Tandem Nursing Update

I had a tandem nursing breakthrough today.

I shared in an earlier post that I am a tandem nurser after my toddler relearned to latch and nurse. For a while there I was wondering, “Am I (still) a breastfeeding mama?” My daughter even gained a nose obsession from when she weaned during pregnancy.

Well since then my daughter has started to ask for milkies. All. the. time.

It just makes her so happy sometimes. Sometimes she asks, latches for a minute distractedly before choosing to get off to do something else.

Part of me is grateful that I can nurse and wear her so that she has a closeness from her babyhood in this time of transition and upheaval in her world. Part of me is still hormonally averse and has to breathe through each session moment by moment.

Sometimes, when baby has been nursing constantly and so has my daughter, I feel the thought float across my mind: weaning. “I’m not ready, and neither is she.” Breathe…..

Today, I had a genius discovery at a key moment; here was the scene:

My daughter had just nursed. Again. I think I literally hadn’t had my boobs to myself for more than a few minutes. I was done.

Milkies at the train station with "footie hands" (socks on her hands).

2 yo: I want more milkies.

Me: One more minute then milkies are all finished.

2 yo: Ok. [Nurses for more than a minute.]

Me: Ok, all finished.

2 yo: I want more milkies! [Enter meltdown face and begin wailing cry.]

Me: You really like to get milkies.

2 yo: Yes. I want more milkies. [Lip quivering still, the cries subside a bit.]

Me: I hear that you want more milkies. You can have more milkies later, but right now milkies are all finished.

2 yo: Why?

Me: Because mama needs a break.

2 yo: [Wailing starts to take off] Why?

Me: [Thinking about why I need  a break….about how I feel like if someone touches my nipple right now I might just lose my mind. Listening to this wailing start to pick up. I feel us entering full on meltdown. Still, I just can’t deal with any more right now!] It’s mama’s turn, my love.

2 yo: [Sniff] Mama’s turn? [Sniff]

Me: Yes, love. [She calms down. Hmm, this is going somewhere!] You had a turn, baby had a turn, now it’s mama’s turn.

2 yo: [She seems to be accepting this. I sense her brainwave shifting.]

Me: It feels hard to share the milkies sometimes, huh? You really like to get milkies. We are all sharing the milkies, and sometimes you have to wait and be patient. That can be hard sometimes.

2 yo: Yes. … Mama? Let’s go play.

Me: [Shocked that this solution has come to me and actually worked.] I would love to play with you, my love.

Yes, I finally realized that tandem nursing is about sharing. My children are sharing: my lap, my breasts, my milk, my love.

I am a point in that triangular relationship, too, though. I need to make sure that my needs are considered. They may not take priority, but my needs should be acknowledged.

I should strive to meet my needs as well as those of my children in a balanced way. Sometimes that means baby gets to nurse. Sometimes that means I need to breathe through nursing my daughter.

Tandem nursing: Sometimes, it means saying it’s mama’s turn.

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RESOURCES

13 responses to this post.

  1. Oooh, very cool. I am struggling with a (much lower) version of this, myself. I just nurse the one but sometimes, very occasionally (like yesterday) she wants to nurse *while* I am eating. That is toooooo far, for me. I am all for the ‘on demand/cue’ thing but sometimes I need to feel my body is mine. I haven’t come up with a way of setting limits around this, yet (haven’t stopped to think how to do it gracefully and empathically, yet) but like your idea of sharing. She really seems to get the sharing and turn taking thing – at least with toys – so we’ll see if that is the way to go with this.

    I agree that mama’s needs are important, too… even if in practice I forget to *live* that. :p

    Cheers for shout-out, too!!
    Gauri
    LovingEarthMama.com

    Reply

    • Hi Gauri! Thanks for stopping by and reading. Your “Why” post was quite timely as we switched from What to Why in the last couple of weeks, I noticed.

      I think that the feelings I am feeling are normal for many mothers nursing older children and can range into the more extreme for mothers who nurse through pregnancy and tandem nurse. I think aversion might be our natural way of creating space for two, whether we end up having another child or not.

      I think the sharing idea came into my head because my daughter, as you describe your daughter, really seems to get sharing and personal space when they are explained and used in daily language. I notice that since I started using the bit about turns that she will drink and say she is finished or will start wanting to play and I will ask if she is finished and she will stop willingly without whining or getting upset about the end of the session. I am wondering if the language and concept of taking turns has let her know that they are not going away, that when someone else is finished she can have a turn, too.

      Whatever it is, I’m grateful for this realization I stumbled onto! I’d love to hear how things turn out with your little one.

      Thanks again for commenting!
      sheila

      Reply

      • Awesome! So glad your daughter is responding to this new approach! Great news.

