This post has been in my head since shortly after Noah was born, but taking the time to write it has not been on my priority list until now. Before I begin, I would like to say that my purpose in writing is simply an explanation of what we're doing and why I think it's great, and an encouragement for others who might like to do similarly. It is NOT meant to be a condemnation of those who have different childrearing philosophies. All parents need to do what they think is best for their children, whether that is the same as what we do or not.

Tandem nursing is what you do when your child (or sometimes children) has not weaned by the time a new sibling comes along. With three months of tandem nursing under our belts, I can say that it has benefitted all three of us. As with all aspects of parenting, it has both joys and challenges.

Our child-rearing philosophy is generally "attachment parenting" and that includes allowing the child to wean when he is ready and not before. This does not mean that Jonathan rules our lives - we are still his parents and in authority. For example, we expect him to be patient if he asks to nurse but I tell him to wait. We also do not reward whining or tantrums with nursing, but require him to calm down and ask nicely first.

I know that some children wean when the milk supply goes down during pregnancy (I did that myself) but I was prepared to tandem nurse if that's what Jonathan needed. Challenge: nursing during preganacy can be quite irritating and painful. But with compromise (still nursing, but shorter sessions) we made it work. (I discovered later that I could have eased the pain by helping Jonathan latch better, but it did not cross my mind that that might be a problem. I mean, he'd been nursing for two years, why would his latch be wrong? But I figure he might have changed it when the supply changed with pregnancy.)

A few months before Noah was born, Jonathan dropped his one middle of the night nursing, with a little encouragement from me. Since we have a family bed, it was easy to offer a cuddle instead of nursing. This is often what we did for his bedtime nursing, since it was too painful to nurse him all the way to sleep. Two months before Noah, we brought the single bed into our room and pushed it up against our bed. It did not take Jonathan long to transition, and then we had space for the baby where Jonathan used to sleep.

It became obvious that Jonathan was not going to wean before the birth, so I joined an online tandem nursing support group because I only know a couple of moms who have done it in the past. Benefit: As noted in Noah's birth story, nursing Jonathan helped get labor moving again so I did not have to take any medicine.

Challenge: nursing two at once does not leave any hands left for scratching an itchy nose! Also, getting them settled in that position takes a while to get used to.

Benefits for Noah: he got real milk right away and so did not have to have a day or more of being hungry (and yes, the colostrum does get mixed in with the milk so he does not lose that benefit.) When the full supply came in, Jonathan could take the edge off so Noah didn't have to try to latch onto an over full Mommy. Relatedly, Jonathan could take the extra from this 120-lb cow so Noah can have a good amount of milk to gain healthily with minimal spit-up and a happy pediatrician.

Challenge: Not unexpectedly, Jonathan has increased his frequency and duration of nursings. This leaves me less time to do other things, which is the challenging part. (I can, however, type blog posts while nursing, even if it does take twice as long to type with one hand...)

Benefits for Jonathan: still getting the benefits of nursing instead of being weaned before he's ready. Not feeling displaced by the new baby. (They're good buddies already!) By the way, his weight has remained steady.

Benefits to Mommy: Avoiding (for the most part) the pain and discomfort of having an overabundant milk supply. Knowing that I'm giving both my children a good, healthy start in life, both physically and emotionally.

So there you have it: why I like tandem nursing. The benefits outweigh the challenges. I recommend it to anyone who is considering it.
Posted by Heather Daley on September 25, 2006, 1:19 pm | Read 2495 times
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