Two Times the Fun
By Shelley Smith
Muskego WI USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 4, July-August 2000, pp. 119-120
We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.
When I became pregnant with my second child, my 16-month-old, Keely, was still nursing occasionally during the day and a couple times at night. I read everything I could find about nursing during pregnancy. I had every intention of weaning her before my new baby arrived. During my first trimester, I made no attempts to wean because I was so sick I felt nursing was the only mothering I was able to do. When the nausea and fatigue passed, I was sure I would be able to wean. According to the books I had read, toddlers often wean during the second trimester, when the milk supply diminishes or later, when the colostrum comes in. However, Keely continued to nurse.
By the time I was close to delivery, I wasn't even trying to wean her any more. She wasn't nursing much, just once or twice during the day and at night to get to sleep. She had just started sleeping through the night and would often nurse again when she woke up. I thought that maybe she would wean herself when I was in the hospital delivering the baby. She did not.
I was a little worried about how Keely would handle being away from me during the birth and not being able to nurse. As it turned out, I went into labor shortly after she nursed to sleep one night. Her aunt came over and lay in my place so Keely did not even know I was gone until she awoke in the morning. She also managed to fall asleep the next night on her own without the aid of breastfeeding. But when she came to the hospital to take me home, the first thing she did was ask for "mama's milk." Surprisingly to me, she only took a small amount and then fell asleep in my arms.
My milk came in very soon and Donovan seemed happy about that. I was a little nervous about how Keely would handle sharing mama's milk. We had been talking about this for a while before the birth. She seemed willing for Donovan to have one side and the other side would be hers. But that was before he was actually born. In the first days after Donovan's birth, I tried to do what the books suggested: that is, nurse the baby first and then the toddler can nurse. The first couple of nursing sessions did not go well. Also, when we arrived home from the hospital, I sat down to nurse Donovan in the same place Keely and I usually sat to nurse. On top of that, I told her she had to wait until Donovan was finished. This resulted in Keely - 26 months old at the time - screaming face down on the floor. I changed locations for the next two days, but Keely still was not happy. After that, I followed my instincts and allowed her to nurse at the same time he did if she wanted to. This worked much better for us. I wished I had done it that way from the beginning.
The first couple of weeks were definitely difficult. I did not want Keely to feel excluded so I found myself walking around attempting to play with her, often with Donovan at my breast at the same time. It was a little hard on me, but didn't seem to bother him. After about a month, and long after my decision to allow Keely to nurse at the same time as the baby, she was much calmer and could cope with me sitting down for a while to nurse her brother. She would play on her own or patiently wait until he was finished. Donovan is now four months old. Sometimes she still wants to nurse when he nurses, but sometimes she does not.
I have plenty of milk for both children. Keely always nurses on the left side during the day and Donovan always nurses on the right. At night, they switch sides, mostly because of location. Keely sleeps in the sidecar crib to the right of me and Donovan sleeps in between me and their father, on my left side.
I found it difficult to nurse two while lying down, so nights were always more of a challenge. I would take Keely to bed first and allow her to nurse freely until she fell asleep. Then I would get up and get Donovan, who could then have me to himself. This worked very well for going to sleep. However, when both children woke up at night, I was not able to nurse them both simultaneously. In these instances, Keely had to wait. I told her that I needed to nurse Donovan to sleep and then I would turn to her. She had a hard time with this at first, but I would tell her stories or hold her hand while I was nursing Donovan. I allowed her to place her hand on my breast for reassurance if she wanted.
Keely's nap was another challenge. Before her brother was born, she always nursed to sleep at naptime. But now, unless Donovan was sleeping or my husband was home to hold him, getting Keely down for a nap was really hard. Occasionally, she would fall asleep during a simultaneous nursing session. Then I would gently move her down onto the couch. At times, I would tell her I would lie down with her after I rocked Donovan to sleep. By the time I got him to sleep, she sometimes dozed off on her own.
There are times when I wonder why I did this. I have dozens of things to do, but there I am, sitting on the couch with the two of them latched on. But I just could not force Keely to wean. She enjoyed nursing so much, often telling me how good the milk is and making satisfied sounds while nursing. She even told the babysitter after drinking some cold milk that "my Mama's milk tastes much better than this." She is now 30 months old and still nursing. One night as we were going to bed, when I offered her the breast, she said, "Put it away. I don't need it." Even though I've had difficult times, I felt a pang of loss, thinking to myself that she was finished and this would be the end of our nursing relationship. I was wrong. She was not finished for good, just finished for that night. I don't know when she will wean. But at least I know that I am allowing her to do it on her own.
I've heard that tandem nursing is supposed to reduce sibling rivalry. There has been little, if any rivalry between my children. Keely is a very loving, adoring sister. She wants to hold Donovan, which we allow her to do. She sits on the couch next to a pillow and he lies across her lap, with his head on the pillow. He loves it when she talks to him. She tells him, "I am your big sister. I love you so much. I am so happy mama grew you in her tummy."
There is no doubt that nursing two together is time-consuming and involves many adjustments. But I try not to focus on how little sleep I get. I keep telling myself I'm doing what's best for my children. This stage is such a brief period of my life and they are growing fast, so I try to enjoy it while it lasts.