Breastfeeding Stories - My Journey Into Tandem Nursing!
When I first became a mother 15 years ago I knew very little about breastfeeding, but it was something that I wanted to do.
Naively I thought that it would be easy, simply a matter of putting baby to breast and hey presto. How wrong could I have been…
When my eldest was born after a very straightforward 6.5 hour labour she was very sleepy and not all that interested in feeding. She became jaundiced and bottles of formula were pushed onto us by the hospital. I was never shown how to latch her on correctly either.
No wonder then that once we got home things went from bad to worse.By the time she was a week old my nipples were extremely sore and I had to use nipple shields, which led to mastitis, and it was with a certain amount of relief that I gave up b/f her when she was just 2 weeks old.
23 months later I once again held a newborn in my arms. I knew more about b/f now. Hey I had a book and a video!!! DS1 had arrived very quickly in just 2.5 hours and he wanted to nurse ALL the time. I decided to give him a dummy when we got home as according to my mw he was just comfort sucking and I felt it was unfair on DD1 that I was spending all that time b/f him. I thought we were doing well, he loved his dummy,and most importantly I never got sore like I had with DD1. So it came as huge shock when he was weighed on day ten and he had gone down from 8lbs 4 oz to 6.lbs 10!!!
I was told I had to b/f him more, which I did and he managed to put on 1 measly oz in 4 days. The HV was not happy with this at all and said I would have to supplement him with formula, or he would have to be admitted to hospital. So out came the bottles again and again by 2 weeks he was completely f/f. I felt a huge failure for failing to nourish my son and I became depressed as a result, especially as he put on a pound that first week he was on formula and soon grew into a happy, chubby baby.
Fast forward 2years 9 months, and another little boy arrived. DS2 latched on no problems and whilst we had to go back into hospital as he became jaundiced he b/f beautifully, but he was a very frequent feeder, and he used to spend hours cluster nursing in the evenings, which I found really exhausting. On the advice of my HV (why did I ever listen to her?) I gave him a bottle of formula to help him settle at night and yes, you guessed it, by 6 weeks he was fully f/f as he began to reject the breast almost from that very first bottle.
21 months later DD2 arrived and again she was a born breast feeder. I knew a little more about b/f by now and we were doing ok, but she nursed every 2 hours 24/7 and I very quickly became exhausted. In desperation I had taken her into bed with us to try and get more sleep, but my HV put the fear of God into me when she found out, so we stopped doing that ‘dangerous’ practice and I wore myself into a frazzle. In an effort to get her to sleep better we introduced formula and just like DS2 she started to reject the breast and by 6 weeks was fully f/f.
Believe it or not I had no idea that b/f councellors existed in those days and I relied solely on my HV for advice. There was also nobody I knew in my circle of friends who had successfully b/f so it seemed normal to switch to bottles. However I knew that I HAD to breastfeed, so I set about learning as much as I could about b/f.
3 years later DD3 arrived. By now I knew about cluster feeding. Growth spurts, attachment or so I thought, but DD3 had an undiagnosed suck problem. By day three my nipples were in shreds, bleeding and ulcerated. I had mastitis three times, and then thrush and I used to dread every feed as it hurt so much. I contacted several b/f councellors despite my HV insisting that they would only encourage me to keep going and that would not be in my best interest as I was becoming extremely stressed about feeding her! However, as it was the summer holidays I never got to see a counsellor in person and things just went from bad to worse and when my back gave out when DD3 was 2 weeks old and I needed extremely strong painkillers I gave up in floods of tears again…
Was I ever going to b/f successfully?
I was by now so traumatized by this whole b/f failure that when I fell pregnant with DD4 I briefly considered to just go straight to f/f and spare myself all the heartache. I say briefly as I still passionately believed that babies ought to be b/f. This time round we had access to the Internet, which opened up a whole new world of b/f support for me. I came across an old poster in my doctor’s surgery advertising support group meetings by La Leche League (yes I did not know how to pronounce them either!). The poster was a year out of date, but I phoned up anyway, spoke to an infant feeding adviser at our local hospital, who put me in touch with a lovely leader and I found myself invited to the next meeting. This was December 2001 and besides the two leaders I was the only one there. I poured my heart out you could say, left armed with the The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding and Bestfeeding which I devoured cover to cover as well as lots of info on what had gone wrong in the past!
At last here were people who knew what they were talking about, who understood my desperate need to b/f this baby that I was carrying and who could help me achieve my ultimate goal, to successfully b/f one of my babies!
I joined there and then and have never looked back. DD4 was born during National Breastfeeding Awareness Week in May 2002 and she was simply born to b/f. None of the struggles I had with DD3. However DD4 was a VERY frequent nurser. I used to laugh when mothers used to complain about coping with 2 hourly feeds; heck 2 hourly feeds would have been BLISS!!!
