I have been breastfeeding a baby and a toddler since our son was born in November 2014. So I am not only a "long term nursing" but now also a "tandem nursing". Totally crazy to think that with our girl, I still thought a breastfeeding relationship ended after about 6 months (with the introduction of complementary foods). I have now been breastfeeding for over 3.5 years and a sibling for 6 weeks. Amazing how views can change through knowledge…
Breastfeeding during pregnancy
When I got pregnant for the second time about a year ago, I was still breastfeeding our girl (see "Long-term Breastfeeding: Is there anything left in it at all?"). Pregnant women can and may breastfeed if they want to, and for my part I saw no reason to wean. However, I suspected that our daughter would wean on her own as the pregnancy progressed. Not because she showed a willingness to do so, but because pregnancy hormones in many women cause milk to decrease or taste different. But the pregnancy didn't affect my milk quantity or taste (at least my daughter didn't let on) and so we continued breastfeeding.
× Apart from the mother's wish to stop breastfeeding, there are only a few reasons not to continue breastfeeding during pregnancy. These include, for example, pain in the uterus or bleeding, previous premature births and uninterrupted weight loss of the mother during pregnancy (see also "Breastfeeding during pregnancy").
So we headed full speed ahead toward tandem breastfeeding. I suspected that it would not be easy (both emotionally and organizationally) and considered several times whether it would not be better to wean the girl before the birth. I was torn and felt overwhelmed to make a (weaning) decision.
I was not bothered by breastfeeding my big one. On the contrary, it was a quick and reliable "sleeping pill". She didn't want to stop of her own accord and I couldn't judge what was better for her. So I just let it go.
The first tandem breastfeeding
When our girl met her brother for the first time a few hours after birth (around 5 pm), she looked at him and shortly after threw herself into my arms crying. Today I don't remember whether she asked me or I asked her, but in any case, a few minutes later I was lying on our cuddly mattress with both children at my breast. I remember well my astonishment at the enormous performance of my body and this "connecting", very positive, almost proud feeling.
While the two of them drank competitively, our girl eyed her brother skeptically but curiously. Her fingers examined his little face and body. She carefully felt his skin and stroked his head. She seemed relieved (probably because I didn't deny her the breast) and relaxed. I was flat, but very happy.
More breastfeeding than ever
In the first days after birth, our girl suddenly wanted to breastfeed more. Maybe because her brother was almost always attached to me when she came home. Maybe because she saw very little of me in the first two weeks. Because I sent her to friends and relatives after daycare so that I could lie in the puerperium. But maybe she just wanted to make sure that she had not lost her place at my breast. That I would not put her off just because there was a sibling.
The advantages of tandem breastfeeding
I fulfilled her wish at first, because I wanted to ease her start into "big sister life". She has always been able to shut down well when breastfeeding, and even in this very hard situation for her, it had a calming effect. After all, there was the boy who also demanded (much) milk. But I had already prepared her before the birth that her little brother cannot eat anything, but only drink milk. She also quickly realized that there was more than enough for both of them.
I enjoyed the tandem breastfeeding during this time, because I could hardly move, but in this way I could intensively "take care" of both of them. We cuddled every day as a threesome and I felt the bond between my two nestlings getting stronger day by day.
Our girl got the reassurance that she still gets my attention and closeness and so quickly accepted that the boy also needs a lot of attention. She waits patiently when I swaddle him or breastfeed him and gives him regular caresses. And if she does get jealous, which rarely happens, she takes her emotions out on Thomas and me. The little one is spared.
Breastfeeding two children also gave me back my normal figure in a very short time. I ate for three (especially chocolate) and still lost weight steadily. The intensive breastfeeding caused an enormously fast regression of the uterus and so already a few days after the birth not much of the former googly belly was to be seen any more. To be back in "old shape" so quickly after a second pregnancy gave me high spirits.
From negative feelings
However, tandem breastfeeding also has its downsides. The boy is a heavy drinker and preferred to fall asleep at the breast for the first few weeks. If our girl was allowed to breastfeed, she also wanted to drink extensively. But the fitter I got, the more I was annoyed by this constant sucking, especially because she didn't want to be breastfed during the day for a long time before the birth.
She suddenly came to me so big and demanding ("I want to drink now, though!") before, while it felt wonderful when this little boy's snout drank. I increasingly felt an inner rejection, sometimes downright aggression, when our girl breastfed during the day and was startled by my changing feelings.
I realized that it was time for a change. After about three weeks, I offered her alternatives if she wanted my milk, because a breastfeeding relationship (like any other relationship) can only work if both sides feel comfortable. Instead, she may eat or drink something delicious, play with me, read or cuddle with me.
