for me as soon as I re-entered it.

Unsurprisingly, when I fell pregnant again and discomfort kicked in, night weaning her was not an uncomplicated process. Rather, it took about three. bloody. months. Three months filled with a lot of waking for all of us and no sign of her willingly moving into her own bed either.

After repeatedly offering alternatives, reassuring and explaining the situation, she finally began to accept a quick cuddle to sleep when she woke. Gradually, she accepted this from Laurence instead of me. Now she’s starting to spend the odd night in her own bed but we really don’t mind having her in ours. She still wakes most nights but we’ve settled into a pattern that works for our family.

breastfeeding while pregnant-6

Every mother is different
Again, I should know this by now but the huge range of ways women experience breastfeeding in pregnancy still manages to surprise me. For me, pregnancy has quickly brought on nursing aversion and physical discomfort and it’s triggered my nausea in the first trimester both times. Other mums find it hurts but I’ve not had that as long as I’ve latched my toddler on carefully.

I have found that I absolutely cannot tolerate breastfeeding at night when pregnant, primarily because of nausea, and night weaning has been imperative for me. Other mothers manage not to night wean and even go on to breastfeed their toddler and baby at night.

Many highly motivated mothers find that they need to wean altogether. Others find the baby weans on their own, perhaps when supply dips or colostrum comes in. Yet others find that their milk never depletes at all.

I’m sure the older baby’s age can affect our experiences and choices in different ways but something breastfeeding while pregnant has taught me is that we can’t always predict what we’re going to do or how we’re going to feel.

Everything can’t be even
I think I’m a relatively easygoing person, happy to go with the flow on a lot of things. However, it’s upset my sense of order when I’ve realised that I can’t give my children the same things.

I fell pregnant with this baby when Ophelia was 20-months-old, my milk seemed to decrease more rapidly this time and I found myself offering her fewer opportunities to breastfeed during the day than I had with Talitha.

She’s always asked less than her sister did and so it’s unsurprising that we’ve breastfed less and less as the weeks have rolled by. Now most days she has just a feed before bedtime and maybe one at wakeup if I’m trying to convince her not to drag me out of bed just yet. Sometimes I have to initiate the end of the feed but most of the time now, she loses interest in moments, asks for a glass of water and a cuddle and just goes to sleep. So it’s not hard to imagine that she could possibly wean before the new baby comes.

The thought of her weaning so much earlier than her sister did makes me feel uneasy on one hand and relieved the next because if I’m completely honest with myself, I’m not certain that I want to tandem breastfeed again. There were a lot of pros. I really feel that it eased Talitha’s transition out of her position of “baby” in the family and it would be great to give Ophelia the same. Breastfeeding a toddler meant there was a plentiful milk supply for my newborn. In fact, Ophelia’s poo turned yellow on the day one, she never lost weight and I didn’t experience engorgement.

However, I never got the hang of latching them both on at once when the newborn needed so much support to stay in position and when I did, I felt hugely overwhelmed so it was only something I resorted to if desperate. That meant a lot of work in the early days helping Talitha to wait. Then again, waiting on a newborn is something older siblings must learn anyway and the early days are always challenging.

Breastfeeding while pregnant - what I learned

There’s a part of me that thinks the things that were difficult about breastfeeding two were simply things that are difficult about learning to parent two. As we all adjusted, it got easier and I really appreciated being able to maintain that bond with my older child, allowing her to move away in her own time, with some gentle encouragement, when she was ready.

I could lie awake at night stressing, measuring how long each one got breastfed. Yet I have almost as little control over this as I do the ability to go back in time and give Talitha the easy start to breastfeeding that Ophelia had.

I’m realising that, over the course of our lives, I will give them different things. That those things won’t always be “even” does not mean I don’t love them equally. If anything, this is just another reminder that love isn’t something we can measure.

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How weaning happened – the end of our breastfeeding journey

I didn’t set out to breastfeed my older daughter as long as I did. I doubt anyone gazes into the face of their newborn and imagines breastfeeding them for four years.

