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Nursing in Tandem

Hillary Crandall
Denver CO USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 1, January-February 2006, pp. 12-13

Since I became pregnant with my first child, Grace, I knew that I wanted to try tandem nursing one day. When she was 13 months old, I found out that I was pregnant again. I was delighted that my dream would become a reality. I read everything I could find on nursing through pregnancy and tandem nursing. I proudly nursed Grace despite skeptics around me, and I foolishly ignored nipple pain. I was so focused on being able to tandem nurse once my second child was born.

Two days after Theo's birth, I called my local LLL Leader, Lara, in tears saying, "It hurts to nurse both of my children." This was one of the many long conversations with her. I also worked with two lactation consultants, who I chose very carefully. I only wanted to see consultants who were currently or formerly LLL Leaders. I knew that I needed someone who would understand the importance of extended nursing and tandem nursing.

For weeks we took medication for thrush and sanitized everything. I worked diligently on positioning and latch -- on with both Grace and Theo, playing "open wide" until we were all tired of it. Then oversupply was suspected, so I took medication to reduce supply while also battling plugged ducts. My nipples still hurt during most feedings, frequently blanched white after feedings, and hurt much of the day. As a last resort, I tried a nipple shield, but both of my children spit it out.

After a month I was exhausted, confused, and had lanolin stains on most of my shirts. I had always thought that if you had nursing problems, see a lactation consultant and the problems will go away. This was not the case for me.

I was faced with the hard decision to wean Grace when she was 22 months old. My desire had always been to have her nurse as long as she wanted and to wean naturally, but with my limited supply during pregnancy, it appeared that she forgot how to suck correctly. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't retrain her.

I cried over the thought of weaning her, giving up our special nursing relationship, and letting go of my dream for tandem nursing. But given the circumstances, I needed to eliminate Grace's nursing to see if I could make nursing with one -- month -- old Theo work. I had to teach Grace a new word: wean. I told her a story about her stuffed monkey, Coco, and how he weaned. Then I explained that she couldn't have "nye nye" anymore, but she could still have snuggles and play time. I gradually cut down her sessions. The last time she nursed I gave her a book to commemorate her weaning. We read it together as we cuddled in bed and ate crackers.

Theo's success as a nurser was a slow steady climb. As I stopped focusing on nursing all the time, things seemed to come to me more naturally. Eventually, it stopped being painful. I also started taking Theo to a massage therapist once a month for a neck adjustment, which helped. His right ear and jaw used to hang lower, making it hard for him to latch on correctly.

Looking back over that first year of Theo's life, I know that I gained a lot. He is now 18 months old and loves to nurse. I'm able to sit back and enjoy nursing my "baby." We still go through painful nipple spells every now and then, especially when he is teething. During these times, I get out the lanolin, work on positioning, and wait it out. It always gets better.

When I nurse Theo, Grace sits in her rocking chair next to me and nurses her baby doll. She is the best empathizer when I have a plugged duct. "I have sore nye nye, too," she says, applying the massager to her chest. For morning naps, Grace and I rock and nurse our babies in our slings and then lie in bed and nurse them to sleep while we cuddle and read. Then we slip off to play and let our babies nap together.

My hopes for tandem nursing didn't work out as planned, but I gained a beautiful relationship with my daughter -- nursing in tandem.

Last updated Wednesday, October 25, 2006 by njb.
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