Will you tandem breastfeed?

“Will you breastfeed both of them?” I’m getting this question more frequently now that the birth is in sight and Talitha hasn’t self-weaned as I thought she was doing.

She’ll be two years and eight months when the baby’s born. I’ve said before that I never expected to breastfeed for as long as we have. Along the way, I’ve learned how natural, enjoyable and healthy (physically and emotionally) it is for children to breastfeed beyond babyhood.

Once we passed the one-year milestone I never thought I’d make, what with all our early issues (late diagnosed tongue-tie, low milk production and all that followed to get breastfeeding to work) I saw no reason to put a time limit on what we had going.

I’ve put other limits, yes. Breastfeeding manners have long been established and when she entered toddlerhood, she had to learn to wait. When I fell pregnant, we night weaned. Certainly, breastfeeding has been a relationship, a safe place for each of us to learn how to relate to the other.

Still, I never thought much about the possibility of breastfeeding while pregnant. This, despite us trying to conceive for months. It was one of those things hanging about in the background that didn’t come into full focus until first trimester symptoms started to affect our breastfeeding.

As for tandem feeding, I kept putting off thinking about it. I know that this is partly because I didn’t really fancy the idea. I know a few mothers who have done it and though I see the definite benefits and beauty in what they’re doing, it also looks like hard work. But then, meeting the needs of two children, with or without the breast looks like hard work generally!

In the end, I decided to take a wait-and-see approach. So far, breastfeeding has often surprised me. I can never predict what my daughter in going to be doing when. In the first trimester when she had just turned two, I thought: “If she keeps feeding like this I’ll die. Maybe I’ll wean.” Later on, when my milk went and she lost interest, I thought: “Maybe she’s weaning herself. I’m kind of relieved but kind of sad too.” Now I’m like: “Doesn’t look like she’s weaning but, hey, who knows? I’m OK and she’s OK, either way.”

As for Talitha, she’s amazed me at each stage with how well she understands what’s going on. At one point, she practically rolled her eyes, teen-style, at the suggestion that she might also breastfeed when the baby arrives. Now she tells me that when the baby comes, the baby will need “lots of lots of milky” but that she will have “a little bit of milky as well”. We’ll see, little one. We’ll see.


17 Comments

  1. RahSlowe
    January 16, 2014 / 7:14 am

    With B, who was 2yr 9mo when J arrived, it just sort of happened – like you, I’d assumed he would wean at some point during the pregnancy, but he never did. Like T he had it all figured out ‘Baby will have that milky, I will have this one’, no issue, no concern – when J arrived, he set his plan out – when he was 2 he would have milk when he wanted(!), when he was 3, he would have milk at bedtime and in the morning, when he was 4, he would have bedtime milk only, when he went to school he wouldn’t have milk. I shrugged and said we’d see – he carried the plan out to the letter, and has his last feed the Sunday before he started school, having tandem fed with J for 19 months, far longer than I ever dreamed of (although it did give me a fabulous answer when people asked when I’d wean J – “Oh, I think it would be fairer to wean B first”).

    This time round, I figured J would either wean or not, tandem feed or not, we’d figure it out – so far, we’ve figured it out fine (and there is nothing better for engorgement than a willing preschooler!).

    • January 19, 2014 / 11:31 pm

      Ha! Love your answer about weaning J! Yes, I’m kind of hoping that breastfeeding Talitha might actually help breastfeeding get off to a smoother start this time around. Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s very encouraging. Amazing that your son had it all planned out!

  2. January 16, 2014 / 9:43 am

    As you know I tandem fed, and like you I didn’t really plan on it. It just happened, and doesn’t feel like that significant compared to all the other stuff that happened when we became a family of five. It wasn’t particularly tiring, or uncomfortable. One funny thing was that on a visit to the city farm I watched the mother pig feeding her litter, and identified with her more than I ever thought I’d be identifying with a pig! lol.
    Purplemum recently posted..Budget Family Meals – Butternut Squash & Cashew Nut Loaf