Certainly, at the time, I felt like we’d be blessed to get to six months. When the difficulties with her tongue-tie and my low milk supply kicked in, my goal became to take it one feed at a time.

By the time her first birthday came into view (a landmark I was just relieved to make), I’d learned a lot more about breastfeeding, through reading, meeting other mothers and undergoing training to become a breastfeeding peer supporter. And I learned about benefits that stretched far beyond the first year.

Beyond that, it felt unnatural to wean her just then when she clearly derived so much comfort and enjoyment from it. Frankly, we both did. Breastfeeding was still an easy way to get her to sleep, it soothed her tears and fears and it left less to worry about with her fussy eating. I continued to breastfeed her because it made us happy and it felt respectful of her needs.

New challenges came as she grew older and I was glad to know other mothers who breastfed beyond infancy. There was that nursing strike when she was fifteen months, which turned out to be down to tonsillitis. We had nursing gymnastics, nipple twiddling and generally, breastfeeding manners that needed to be learned. Over time, it became natural to ask her to wait in certain situations. I learned to trust that we would find the right time to wean.

Then I found out I was pregnant with Ophelia. That’s when breastfeeding became more something I was doing for her, because I no longer enjoyed it most of the time. I’ve blogged candidly about breastfeeding through the first, second and third trimesters. At one point in the pregnancy, I thought she was weaning. I think it would have been just fine if I’d weaned her then but we’d have missed out on what came next.

When Ophelia was born, I found tandem breastfeeding a mixed experience but I could still see the value breastfeeding had for her. In many ways, it helped to smooth the almighty upheaval that adding a second child to our family was for all of us.

Her third birthday came and went and it seemed clear that breastfeeding was still in the picture. We’d have lighthearted chats by then about the fact that she would eventually stop breastfeeding, though I was open ended about when. I didn’t breastfeed her during the day anymore or outside the house. And she didn’t breastfeed that often. Sometimes days would pass before she’d remember she wanted a feed.

By then breastfeeding her had become quite comfortable. I’d fallen into a rhythm with both children and it was a mostly happy part of that. It even became a really important mothering tool for my preschooler.

She began to volunteer that she “would stop having milky” when she was four. I nodded, not paying it too much mind, telling her she could if she wanted to but that she didn’t have to. We know children older than that who are still breastfeeding so I don’t think she felt pressure in that respect.

Still, it felt like things were winding down. I can’t even put a finger on why. Maybe we were both ready. It wasn’t solely child-led, self weaning like I’d felt so strongly about when she was younger. I know that it was partially mother-led too. I know that when I put limits – shortening feeds, asking her to wait – all of that was me weaning her. And that’s felt fine. Breastfeeding truly has been a relationship.

I can’t remember a last feed. It would have been about a week before her fourth birthday, two months ago. She hasn’t breastfed since. She’s told me that she’s all grown up and doesn’t have it anymore. I feel content that she has moved on – maybe with a little sadness that she is losing all her babyness and this is another part of that.

I’m so grateful that I was able to breastfeed her at all. It’s shaped our family in so many ways. In a sense, it’s strange that something so hard fought for in the beginning and so influential over the years should end so quietly, so peacefully.

EDIT: I can’t believe I forgot to mention this when I originally wrote this post but, about a month after her last feed, Talitha asked for it again. I felt unsure about it (I think I had psychologically moved on) but I agreed. When she tried, she couldn’t do it anymore. She told me it wasn’t working. I explained that that was because she’d got bigger and didn’t need it anymore. She was a bit (just a bit) upset about this at first but she soon moved on. I thought she might want to make up for it by wanting to sleep in our bed for a bit or being more cuddly but that didn’t happen either. She asked again some time after that and I reminded her that it hadn’t worked last time. She just said, “Oh yeah.” It was as if she’d just remembered. That was that. She hasn’t asked since.


