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Tandem Nursing

By Corinne Tribe
Shetland Islands, Scotland
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 13 No. 3, May-June 1996, p. 77

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 asked in one survey if they would do it again, the unanimous answer among tandem nursing mothers was "no," according to the leaflet on the subject. Whatever could be so difficult about nursing two small children? I thought complacently, nine months pregnant with my cherished two-and-a-half-year-old at my breast. Two months later, the same cherished two-and-a-half-year-old still at my breast, and my seven-week-old strongly defending her rights to the position, I feel much less complacent and considerably wiser.

I had always planned on allowing Brendon to wean himself and so, when he showed no signs of doing this throughout the pregnancy, we just assumed that this wonderfully loving experience would continue. I even remember thinking how much easier it would be after the birth, when my milk would be plentiful for him. Never did I anticipate feeling so negative toward the whole situation. Heather's first two weeks went well, partly because we were staying with relatives, so Brendon had plenty of loving attention from myself and his father, Dave. However, once we returned home and Dave went back to work, life became more difficult. I had expected an increase in Brendon's desire to nurse, but now it seemed that he wanted to nurse all day. When I did not oblige immediately, he would break down in sobs on the floor. It got to the point where the words, "Brendon snuggle" in his plaintive little voice would send a chill down my spine. I just could not keep up with his demands, and I was horrified by my own feelings of resentment toward him. With cushions all around me, I endeavored to nurse them simultaneously. But with Heather arching her back and crying, and Brendon lunging at my nipple with all those teeth, I felt used. I knew that Brendon was aware of my negative feelings and that in itself was causing him to want to nurse more often. I began to wish that Brendon had weaned when I was pregnant.

Dave and I debated long and hard about limiting Brendon's nursings. After all, I could not leave Heather to cry when she needed to feed. But to deny Brendon the reassurance of my love in this very special way was also more than I could bear. I felt incredibly guilty about wanting to wean Brendon, as if I had failed to do what I had assumed would be so easy. I also felt sad as our beautiful relationship was under such strain. I think the most difficult thing about it all was coping in silence. Outside our home, I put on a brave face and told everyone how well things were going for fear of them saying: "Well, what did you expect? You should have stopped Brendon from doing that by now!"

It was at this point that I read LLL's leaflet, "Nursing Two, Is It for You?" again, and this time I understood more of what the author was saying. It was such a relief to read that my negative feelings were normal, that "a common occurrence with mothers who tandem nurse is 'feeling all touched out.'" I think this was also reassuring for Dave, as he was taking the brunt of my frustration and anger. I also realised that simultaneous nursings were part and parcel of tandem nursing, and that I am not the first mum to sit bare-breasted, balancing two nurslings on my lap. I spoke to my local La Leche League Leader, Michele, who wisely pointed out that if Brendon was not nursing, I would have to find other ways of reassuring and entertaining him. Slowly, I realised just how well things really were going. Apart from the increase in nursing, Brendon has shown no other signs of jealousy toward Heather. In fact, I am touched by the tender way he holds her hand whilst they both nurse.

That was all two weeks ago. Brendon still nurses at least five times a day, but we are both enjoying the experience again. Often a snack or a book will deter him if need be. Heather spends most of the day in a sling, and since it is the type that will hold her in a football hold, it is ideal for added support whilst nursing them at the same time. We are still in the early days and undoubtedly will encounter new challenges before the nursing trio disbands, but it is reassuring to know that I am not a lone pioneer and that the hard work now will reap rewards in the months and years to come. And if asked if I would tandem nurse again...ask me again in six months!

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