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Tandem Nursing

By Sarah Macy
Placerville CA USA
From: New Beginnings, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 52-53

On July 24, 1996, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Johannah. Before she was born, I imagined offering my baby the breast and letting our instincts take over. In reality, however, when I offered my breast to my newborn, she began to gnaw on it. Luckily, I had support. At the hospital, a nurse patiently taught us about proper positioning and latch-on. During the first few weeks after coming home from the hospital, my husband often checked our positioning to ensure that I would not experience the cracked, sore nipples that I had in the early days of breastfeeding.

When Johannah was seven months old, I became pregnant with Laura. I was faced with a difficult decision. I had to decide if I was going to breastfeed through the pregnancy or wean. Ultimately, I decided to continue, but it wasn't as easy as I had expected it to be. I was told by my doctor's nurse practitioners to wean. People often asked me, "Should you be doing that?" while I was nursing Johannah. I was prepared to face anything that stood in my way with the help and support of a WIC employee, Lupe. She stood by me and loaned me books and pamphlets on tandem nursing.

During this second pregnancy, I was put on bed rest for nearly two months. I was glad I had decided to continue nursing because I wasn't allowed to pick her up or get on the floor and play with her. Nursing was the thing that only I could do for her.

When Johannah was just over 11 months, I went to a WIC meeting with a friend. La Leche League had a booth set up there. I was concerned that Johannah wasn't getting milk so I asked the Leader, Debbie, about milk supply. She reassured me and offered to drive me to meetings. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Laura was born full term and healthy. She weighed eight pounds, 15 ounces. Because of the medication used during labor, she was sleepy and not interested in nursing. I called Debbie crying because I assumed that I would be able to nurse my baby immediately after birth. I felt better after talking with Debbie. My spirits were boosted even more when Johannah arrived at the hospital. I hadn't nursed her in 30 hours and we both needed comforting. After my nursing session with Johannah, Laura woke up and nursed like a pro.

Sometimes, I think that if it hadn't been for La Leche League, I wouldn't have decided to tandem nurse. It was very helpful to see so many other mothers at LLL meetings who were tandem nursing. We supported each other. My daughter's pediatrician also encouraged extended nursing.

Johanna weaned herself after 15 months of tandem nursing. Some of my sweetest memories involve breastfeeding both of my daughters at the same time.

When Laura was two, I became pregnant with our third daughter, Kendra. Kendra had trouble latching on at first. After a few weeks, she figured it out and continues to nurse at 18 months old. It appears that I will be tandem nursing again. As I write this, I'm 26 weeks pregnant with our fourth child.

Someday I hope tandem nursing will be a widely accepted practice. We have a long way to go. Society needs to accept breastfeeding as the norm. I hope that when people see my beautiful, healthy children, they will realize that breastfeeding and tandem nursing is natural. It forms bonds and nourishes at the same time.

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