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Rewards of Tandem Nursing

Jennifer Powers
Cincinnati OH USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 3, May-June 2004, pp. 89-90

My son, Bo, and I had a wonderful nursing relationship from the beginning. He latched on well right away, and liked to nurse for 45 minutes at a time. He was the chubbiest baby I knew, with cheeks that hung down past his jaw! Other than a few plugged ducts, nursing was always easy for us. Originally, I planned on nursing him for at least two years (that's how long my mother nursed me), but I was open to the idea of child-led weaning.

When Bo turned two, I became pregnant. He was not ready to wean and neither was I, so we continued to nurse to sleep, in the mornings, and when he was tired, hurt, or just bored. I really enjoyed nursing him at a stage when he could tell me what he wanted, how my milk tasted (usually like strawberries or marshmallows), and express his gratitude. He is such an openly sweet and loving boy, and I believe that my openness toward him in our nursing relationship is partly responsible for that. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I noticed I wasn't even making any milk, which Bo hadn't mentioned! Obviously nursing for him was meeting needs other than hunger.

I knew people from my LLL Group who had tandem nursed and I didn't think it would be that hard. When Jonathan was born, he latched on easily and brought my milk in like a champ, but he was jaundiced. He slept for four to five hours at a time, despite my efforts to wake him to nurse. When the home nurse realized I was still nursing Bo as well, she encouraged me to awaken Jonathan to nurse more often. The more calories he gets, the faster the jaundice would leave his system.

I had been very conscious of not making Bo feel displaced by the new baby, and it was hard to say no. But Bo was such a strong nurser. He nursed now with as much enthusiasm, maybe more, than he had before his little brother was born. I was afraid that if I let him nurse whenever he wanted, I wouldn't have enough milk for Jonathan. So I began to limit his nursing to ensure I had enough milk for the baby. This was so hard. I felt many different emotions during this time. I felt sorry for Bo when I had to say no to something I had given freely his whole life, and guilt for limiting our special time together, while at the same time I felt fiercely protective of my new son, wanting to make sure he got enough milk.

Now, Jonathan is four months old and he is thriving on my milk. While it gets easier to balance things every week, I still feel conflicted about tandem nursing. While I love our nursing relationship and don't feel ready for it to end, at times I feel used up, and look forward to having my body all to myself. Bo continues to enjoy nursing in the morning and throughout the day when he needs comfort. I still limit his nursing, and it breaks my heart when he asks for "just a widdle bit," because he knows he can't just nurse to his heart's content anymore. Sometimes I delay his nursing by telling him that the "binks" (our word for nursing and breasts) have to rest so that they can make more milk, and Bo seems to understand this.

Sometimes, when Bo is nursing, he says, "This one for Jonny, this one for me." I think that sharing breastfeeding in this way is teaching him to become an understanding person, and to think about others as well as himself.

While tandem nursing can be hard, I can't imagine doing it any other way. I wouldn't have wanted to wean Bo when I was pregnant only for him to see the new baby enjoying what he used to enjoy. Neither of us was ready to wean. Instead, we both had to adjust to adding a new nursling into the mix. And while there are difficult times, there are many rewards as well. I still have a sure-fire way to calm Bo down when he is having a difficult and emotional day. Bo is learning to share with his brother and even once in a while to put his brother's needs before his own (this is a tough one!). And even though I am often busy with Jonathan and more of the responsibility for taking care of Bo has fallen on my husband, I can still have at least a few minutes every day to reconnect with Bo during our nursing sessions. When he crawls up into my lap for "a widdle bit," I treasure the chance to snuggle close, stroke his hair, and tell him he will always be my baby.

Just yesterday I asked Bo why he liked to nurse. He replied "Cuz it just soooo dood!" So I guess we will be enjoying our nursing relationship for a little longer.

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