**Each Friday, starting Nov 7 and for the next 7 weeks, we will be posting a new blog post about breastfeeding and several different journeys our team has experienced.**
Before I had my dear daughter, I decided that my goal would be to nurse her at least until she was two and then go from there. Never did I know the many adventures we would have in those years to be where we are today. As of October 25th, we reached our two year mark, but it definitely did not come easy. And in reality, while the beginning was difficult and I never wish to go back to the first 12 weeks, nursing through this pregnancy has been even more difficult.
My own adventures in breastfeeding have been fun and as I go through my 28 day checklist for preparing for a newborn, I am realizing all of the things I had forgotten that I am about to go through again. I am remembering just how hungry I was when I first had my daughter and that was to feed just one child. Even reading through my post I wrote two years ago about the Adventures of Breastfeeding and “real truths for first time moms”, I am finding that I had forgotten how tiny fingernails feel like talons or how horrible engorgement was in those first days. All that to be said, I too am gearing up for a new adventure as I have no idea how everything will play out as I tandem feed and there will be no gap in my own breastfeeding journey.
But Why Extended Breastfeeding & Tandem Nursing?
So first, why did I decide to nurse until at least two? Plain and simple that the brain and the immune system both complete the first building block at age two. This was a no-brainer for me that I wanted to give her the best start that I could.
- There is no physiological downside to continuing to feed children who desire to nurse.
While I have no idea what the future holds in breastfeeding my toddler, I know that it is something she finds comfort in and there is nutritional value in giving her omega fatty acids and other nutrients in the milk. Worldwide, the average age for weaning is age two and historically, kids have self-weaned and benefited from both the bond and the nutrition. In fact, if you look in the chart to the right from The Management of Breastfeeding, you can see that breastmilk for toddlers provides many key vitamins and nutrients!
- Extended breastfeeding has also shown to positively impact later academic outcomes.
And while I am not necessarily shooting for a genius, I am trying to give her brain the fat and fatty acids it craves to grow and give her a start that I know I won’t regret later in life.
- If there is an emotional bond, I am not going to break that out of convenience.
My daughter many times likes to nurse because she either wants it to calm down before a nap or maybe she just wants to get my undivided attention. So many times, we have giggled, read, and learned a new concept while nursing and she knows that I am all hers in that time… even if it so badly hurts sometimes.
- It’s the best sick medicine and teething remedy
Breast milk helps fight off infections in babies and it can help ease the pain of those dreaded toddler teeth. Plus, since there is an emotional bond, it’s great on those days when nothing else can go right. While I don’t just feed my toddler in public out of personal preference, as a baby and young toddler, this was great anytime anywhere. (Read more from Jack Newman here)
Find even more of my research on the benefits of extended breastfeeding here.
I am the type of person that needs to make nothing else an option and be completely goal oriented. So 729 days would not have been enough because 730 days was the goal. The “problem”? We got pregnant again and nursing through pregnancy has been reminiscent of the pain in those first weeks with a newborn… except now she is twice as tall and has teeth.
What to expect while nursing through pregnancy
- Hormones can make your nipples more sensitive than you ever knew.
Dreaded pregnancy hormones can wreak havoc on the non-nursing mother, but to continue to nurse through nine months has been so difficult. Tender nipple is always a pregnancy symptom, but the label for pregnant while nursing symptom should read “nipples feel like they are on fire or full of needles”. It has come and gone, but now that I am near the end of my pregnancy, it’s gotten worse.
- Hormones can change your nursing relationship.
I have felt completely touched out many days. This mainly became an issue in the second half of my pregnancy. I had a baby gymnast inside of me, toddler gym-nurse-tics happening outside of me, a husband who wanted me, and emotions to feel completely inadequate. Those days when feeling touched out and emotionally a wreck, those were the days when I would not want to nurse and when sometimes I would feel bad for having to tell my daughter she would have to wait until later in the day to get milk (note, she was only getting milk about 4 times in the day anyway, but those days it was once or twice). BUT, then when she would get milk, she acted as if the heavens opened up, bringing her momma back to her. Melt. My. Heart.
- You will probably want to quit.
I have said so many times that I have wanted a break, that “I can’t do it anymore”, or “I am so done, but I’m not done”. They are all true statements. I have wanted so many times to throw in the towel, put my hands up, and just tell myself that I can get a boob vacation before baby comes. So maybe you will quit. I was just too stubborn to not meet a goal, and tandem feeding is just one more goal that I secretly made to myself when I found out I was pregnant. [And it IS possible to reintroduce milk to a child after the baby has been born if you quit and want to still tandem feed].
How We Are Preparing to Tandem Nurse
- We Night Weaned.
At 22 months, we went through the journey of not allowing my daughter to have any milk from 11pm to 6am. First, you should know that we bed share and until last week we didn’t even own a crib. So for 22.5 months, my daughter was crawling over to me or laying on top of me, or snuggling beside me to get milk while I slept. And that was no problem because for awhile I slept through it. Then, when nursing would hurt so bad that I woke up, there was a time for a change. PLUS, nursing two children through the night… No. I don’t think so. Not for me.
- We are cutting down on number of nursing sessions.
Even though I am fully aware that my toddler will probably want to nurse as much as a newborn when baby comes, I know how long she goes without and when she really and truly feels desperate to have milk. Right now that is right before nap time and right before bed time.
- We have established a different Night-time Routine
Instead of me being her primary everything at night, her dad has stepped in to take many of those roles and we have switched up our nightly routine. He goes through brushing her teeth and prepping her for bed and then she turns out the light, turns on her cloud B turtle, nurses on each side once, and then is told it is nighttime. The turtle has helped because now she looks at the stars and moon when she hasn’t fully gone down for the night.
We also got a crib for the first time, and we made it a side-car to the bed. That, along with her own blanket and a travel-size pillow and she has her own space. We talked this up and made it special and exciting. So now when she is looking at the stars she is at least on her dad’s side of the bed if not on her own mattress.
- I am mentally preparing for a regression when baby arrives
I am ready for my toddler to want to nurse like a newborn. And really? I am hoping that means maybe she will get a little extra fatty milk and I will see a little less engorgement. I just do not want to be naive and think that anything will be easy or stay the same when baby number two makes her debut.
Did you Tandem Nurse or are you wanting to? What are your plans or experiences?