Top tip for breastfeeding mothers: Relax and Accept

I had a love-hate relationship with the phrase “This too shall pass” when I was doing the new baby thing with Talitha.

Sometimes it was my mantra. I would declare it and draw great strength from it. We would live to see another day. She would not be thirteen and waking me up hourly (or, I really hope she won’t be!). All these biologically normal newborn things that did not fit with my industrialised, isolated lifestyle would settle down, would be survived.

Other times, a more experienced mother would tell me that her crap naps, insane feeding, constant night waking, etc etc etc too would pass and I would collapse inside myself in frustration.

Because looking back on it now, I know the hardest advice in the world to take is “Relax and Accept” but, actually, it’s the best advice for new mothers. Maybe even more so for breastfeeding ones.

Here are a few things breastfeeding mothers would do well to relax and accept:

Night waking happens – it’s actually a good thing
As if the fact that your baby keeps waking up, forcefully making her feeding cues known wasn’t exhausting enough, everyone wants to weigh in on how much your baby should be sleeping: “Is she a GOOD baby? How does she sleep?” It’s usually asked out of concern or lack of something more interesting to say but it is sooo unhelpful. For a start, these questions are rooted in outdated beliefs about how babies should behave – formula fed ones at that.

Evidence now shows us that new babies need to wake a lot at night because their tiny tummies need feeding frequently throughout the day and night, especially since breast milk is so well-digested. Next time someone tells you your four-week-old or even one-year-old should be sleeping through, keep this quote from the Infant Sleep Information Source in mind:

“Generally, though, babies do not sleep all night-every night until they are close to a year old. One study investigating infant sleep duration found that 27% of babies had not regularly slept from 10pm to 6am by the age of 1 year. 13% of babies had not regularly slept through for 5 hours or more by the age of 1 year.”

In fact, go over to ISIS and breathe in their info on what normal infant sleep looks like. Go on. It’ll do your mental health some good.

Why do I say it’s normal and good that babies wake up a lot? I’ll give you three reasons but I’m sure there are more:
– Night feeds are brilliant for initiating, increasing and maintaining your milk production
– Night waking helps to satisfy a survival instinct to keep the mother close
– Sleeping longer or more deeply than is developmentally normal increases the risk of SIDS

Ah, if we knew this was normal and were able to relax and accept it, maybe we’d spend more time learning to sleep in the day and less time freaking out about our babies’ mixed up days and nights? I don’t know. I hope so.

Babies breastfeed a lot

I really, really, really don’t think most new mothers realise how often newborn babies need to breastfeed, especially since the generation before us were taught to schedule feeds.

It would be great if pregnant women and their partners could get along to a breastfeeding class before having their babies or for pregnant women to visit a breastfeeding group like a La Leche League Meeting. I remember being so surprised to hear that a baby could feed and then want to feed again thirty minutes later when we were at our NCT breastfeeding session. Seeing the belly balls that show how tiny babies’ tummies are at first really helped as well. Still, cluster feeds, growth spurts, these were things I was in the dark about.

I’d really recommend you read Kellymom’s Breastfeeding your newborn – what to expect in the early weeks, Kate Evan’s hilarious and informative comic book The Food of Love and La Leche League’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding to find out all about what normal newborn breastfeeding is like. In fact, that site and those books can also give some insight into all stages of breastfeeding because even when you’re breastfeeding a toddler there’s stuff to relax about and just accept.

Your presence is everything to your baby

As I said in the sleep section, your baby’s survival instinct is to keep you close. That is because human babies are born helpless. They can’t even hold on to their mothers. They are completely dependent. More than that, a mother’s instinct is to be with her baby and often we’re taught, quite strangely, to reject this deep need of ours as if it’s harmful to our babies and to us.

I want to claim back the hours I stressed about my daughter needing to nap on my lap or beside me. All the time I felt she should be feeding less. I wish I’d learned to use a sling sooner than four weeks and diversified my knowledge so I could be confident in carrying my baby. I wish I’d researched safe bed sharing practices sooner so I wouldn’t have beaten myself up trying not to bring her into bed with us and then beaten myself up for bedsharing.

