Breastfeeding was such a wonderful experience for me when I had my older daughter. When her little brother came about though, nothing could have prepared me for the challenges and also joys that tandem breastfeeding would bring. Read my story here.
When I first got pregnant with Baby A seven years ago, I was over the moon. I read everything I could put my hands on in preparation for her arrival—name any article and I would probably have read it twice! Everything I had read unequivocally advocated breastfeeding and I was determined to breastfeed Baby A for as long as I could.
Thankfully, Baby A was an easy baby when it came to breastfeeding. Latching correctly: check. Appropriate supplies of milk: check. Regular feeding habits: check. I had it all covered and was mighty pleased with myself.
Then I found out I was pregnant with Baby B when Baby A was about 9 months old.
This was an unexpected problem I had not seen coming because all the literature had assured me that it was difficult to conceive while breastfeeding exclusively. But given the ease with which I had managed my first baby, it was happy news for my husband and me, after we had gotten over our initial shock. I can handle this, I thought to myself confidently. Tandem breastfeeding? No sweat.
My tandem breastfeeding problems begin…
Boy, was I wrong. Things got really messy in baby heaven.
Firstly, Baby A was by now only suckling twice a day. But every time Baby B suckled, Baby A wanted a piece of the action, too. Like Baby B, she wanted to cuddle and nuzzle during feeding, never mind the infant foot or arm between us. And unlike Baby B, she already had tiny little teeth. Needless to say, my nipples felt terribly sore and overused. I don’t think I had ever felt so “touched out”.
Second, I was beginning to feel an overpowering urge to push Baby A away! True, her clingy attitude was bothersome, but pushing her away? I was appalled at myself.
The strangest thing despite all of this was that I loved our breastfeeding sessions, despite the physical discomfort. I loved Baby A with the same fierceness before Baby B came along, and I had no inclination to treat her differently except during breastfeeding—which was so strong it would border on rage when she started suckling.
Feelings of guilt and inferiority started to creep up on me, and I questioned my role as a mother. (I found out much later that this was a common occurrence called agitation nursing).
As if these negatives feelings were not enough to wreck my self-esteem, I started to really balloon. While I had been on the slightly chubby side after Baby A, I had almost doubled my weight and size after Baby B.
I was given strong advice not to diet since my body would need that much more nutrition to cope with the demands of tandem breastfeeding. And exercise? In general, if I had time to take a shower by myself, I considered it a really good day. Clothes didn’t fit, I was paranoid that my husband hated my body, my body ached like mad all the time and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
Inasmuch as I tried to hold everything together, I eventually had a meltdown three months into this. My husband stepped in at this point and we had a serious discussion on setting limits as well as other coping strategies. I could not have continued breastfeeding the both of them without his support.
That said, breastfeeding in tandem really helped to alleviate feelings of jealousy from Baby A, who could be possessive of me, even without the second baby’s arrival. It definitely enhanced their sibling bonding and up to now, even as Baby A has reached school age, she remains a great older sister to Baby B.
What other problems did you face when baby no. 2 came along? Tell us your tandem breastfeeding story and how you handled tandem breastfeeding your kids.