        My little one does respond to the limits I have been trying to introduce to this process… sometimes. I have, for example, been saying ‘we nurse at home or in the car’ trying to reduce feedings when we are out. She is one of those kids that left unchecked would hang off my boobie like a monkey off a tree – all day. So now I hear her repeating that: ‘milk at home and in the car’ and today she even checked herself and asked to nurse in the restaurant and then thought about it and asked for water instead!! But then again at the park she wanted to nurse and then she WANTED to nurse so I, sap/loving, responsive mother, gave in… So, it is very much a work in progress. It is harder to use that exact concept ‘of sharing’ with one kid but I admire and enjoy the principle and the attempt to put it in language that makes sense to her – which is what I am always trying to do! So thanks for the thought and the ‘permission’ to find our own way through this relationship. cheers!

      • What a thoughtful moment where your daughter showed you how much she is learning about the needs of others. Sounds like this “sharing” language around milkies (or whatever she calls it) might really be something she is ready for, the concept that you might need your personal space for a bit, the idea that you are giving yourself and your space, that you are you and she is her own self. The reality of the situation I wrote about in this post was that it felt very much like something I have been wanting to say for so long, since before I had two children. I think that is why the whole moment sat so strongly with me. I finally found the way to explain to my daughter in a way she can understand that I am my own self and sometimes need my body to be my own.

        That said, please don’t feel the need to consider yourself having “given in” to your daughter. You saw her need, distinct from other times, and you met it. What can we call these moments when we recognize the need in our children and shift our desires and agendas of the moment to better love and nourish our children? Giving in just seems so tied up in power. I know my mind says giving in and struggles against the feelings that come with “losing,” but my heart grows arms and holds my little girl who will only be this holdable and small for such a short time. What am I giving into but my love for my child?

        Yes, this mothering and balance finding business is a work in progress…

        Thanks for helping me talk through it. : )
        sheila

  2. This is so beautiful. I love “My children are sharing: my lap, my breasts, my milk, my love.” Such a beautiful description of what it’s like to mother more than one child. I read it an imagined both babies taking turns nursing, can’t wait till I’m there one day. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

    • Well, singlecrunch, you would know more than me about mothering two, so if it sounds like I’m on the right track with that line then I am grateful to know it. This is all new to me, sometimes glorious and sometimes crushing in magnitude. I’m glad to hear you are thinking of a third. Makes for great writing! I’ll keep reading your blog with joy whether you do or don’t, though, (seriously, it’s like my new tv!) so no pressure to take up with one of the dang park daddies. 😉
      sheila

      Reply

  3. Hahahahaha I am sitting here literally laughing out loud…that reference made my night.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Sarah Davis on April 9, 2012 at 11:21 am

    My daughter’s been weaned for 6 months and still asks on a daily basis. I’ve started wondering why I’m not letting her. Mostly because I really really need my body to be mine some times and I was having a hard time placing limits on her nursing. (I’m nursing a 1 year old too.) But I’m honestly considering letting her nurse again.

    We’ll see. But thank you for this. It came at the perfect ime.

    Reply

    • Thank *you* Sarah for reading and sharing your experience with me.

      It can be hard mentally, emotionally and physically when we want our bodies to ourselves. So much giving goes on; sometimes maybe we just need our bodies back to feel like we still have part of ourselves left.

      Setting limits around something that is so intimate and visceral is naturally a challenge. Doing so with love is not something that comes natural, though, for me. I struggled to find a way to express my need to someone so young. Her need eclipsed my words and my actions felt misinterpreted or misrepresentative of my desire. This concept and language of taking turns and sharing has truly been impacting our relationship, around milkies and even beyond.

      I’m not sure if she weaned herself and now wants milk again or if she’s been asking and never stopped. Regardless, you can try something and change it again if you need to. Trying could give you more information to make a decision. You might try it when you are well hydrated and well fed and well rested (ha!) and feeling like you have a bit extra resources (and milk?) to give. With my aversion I like a letdown to happen so there’s not so much sucking without milk so I will massage downwards towards the nipple to get things going faster.

      Your child may have a reaction you can’t predict, and you know them better than anyone so you will have your own language. If it was me and my daughter I would probably say something like: “I know you’ve been asking for milkies, and I’ve said no before. Baby and I have been sharing and taking turns with the milkies. Sometimes baby has a turn and sometimes I need the milkies to myself. Right now, I’m wondering if you would like a turn having a little bit of milkies.”

      If you end up talking to your child or nursing again, I’d love to hear how it goes for you. You can comment here or on the Facebook page.
      Thanks again for reading,
      sheila

      Reply

  5. […] caused my daughter to have a nursing-related nose obsession. I found a respectful way to handle tandem nursing. Alas, our nursing relationship continues to be one riddled with bad timing, unhelpful hormones and […]

    Reply

  6. This is genius! I am so happy when I am trying to explain something to my daughter and I find just the right way that makes sense to her. And it is usually a way that you had never thought of before, such as giving mama her time or turn to have milks to herself. Great work!

    Reply

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