    • January 19, 2014 / 11:31 pm

      Hahaha, Ella! Good to know that it’s not necessarily hard work. 🙂

  3. January 16, 2014 / 2:25 pm

    this is such an interesting topic, I’ve often wondered what I would do! We are hoping for a 4 year age gap so I doubt I will still be BF then! Wilf pretty much weaned a month or so back and then decided not to! He now has a little milky in the morning in our bed when he wakes but often say’s ‘all gone, ‘narna and sippy cup now mummy’ so I doubt there is really any left! I can imagine it would be quite draining? But I really have no idea, I suppose it would help bonding with the new baby and helping with any feelings of jealously she may have when the baby arrives? I’m so interested in following your journey with this! x
    Fritha recently posted..A Winter Walk – Our weekend in pictures

    • January 19, 2014 / 11:33 pm

      Toddlers are so funny with deciding to do things and then not. Sounds like he’s weaning but gradually, which is lovely. Yes, it would be nice if it helps with jealousy. At least from the way she talks about it at the moment, it’s good that she’s willing to share!

  4. January 16, 2014 / 7:03 pm

    I never quite had two feeding at the same time, dd1 was 3 1/2 when number two came along and had long since self-weaned. DD2 self weaned at 2 when I was pregnant with number 3. I have a friend with four close together who has always had two at a time feeding, I think it is hard work, but worth it for the bonding between everyone.
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    • January 19, 2014 / 11:35 pm

      You just never know how it’s going to pan out or when they’re going to deicide to do what! I really thought Talitha was self-weaning in this pregnancy but she’s surprised me. Your friend sounds like a legend.

  5. January 16, 2014 / 8:07 pm

    I can remember when I met you and Fran at the play centre on Gloucester road when Cherry and Talitha were tiny and you saying you weren’t sure how long you could carry on because of the milk supply issues, how amazing that you’ve managed to overcome it all! I’m not sure if I could have done, I had days where I felt so touched out and that was just from J but then I guess had Cherry still been feeding then it probably would have stopped her reacting to J’s arrival in the way she did therefore making my life much easier. I would have rather been touched out with two kids feeding than having one trying to kick the baby or throw a huge tantrum. Plus they are quiet when you feed them and it means you get to sit down and eat lots of cake! x
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    • January 19, 2014 / 11:39 pm

      That’s been a big for me in this pregnancy, feeling touched out. I especially felt that way in the first trimester. It’s returned a bit now that I’m getting so big. I can’t say that feeding her is fun at the moment (even though it’s brief). I am definitely hoping it’s going to get better when the baby comes, ie when my hormones are a bit less mental. The idea of feeding them both at the same time is one that in my current touched out state I can’t quite imagine, though. I’ve read that many tandem mamas prefer to feed them separately.

  6. January 16, 2014 / 8:09 pm

    Such an interesting post. I had an awful time when I first started to breastfeed but persevered until food had to be introduced at 4 months as he had stripped pretty much every ounce of fat off me and my milk was really poor. I think I was the smallest i’d ever been in adult life. i tried to keep going but he eventually self weaned at a very early age of 7 months, which was fine. I can’t imagine what it would be like to feed two at very different ages. Sometimes I think it becomes a comforter to them as they get older like a blankie or dummy. But all kids and parents are different and so I think just do whatever is best for you x

    This was my breast feeding story http://wildandgrizzly.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/celebrate-your-breasts-your-way-is-best.html
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  7. January 16, 2014 / 8:13 pm

    I have never fed two at one time so I don’t have any experience of this, I am interested to read what happens though. I wonder if actually, amongst all the chaos of new babies and toddlers finding their new place as an older sibling, that actually it could create a really nice space for calm and reassurance. Good luck!

    • January 19, 2014 / 11:40 pm

      Thanks! I’m just going with the flow. I think children often know what they need and perhaps she knows that this is what will make the transition easiest for her.

  8. January 16, 2014 / 8:42 pm

    I tandem fed for 2 years. D was 5.5 years old when she self weaned. The early days of tandem feeding were amazing as the older sibling never felt left out plus I had so much milk my tiby baby gained weight very quickly. It was tiring at times but was worth it. Like T, my D was night weaned, knew when to wait, would not bf on public etc. Good luck in your journey

    • January 19, 2014 / 11:42 pm

      Thank you! Wonderful to hear the experience of a tandem mama. Yes, it’s actually pretty easy feeding T now that we have a routine and limits even though I still find it uncomfortable because of pregnancy hormones.

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