If you told me that one day I’d be sitting in a parking lot in the backseat of an SUV with my still pregnant-feeling body wedged between two massive carseats with one baby drinking from each of my boobs, holding a binky in my own mouth, smiling, I’d have told you you were nuts.
Life has surprised me in many ways. Things I thought I knew for sure about myself, rooted within me, have been twisted on their axis many times. My breastfeeding journey has been one that I couldn’t have understood if I’d seen it coming, with the roadmap all laid out. I wouldn’t have believed how challenging breastfeeding could be, what a gift it could be, and how much self actualization would be revealed through the experience. My identity after nursing is completely different than it was before.
One thing I never in a million years could have foreseen would be that I would tandem nurse. The phrase alone was new to me before I become pregnant for a second time. I had no idea that a mother could even nurse two children of different ages in tandem. And I had no idea what it would be like, or if it was something I wanted. But I knew that I didn’t feel ready to stop nursing Grayson just because I was pregnant again. Perhaps because we’d had a challenging start and I am very headstrong and focused when I want to achieve something, I didn’t want to stop nursing on any terms other than my own.
I heard arguments against tandem nursing way more frequently than I heard arguments for it. Many mothers who had tried it found themselves in a bad place when the new baby came if things didn’t go according to plan. They found themselves experiencing a nursing aversion and feeling “touched out” (at this time I had no idea what that could mean and was sure I wouldn’t experience that. They reported toddlers that were too rough or grabby or didn’t want to share with their siblings. They said it was impossible to leave the house or go anywhere with two indiscreet nursing children in tow.
I figured I would let nature to take its course and just see whether Grayson began to show disinterest as my milk composition changed into colostrum during pregnancy (which happens often with nursing toddlers during pregnancy). He didn’t. I grew more comfortable with the idea and trusted that when the baby arrived, we’d see how things went.
During pregnancy, I loved being able to feed Grayson as he wrapped his body around my growing belly. It felt sweet and natural. None of it felt strange except the stigma I perceived when it came up in conversation with people. I got a lot of “yikes” faces when I shared my plan. “What are you going to do if it doesn’t work out?” people would ask. I didn’t know- abruptly weaning Grayson while he was adjusting to being a big brother sounded traumatic for everyone. “There won’t be enough milk for the baby”, I heard often. I didn’t know one person who had ever successfully tandem nursed. I just had a feeling that we’d be good at it, and with Mike’s complete support, I went for it.
Grayson arrived at the hospital with Mike to bring his little brother home, and as I was feeding the baby and filling out our release paperwork, he went right for his “bubbas” as he referred to (actually, still refers to) my breasts. He put his arms up and whined until Mike lifted him onto the hospital bed, and he carefully positioned his body next to me while I cradled the baby cautiously. Both latched. Tears came to my eyes. I couldn’t believe it. Mike snapped pictures which are far too X-rated for me to share with you, but my favorite thing about the pictures is the undeniable pride I was feeling in that moment.
The biggest surprise to me with tandem nursing was how easy it was for Grayson and myself. The only one of our trio who had a little bit of a learning curve was Logan- he needed to learn how to nurse, as all newbies do. Early on, Gray got into the natural habit of gently squeezing the breast that Logan was nursing from, as he always did for himself, to help ease the milk into his brother’s mouth. It was a beautiful, natural thing for him. Often when tandem nursing the boys, I felt like a third wheel in their private little lovefest, just witnessing them sharing sweet moments. It was truly a beautiful introduction into becoming a mom of two, and a precious way for the boys to bond in those early days.
Tandem feeding gave me a way to continue to have special, peaceful moments with Grayson and eliminate boredom or jealousy on his end. While I was constantly feeding Logan, Gray felt welcome to hop up onto the couch and help himself whenever he liked, so he never felt excluded.
It gave me an easy way to empty my breasts if they were too full. Having a toddler waiting in the wings to help with engorgement was a huge help. It also helped him get used to having his brother around and an opportunity to share an experience with him that was well within his comfort zone.
Was it perfect? Of course not. My body was exhausted from feeding both boys, and I did have a harder time losing the weight after Logan (some say this is a side effect of tandem feeding because your body thinks you’re nursing twins and holds onto your fat). And I did get “touched out”. Bigtime. It turns out that what that phrase meant was just annoyed. There were so many sweet moments, but my body was not at all my own. Remember this: tandem nursing doesn’t just mean feeding two babies at the same time. It means that sometimes when one finishes, the other wants to feed. It means they both want to be nursed to bed, nursed when they wake, and nursed for comfort. It means there are no breaks.
I was like a 24 hour jungle gym, and while I never felt resentful or cognitively angry, I found my patience wearing and just a massive irritation rise up out of nowhere and rear its head with no warning at all. I often had to remind myself that I was having a natural, visceral reaction to tandem nursing- something I’d been warned could happen. It was strange to experience, but I managed to get through it. It was certainly not a dealbreaker. My memories of tandem nursing are still 99.9% wonderful.
I nursed both boys together for over a year, until just shy of Grayson’s third birthday. The most remarkable part of it for me was that despite all the fears I had, my instincts had been correct all along- it was what worked for us as a family. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t the woman I pictured as a tandem breastfeeder, or that I had no real game plan, or that I never cracked the spine of Adventures in Tandem Breastfeeding, which lay on my nightstand my entire pregnancy with Logan. We did it together and it was perfect.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions about this experience! XO