The Daily Mail suggested it was ‘horrifying’. The BBC called it ‘extreme’. Yet no health agency puts a formal upper limit on the age beyond which it is appropriate or desirable to breastfeed. With the natural spacing between children being 3 years, if we followed our biological imperative, we would all be tandem nursing! But what are the downsides?
It can be challenging to get pregnant whilst breastfeeding, and once the baby arrives, public tandem nursing can trigger embarrassment, not to mention being assaulted by your own offspring on a daily basis! All these delights are illustrated in Rebecca’s triumphant story:
“Breastfeeding my first baby Lizzie threw up its own array of difficulties (you can read about that journey here). After 6 months of breastfeeding her, my periods finally returned. By this stage we were ready to try for baby #2.
After 4 months of trying whilst fertility charting I suspected I had a luteal phase defect. This is where the lining of the mother’s uterus does not grow properly each month. It can make it difficult to become or remain pregnant. The condition is common in mothers while breastfeeding. I took B vits and that same month I fell pregnant!
Nursing Through Pregnancy
I breastfed throughout the whole pregnancy although Lizzie decreased feeds because I guess my supply dropped. I found that the decrease in feeds was a harsh fact that I learnt too late; I wasn’t aware that pregnancy can reduce supply and if I had known that beforehand I might not have sought to get pregnant again so soon.
I found one of the hardest factors of nursing whilst pregnant was the intense braxton hicks contractions. I started to feel them at around 17 weeks and they got worse and longer as the pregnancy went on.
At around 38 weeks I could barely move after each feed. My stomach tensed up to the point of me being marooned on the bed for about 5 minutes. They must have done my body some good because I went on to have an awesome natural water birth at 40 wks 6 days.
When my son George was born they checked him for tongue tie and yes, like his sister, he also had one. I noticed he had a really thick lip tie as well, he didn’t flare his lip out whilst feeding. Yet he seemed a good feeder so I decided not pursue it.
Like my daughter, George quickly developed into another two hourly around the clock feeder but he gained weight well and was settled so it didn’t bother me too much. By this stage, I was used to regular feeding.
When my milk came in I suffered with major engorgement to the point where I called the milk bank and ended up donating the excess to them. In all I donated 10 litres of breastmilk in 6 months. Lizzie (who was now a preschooler) would ask for a feed, eye up the fullest boob and opt for the other one. I don’t think she knew what to make of all this milk!
Soon after my milk came in I developed mastitis – twice which I put down to the sheer volume of milk I must of been producing to feed a baby and a preschooler simultaneously.
The Scrum of Tandem Nursing
I remember when I was pregnant with George I thought, “Ah feeding two babies – I’ll just be sitting on the sofa watching a bit of TV, relaxing with my feet up and feeding my two kids…” Oh no! My kids had other ideas!
George would never feed for more than 5 mins tops so he would always be finished in a flash with Lizzie being the one to takes ages over a feed. George would like to have a feed then have me rock him to sleep, so he would always get impatient while he waited for Lizzie to finish, and being younger he always won.
So I had to time everything like a military operation. Feed George first; rock George to sleep; lye George on my front (which he did not like, so he had to be sound asleep before you could get away with this); then feed Lizzie lying down with George lying on me! Then if and when Lizzie had a nap I’d dare not move in case one of them stirred. So the amount of hours I was stuck on the edge of the sofa, boob in Lizzie’s mouth, George squirming on my front trying to get comfortable, then the the doorbell would ring… arrgggh! “POSTMAN DON’T YOU KNOW THERE IS A MOTHER IN HERE TRYING TO MEET TWO BABIES NEEDS – AT A CRITICAL NAP TIME!!”
Lizzie and George also like to mess around whilst feeding: pulling my hair, their own hair, each others noses, poking each other eyes! So rather than one of them getting hurt, or a fight breaking out, they have started to pull on my ears which is kind of painful. I have to say they take great delight in pulling one, then the other.
It wasn’t all fun and games though. Once we went on a family vacation to Spain where George suddenly developed inflamed gums and at the same time my breasts became sore. I assumed this was thrush so went to see a Spanish doctor. He told me it was not thrush and that George just had a sore throat. He also told me that I should not be feeding a 15 month old baby to which I read him the riot act (aka World Health Organisation guidelines) and my parting shot was that I was ‘still’ feeding his preschooler sister… (two fingered salute!)
During the vacation the soreness on George’s mouth and my breasts got worse. Turns out that we had Hand, Foot and Mouth virus. OWCH! I carried on feeding my babies, but it was a hard slog. Second to the sheer pain, the hardest part was hiding my face when Lizzie fed. She would come off and cry because she knew she was hurting me. In the end I put my face into a cushion and grit my teeth. Fortunately George wasn’t old enough to notice my pain and carried on feeding as usual. He was a big fan of breastfeeding gymnastics, ignorant of the fact that every move had me in agony. It took over a week of this pain before I saw an improvement.
When we got home everything seemed to be returning to normal until I started feeling really cold and shivery. My first thought was ‘this is like mastitis’ and sure enough one of the sores broke out into a cracked and a blocked duct! Oh no not again. Express, Express Express…
Now Lizzie has a feed in the morning and one at bedtime. Sometimes she has the odd feed in the day if I’m around. George feeds at the same times as Lizzie, plus few extra feeds in the night.
Breast feeding has always been important to me because I know it will give my children the best start in life on so many levels. It’s only a few years investment and such a small price to pay compared to the benefits that my children will reap for their entire lives.”
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