DD4 was permanently attached during the first three months of her life, and for all of her first year fed hourly. However thanks to LLL I knew this was normal and I took it all in my stride. We co-slept from birth and I quickly learnt to sleep through the night feeds, I carried her in a sling during the day and learnt to b/f on the go and most importantly thanks to the confidence gained through LLL stopped listening to so-called health professionals who knew diddly squat about b/f/ Thankfully my HV who had given such misguided ‘advice’ in the past had since retired and my new one was ok! Mind you I never really tested her b/f knowledge any queries I took straight to the experts i.e. my local LLL group!!
My initial goal was to nurse DD4 for one year and then go straight to cows
milk. However DD4 turned out to be dairy and Soya intolerant so that plan
went out of the window pretty quickly. As is common in allergic babies she
did not take all that well to solids, and relied mainly on me for nutrition
and thrived on it I must say! Putting the allergy issue
to one side I also had been exposed to many a nursing toddler through LLL and came to see that as the norm. So I decided to let DD4 self wean, BUT had she not weaned herself by age 3 I would certainly be encouraging her to do so and as for tandem nursing, ahm no thank you. ;-)
Well, needless to say my hormones had other ideas and I found myself seriously broody when DD4 tuned one and my periods returned with a vengeance when she was 14 months old. So in true LLL style I went to find out all there is to know about tandem nursing before I even fell pregnant. I was very concerned that DD4 may wean during a pregnancy and I was very aware that she still heavily relied on me for nutrition as well as comfort. I also firmly believed by now that self-weaning was the only way forward for us as DD4 was far too attached to her mm mms and besides I LOVED nursing her and I was not going to short change both of us of this wonderful relationship.
In short I had become besotted with b/f and along the way decided to become a leader so that I could help other mothers experience this wonderful nursing relation ship. I was accredited in August 2003 and that was a wonderful moment. Finally I was able to give back to LLL and support mothers who were struggling like I had once been.
Having another baby was still very much on my mind though so we set about creating baby number seven in earnest and soon enough I found myself pregnant. I found out just before attending the LLL conference in 2004 that we were expecting again and it so happens that I saw tandem nursing for the first time in the flesh there! Well, what more inspiration does a girl need eh?
I encountered the usual prejudice to nursing through pregnancy along the way (it will hurt the baby, it is too taxing on you, you won’t have enough milk etc etc) but thanks to my research and LLL support and information behind me (Hilary Flower’s Adventures in Tandem Nursing) is a BRILLIANT book) I knew that we were going to be all right.
I suffered with painful nipples in the beginning and I was very tired and hormonal, but that was about the only drawback to nursing through pregnancy for me. The fact that I could convince DD4 to have an afternoon nap with me by nursing her off to sleep was a def bonus I tell you! DD4 had still been nursing like a newborn when I fell pregnant and was a bit bewildered as to why her mmm mmms stopped working in the second trimester when my milk supply reduced dramatically, but she kept going nonetheless. She was ecstatic when my colostrum came in and whilst she cut right back on her nursing and there were several times when I thought she had weaned herself she kept going nonetheless.
So, this brings up to DD5, who arrived in December 2002 a very healthy 11lbs
12 oz (so much for nursing through pregnancy depriving the baby!)
and we began tandem nursing for real.
NO amount of research could have prepared me for the reality that is tandem nursing. It is so much better than I ever imagined it to be. DD4 fell in love with DD5 straightaway and never showed any reluctance to share her mmm mms. In fact I suspect that she is eternally grateful to DD5 for bringing back her mmm mmms (Mummy they are working again! Milk coming in my mouth) those were her very excited words when my milk came in and she helped relief my engorgement.
There has never been a problem of not having enough milk either, quite the contrary. At times I felt as though I could nurse the whole of my street, lol! DD5 had quite a few problems coping with all that copious milk and it has really only been since she turned 4 months that nursing her has become the pleasurable and easy experience I recalled nursing DD4 to have been at that stage.
DD5 is now 21 months old and tandem nursing is just what we do every day. DD4 is well on the road to self weaning, nursing only once or twice most days and missing the odd day here and there. When DD5 was first here DD4 nursed more than she did, but those days are now a distant memory.
The two of them are very close. When they are nursing together they hold hands, come off and giggle at each other with milky smiles, play with each other’s hair etc. It is truly heart warming to see and best of all I used to be bale convince both of them to go down for a nap together when this mummy needed a long deserved rest ;-)
I simply could not imagine not breastfeeding now and as for encouraging DD4
to wean when she hits three? Hmm, well she was four! a while ago now and you
know what it does not bother me in the least. Both girls will stop when they
are ready to and I will know that I will have fulfilled
their needs in the best possible way, by mothering through breastfeeding, thanks to LLL!
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