Being close easily gives your baby more opportunities to breastfeed. It’s good for your supply and, believe it or not, good for your sanity. Breastfeeding mothers get more sleep than formula feeding mothers – IF they are sleeping close to their babies. I’m not saying that all breastfeeding mothers need to adopt bedsharing and babywearing but I’m not going to lie to you, they can help.

You do need help

But isn’t this all a bit…much? It’s so much pressure on a mum, new or not. All this waking, all this breastfeeding, all this closeness – it’s bound to overwhelm her and it’s, well, downright unfeminist, dammit. Happy mum, happy baby, right?

Well, I can see where you’re coming from but for many mums, stopping breastfeeding before they’re ready doesn’t make them happy. You know what would make a lot of us happy? Not being alone in this. Not having the additional pressures of cleaning the house and cooking while learning to feed this new baby. Having someone come and play with our older child or maybe hold the baby for a bit (if we ask them to, not getting grabby if we rather they didn’t).

It’s hard for women to relax and accept that they need help though. It’s drummed into us that we’re supposed to be good at all of it. That we’re supposed to be OK as soon as possible. It’s crushing when we discover we’re not. I often ask women who are struggling with breastfeeding (whether it’s because of normal newborn stuff or an actual breastfeeding problem) if there’s any way they can get some help during the day but I know there are often so many things in the way of a mum letting go and saying, “Please, help me.” But I really wish she would. And I really, really wish the response wouldn’t be: “Well, you express (ie potentially introduce breastfeeding risks and do more work) and I’ll give a bottle.”

You may need breastfeeding support

The final thing I’d love breastfeeding mothers to relax and accept is that they may need a breastfeeding peer supporter or an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), or a breastfeeding group or a breastfeeding counselor on a helpline – that they may need some extra breastfeeding help. It doesn’t have to be “perfect” right away. You may have difficulties and you can get help. You may not have any big problems but would just benefit from being around other mothers who are likeminded and who have been there. A huge part of why women don’t continue to breastfeed for as long as they’d like is because they lack support.

If you’re pregnant or have a new baby, please look to any of these supporters I’ve mentioned. Call the National Breastfeeding Helpline, La Leche League or NCT. If all your friends have stopped breastfeeding and you’re still going, I encourage you to relax and accept that getting plugged into a group of breastfeeding mothers. This path is not meant to be travelled alone.

This post had a giveaway attached, which is why some of the comments are random.


Making my peace with formula

I cleared the last couple of baby bottles out of my kitchen cupboard today. My supplemental nursing system (SNS) went to the breastfeeding group some weeks ago as a demo aid for mothers struggling with milk production. These pieces of kit powerfully remind me that I cannot claim to have exclusively breastfed my daughter.

Big deal, you might say, especially since I’m still breastfeeding her now at 22 months. How dare I feel any regret when so many don’t manage to breastfeed at all? Well, OK. I’m being real here. There’s nothing wrong with what I feel.

Every time I learn something more about breast milk and breastfeeding and about formula, I wish I had been able to avoid supplementing with artificial milk.

I don’t get defensive when I hear about how different these substances are or when I come across something which suggests risks for my daughter having been mixed fed.

I do get a little peeved when someone who doesn’t know our whole story suggests that we could have managed without formula. But it’s just that – they haven’t walked where we have.

They don’t necessarily know about the long days and nights spent literally passing her from breast to breast, the tension in her body, the static weight gain then loss, the abnormal nappy count, all of the signs in my eight-week-old’s face and body that I now look back on and think: “Of course, she was desperately hungry!”

Not having enough milk is one of the top concerns that most first time breastfeeding mothers have. It’s often not actually a problem. Newborns often feed and wake more frequently than our formula culture leads us to expect and not necessarily on a regular schedule.