She accepts this amazingly well, although there are still days when she tries to convince me with a question continuous loop. But I'm sticking with it, unless she's sick (like recently, when she had a fever of almost 40 degrees). And just because she cooperates so well, it happens occasionally that I am angry with the little one. For example, when I want to read a book with her in peace after she has been waiting for me for a very long time, but the boy cannot be calmed down while reading in a sitting position. He and his needs have priority, of course, but then I really feel sorry for her.
Nightly tandem breastfeeding
Breastfeeding a child at night hardly bothered me at all. Sure, I would have preferred to sleep through the night, but docked with our girl, I usually found my way back to sleep after a few seconds. Breastfeeding two children, on the other hand, frustrated me on my first night as a tandem breastfeeder.
The boy grunted so loud that I preferred to sleep with him in the living room on our cuddle mattress, while Thomas shared the family bed with our girl. Now the nights went so that I put the boy on as needed (very frequently) and when our girl woke up (usually 1-3 times per night) dashed into the bedroom to nurse her back to sleep. Apart from the fact that I could hardly get up on my own due to the pain of childbirth, this running back and forth (the constant being torn from sleep) was totally annoying.
At first I went through with it because I couldn't think of a better solution. In night no. 8 we then all slept together in the family bed. An experiment that started from Thomas, because he hoped it would work. It could have worked, but in reality I ended up breastfeeding all night (in turns, of course) and our excited baby girl (mommy was finally back) had to go to sleep!) from 3 o'clock in the morning 1.5 hour chatting through (see "Suddenly mom of two children"). That night I realized that I have to wean the big one at night if we all want to get halfway enough sleep.
My decision was made and I was dreading the implementation. But it took four more nights until we could start weaning, because I wanted to do it with the help of a color clock (shows our girl when she can breastfeed again) and a calming turtle (with color play and meditative sounds). With the delivery of the "weaning equipment" on 05.12.In 2014 we started.
A separate, detailed report on this topic will follow shortly, because otherwise it would go beyond the scope of this article. At this point only so much: It was bad. The worst thing I've had to go through with our girl so far…
After about two weeks the worst was over. Since then, our girl is only breastfed in the evening to go to sleep and in the morning when the alarm clock gives the green light in the true sense of the word. Between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.30 o'clock Thomas is there for her, if she wakes up. So now I only have to take care of the little nestling at night – a huge relief!
Tandem breastfeeding – one after the other or simultaneously?
Since I breastfeed the big one almost only in the morning and in the evening, it happens quite rarely that both children drink at the same time. In the evening to fall asleep I find it impractical, because our girl usually reliably falls asleep after a few seconds at the breast, but when we are three in bed, prefer to look at and feel the brother. This prolongs the procedure of falling asleep immensely, which is why I first bottle the boy, who then stays with daddy, and then put the big girl to bed.
In the morning I would have nothing against breastfeeding at the same time, but usually the little rascal is still sleeping when our daughter wakes up and so we girls use this undisturbed time to cuddle extensively and in peace in the family bed. As a result, we have very few breastfeeding meals together: When the little one refuses to let daddy accompany him to sleep in the evening, when he wakes up earlier in the morning, or when I breastfeed our sick girl during the day.
Enough milk for two?
Until the birth neither my breast size nor the amount of milk changed. I thought that long-term breastfeeding would spare me major changes, such as a heavy milk supply, but I was wrong.
After birth, my body first diligently produced the collostrum (the first milk provided with many antibodies), of which the big one also drank some. On the third or fourth day, I suddenly got huge breasts and milk for a whole flock of children. The boy was constantly choking because the milk was literally shooting out of my breasts; I had to save myself from my milk streams with nursing pads and my big one gradually grew a double chin,
Having a lot of milk is a luxury problem, considering that many mothers complain of too little. Still, it's uncomfortable to bathe in your own milk at night and walk around with soaking wet stains on your shirt after breastfeeding. That's why I'm looking forward to the time when my body understands that it only has to provide milk for two and not twenty children. But as experience shows, this will unfortunately take a while..
Breastfeeding a baby and a toddler is a beautiful, but at the same time quite exhausting experience. It helps the big sibling cope better with the baby's arrival – tandem breastfeeding bonds and reduces jealousy. For moms, it's a big balancing act. Breastfeeding two children means being even more mindful of your own physical and emotional boundaries and finding good compromises for everyone involved.
For me, it took a few days before I knew what I could and wanted to accomplish. Until I found out who I could nurse, when, how often. I drastically reduced the breastfeeding times of the big one, because the continuous breastfeeding of two children was too exhausting for me. Also, I love breastfeeding and would like to give both kids my milk, but without feeling like I have to hold in or give up on myself.
Tandem breastfeeding showed me once again that needs-based parenting is not just about looking out for your children's needs, but also not losing sight of your own and your partner's needs. The important thing is that everyone in the family is doing well. A tricky task that requires sacrifices from each individual and leads to conflicts. But the latter are good and important because they guide us to new solutions that, in the best case, make the family members grow together and bond even more.