My Experience as a Tandem Nurturer: Part 1

My journey towards being a tandem nurser has presented some big bumps in the road.

Since the birth of my son (December 22), my daughter has asked to nurse and I have offered milkies, but she clearly does not remember how to. She either uses her teeth or just sits there mouth open. Plus, she says “I don’t like it” about the taste, makes a face and tries to spit. So, I may not end up the tandem nursing mama I wanted to be. (I’m also not sure that I am even wanting to be anymore since I have had to pump for my son’s jaundice which irritates on top of his possible tongue tie which makes for difficult nursing all on top of my daughter’s bad/nonexistent latch).

My new focus, as I step into being a mother of two, is to strive to be a tandem nurturer.

I came to this idea after some rough days of 24 hour light therapy for my son’s jaundice. The circumstances this created complicated the transition for the whole family. I started to hear and see myself turn on my daughter and begin being negative, criticizing and unbelievably impatient almost all the time. I was trying to think of and meet her needs as they are greater at this time, but it wasn’t evoking the empathy to spark creative and effective communication and loving mothering. At a total loss and at my wit’s end, I desperately went to my bookmarked parenting posts and gathered my parenting books to gather inspiration and ideas. [See resource list below.] I hadn’t read Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids yet but knew many the ideas from Nonviolent Communication: A Language for Relationships and The Compassionate Classroom. What I read suggested that my negative reaction stems from a fear that my needs won’t be met. This prompted me to ask myself:  What are my needs?

My first thought was unglamorously “I need her to do what I’m telling her.”

That stopped me dead in my tracks. That was the first thing I thought? And I had to actually think hard to figure out another need? I had just read the part in Unconditional Parenting about control for the book club. I knew that I didn’t want to be a critical, controlling mother. Here I was in my darkest, least loving moments of motherhood so far.

I didn’t want to go to a place of blame and shame, not on my child for sure but not on myself either.

I thought harder about my needs. I knew that my husband’s need is probably to have everyone safe and secure. A significantly jaundiced newborn baby who requires light therapy and a vibrant two year old bouncing around the bed, leaning on the baby and blocking the light were easy triggers for his fear of someone getting hurt. I tried on the idea that my need was for their safety, and it wasn’t clicking. I searched elsewhere.

My mind settled on the simple, joyous moment I had with my baby earlier. It was just the two of us. I knew my daughter was being cared for by others and would not disturb our space or disrupt my moment with him. This brought me back to a post I had just reread (in my desperation) on Encouraging Children with New Siblings through the transition.

I realized I need to have time where I just focus on my baby. I also need to have time where I can focus on just my daughter.

I know … they aren’t profound ideas, but I felt the truth and breadth of those needs. I realized that when I feel like my daughter is “invading” my son’s space, it is not a fear for his safety but a desire to connect deeply with my son in this most precious early period and while he is working through the jaundice. Likewise, when I want to focus on and engage with her (beyond reading a book or taking her to the potty or talking from afar while she shows me something) I find myself distracted because he usually with me or right there with both of us.

Above all……this too shall pass…..

My son’s jaundice will not last forever. My questions about his tongue tie, my milk supply, and our cosleeping situation will not last forever. My body’s need to recover will not last forever. My containment to a single space will not last forever. This period of transition will not last forever. My negative response to my daughter’s needs, my needs and the needs of my son and husband will not last forever.

I can turn this around.

UPDATE: After realizing and acknowledging my needs, I immediately felt more compassionate, caring and patient toward my daughter. I told my husband my needs, and we talked about his needs as well as the importance of our trust in our daughter (which seemed to have suddenly diminished). I love having special time alone with each of my children. It’s only been a short time, but I definitely am taking the reminder to keep my relationship with my daughter as a priority above obedience and compliance. As I take the control out of my tone and words, the power struggles are fewer and our interactions more positive and loving. I certainly have had many more joyous and connected moments with her, and that builds my confidence that I *can* be a tandem nurturer of these two blessings of mine….


Here’s a list of resources I am turning to in my quest to be a tandem nurturer:



3 responses to this post.

  1. Sheila,
    This post is wonderful. Fraught and clear and compassionate for yourself and your family. I love you and feel connected to that part of you that struggles and grows and ultimately finds beauty in it all. I’d love to talk if you need a mama phone moment. My number is the same.

    Blessings in this time of transition.


    • Thank you for your support, Janelle. Your blog (the last post in particular) inspired me to be this honest about my struggles. I send blessings your way as well. I’ll have to see if I have your number. Phone change….
      Love to you all,


  2. […] [Part 1 and Part 2 of my journey were raw and rough, I know. I definitely was feeling more off then than I do now. Is this because I'm taking my placenta pills again? Not sure, but here's an update with some better news about my journey to become a tandem nurturer……] […]


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