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We can’t stop talking about the benefits of breastfeeding. And why should we? It’s constantly being upheld by top health authorities as the gold standard in nutrition for babies. It’s a living, breathing, miracle food that you produce, changing constantly to meet the nutritional needs of your growing child.
In sum, there’s no other food on earth – natural or artificial – that can match the superpowers of breastmilk. It’s also tough to pinpoint another parent-child activity that can provide the same amount of bonding that nursing a child facilitates.
Singaporean mum Sin-Yee Tan knows all this, and that’s why, this breastfeeding week, we choose to highlight her remarkable tandem nursing and extended breastfeeding story.
Tandem Nursing and Extended Breastfeeding: Singapore Mum Shows How It’s Done!
Stay-at-home mummy to 3.5 year-old twin boys, Caleb and Lucas, Sin-Yee nurses her boys about two to three times a day. She used to work as a speech-language pathologist in a hospital prior to staying at home with her sons.
Sin-Yee is also one of the administrators of the incredibly vibrant and supportive Breastfeeding Mums
Facebook group in Singapore.
We wanted to know from Sin-Yee what it’s like handling both tandem nursing and extended breastfeeding
like a pro. She also shares some very useful tips for breastfeeding mums of twins, as well as those looking to keep breastfeeding their babies beyond a year.
Her breastfeeding philosophy is simple: When in doubt, whip it (or them, in her case) out! Sin-Yee adds that she firmly believes in feeding on demand as well as in child-led weaning. She is a strong advocate of a woman’s right to nurse in public without shame.
“Nursing two babies is one the hardest things I’ve ever done…”
We wanted to know what it was like tandem feeding twin newborns, the challenges in this as well as how Sin-Yee overcame them.
She explains how she underwent a Caesarean section after four days of unsuccessful induction. By the time her boys were born, Sin-Yee was so exhausted that she was slipping in and out of consciousness.
The mummy of twins recollects how she doesn’t have much memory of what happened a few hours after delivery. But importantly, her husband and nurse helped to position her baby boys for latching as soon as she was wheeled into the recovery room.
Sin-Yee firmly believes that the early attempts at latching helped in stimulating her milk supply. So how did she actually establish tandem feeding? With a lot of help from the lactation consultant, she says.
“When I woke up, I started tandem feeding them with lots of help from the lactation consultant (an IBCLC), the nurses and my husband. I used a twin nursing pillow along with lots of pillows, which really helped in getting my boys into the right position in those early days,” explains Sin-Yee.
She elaborates that she did not want to have a schedule with her boys due to her strong belief in the benefits of feeding on demand. But, “for sanity’s sake, if only one of them wanted to nurse, I would always offer the other breast to the other twin so that their sleep/wake cycles would be more in-sync,” she tells us.
Sin-Yee admits that “nursing two babies is probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life.” She recollects how she was hungry and thirsty all the time. On some days, this mother of multiples didn’t even leave her bed except for bathroom breaks and a quick shower, since I was nursing so much.
Growth spurts were also challenging, but she kept reminded herself that “It would get better after a few days.”
Sin-Yee makes tandem nursing and extended breastfeeding look easy! She advocates for more awareness around the benefits of extended breastfeeding.
“Not ready to give up breastfeeding…”
Breastfeeding one child – from establishing to continuing it – can be challenging enough for some mums. So how was Sin-Yee motivated to keep going with breastfeeding not one, but two little ones?
“I wanted to follow the World Health Organization’s breastfeeding guidelines of exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age, and then breastfeeding until at least two years of age,” she explains. But when she reached those targets, Sin-Yee found her boys weren’t ready to give up nursing then. So she just kept going.
She also found breastfeeding incredibly convenient: “I nursed (and sometimes tandem nurse) everywhere; on planes, in museums, shopping malls restaurants etc.”
This is the football hold with one baby. With twins, there’d be another baby under the other arm! | Photo: stock image
Mummies of multiples, you must be wondering how Sin-Yee manages breastfeeding twins with ease, and for so long too.
Her advise to you is simple and useful:
- Educate yourself about breastfeeding multiples before giving birth. Sin-Yee recommends the book, Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada for practical tips.
- Book a prenatal session with an IBCLC, preferably one with a lot of experience with multiples.
- Join an online breastfeeding support group for mums with multiples.
- Pick a BFHI (Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative) certified hospital with in-house IBCLCs. Sin-Yee explains how she received a lot of support from not only from the IBCLCs, but also from knowledgeable and encouraging nurses who didn’t push formula at the tiniest whimper. The encouragement to room in with her twins helped her nurse on demand and ensured that my milk supply was adequate for my boys.
When it comes to tandem nursing newborn twins, Sin-Yee recommends the football hold position as best, along with a twin nursing pillow. She also suggests that you use a nursing bracelet to remind yourself who nursed on which side, and also to switch sides after each tandem session.
Also, “don’t be shy to ask for help!” reminds Sin-Yee. Her mum and husband supported her so much when her babies were tiny that her only job was pretty much to nurse her twins.
Why Extended Breastfeeding?
Being a pro at tandem nursing and extended breastfeeding, we wanted to know Sin-Yee’s thoughts on the latter.
For her, the emotional support that young kids get with extended breastfeeding and child-led weaning, is really important. She elaborates, “When we support our young kids in their emotional needs, it gives them confidence to separate from us when they are ready to do so.”
Her twins are testament to this. Sin-Yee describes them as confident and independent little boys happy to go to preschool, and with no separation anxiety even when they started school.
She feels that many parents of older babies and toddlers don’t really understand the benefits of breastfeeding a child beyond a certain age. And formula companies who target these parents (and even some doctors) are largely responsible for this mind-set.
Meanwhile, there is also a need for more awareness to be created in society. And through this, breastfeeding mums will be better supported. Sin-Yee believes “more public health campaigns, as well as more breastfeeding friendly company policies when women return to the workforce will be helpful in supporting extended breastfeeding.”
While she was lucky to have an understanding boss who let her pump at regular intervals when I went back to work, this wasn’t the case for many women, who have to “drag pumps, pump in toilets” and so on.
“Knowledge is power”
Here’s Sin-Yee’s message to all you mums reading this:
“Despite what people tell you, it is possible for the majority of women to breastfeed twins, given the right support and knowledge. Don’t let your confinement lady, family members nor colleagues tell you what to do. Knowledge is power, and gives you confidence to stand up to naysayers and stand by what you believe.”
We couldn’t agree more! A huge thank you to Sin-Yee for sharing her experience and tips with all our readers.