But sometimes, there is a genuine supply issue as I experienced due Talitha’s late-diagnosed tongue-tie. The first rule of dealing with low milk production is to feed the baby. Mine was too weak and too hungry to work properly at the breast, so I see the wisdom in this. So began the routine of using breast compressions, taking Domperidone, pumping after feeds and supplementing using an SNS to give her the extra milk at the breast.

The reality was that for this to work, I needed more milk than I was able to immediately pump. A friend with a baby of a similar age offered me her milk but after thinking about it, I chose to supplement my own milk with formula. It was a difficult decision to make and I’m not sure I would turn down milksharing if I could go back and do it again. I made the most confident choice I could with the information I had at the time.

I am certain that I supplemented with formula for longer than I had to. When my supply recovered, Talitha gained too much weight and I was able to completely drop all supplements of expressed milk and formula in one fell swoop with no ill effect. I should have been keeping a closer eye on what was happening but the fact is that I’d lost my trust in my ability to produce milk. I stopped supplementing when she was five months old but I think I could have stopped a month sooner.

I only discovered later while reading the book Making More Milk what an effect the whole experience had had on my sense of self. I’d felt inadequate and been consumed with both guilt and directionless anger.

In that state, if someone had said to me that it needed to be all or nothing, that could have pushed me to stop breastfeeding altogether. Instead, the lactation consultant who helped me emphasised that every breastfeed is valuable, even if it’s just one a day.

In fact, she recently wrote a post, “Formula: friend or foe”, which really captured my experience. We shouldn’t have needed formula, and I’m still angry about the circumstances that led us to use it, but it was one of the tools that allowed us to continue.

At eight weeks, I filled my SNS and prayed that I’d be able to breastfeed until six months. I reached six months and wondered if a year might be possible. Talitha turns two in June. We’re still going.


I planned to bottle feed but ended up breastfeeding (guest post)

I met Mummy Glitzer a few weeks ago at a coffee morning for South West mum bloggers in Bristol. We got onto the topic of breastfeeding (as you do) and she told her extraordinary story of breastfeeding by accident or, probably more accurately, breastfeeding by instinct. At my request, she’s graciously and honestly put into words her breastfeeding journey. Please leave her a comment at the end so she knows that she’s been heard.

When I found out I was pregnant with H and had passed that all important 12 week scan I didn’t put much thought into breastfeeding and had decided to formula feed from the start. My reasoning was two-fold.

Firstly, my experience on forums had demonstrated to me that a LOT of women struggle with it – to some it was pretty soul destroying. I know some for whom it felt like a constant battle, getting baby into the right position, getting baby to latch, mastitis, nipple thrush, blocked ducts etc not to mention the draining growth spurts. Quite frankly, being a first time mummy to a new-born, with a husband who couldn’t be guaranteed any leave and with zero family support sounded difficult enough to me.

Couple that with the fact that I suffer from depression and anxiety I figured that it wasn’t a risk worth taking for my family. We couldn’t afford for me to break down mentally and I surely had to be happy and mentally strong to deal with a baby.

Secondly, whilst I had never had any issues at all with other women breastfeeding, it just wasn’t something I personally was comfortable with. This is an area I am still not prepared to delve into but I just don’t like my body and never have. Whilst I knew women *could* and on the whole *do* breastfeed discreetly (whatever that means) I just didn’t think I could. Yes, nonsense, but all the same even the thought pushed my anxiety to the sky. And yes, I was confused about how I would feel about a part of my body going from being part of my sexual relationship with my husband, to a means to feed my child.

I also did my research. Whilst I was happy to (and indeed demanded to) come off my medication whilst I was pregnant, I wasn’t convinced I could manage without it post birth and yet I also didn’t want to take the risk. Risk? What risk? Well exactly. We don’t trial medicine on a foetus or a newborn so we don’t actually know the risks. For me, my decision to NOT breastfeed was very much based on circumstances and personal feelings.

However. I didn’t take into account H.
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