My Tandem Feeding Journey by Prue Henschke
As most first time mamas do, I read a lot about parenting, during my pregnancy. After coming across the World Health Organisation recommendation about breastfeeding until 2 years or beyond, in my mind I set an intention to feed my son until age 2.
Fast forward, 2 years and 10 months I’m now the proud mama of two beautiful boys who I’m tandem feeding.
I can’t say I found breastfeeding easy from day one – my son cluster fed – for what seemed like an eternity to a sleep deprived mama, I had incredible soreness and had to enlist additional help with attachment from several Lactation consultants. I also returned to work when my son was 7 months old and it took sometime for my body to adjust – with painful blocked ducts on some occasions and a noticeable drop in supply on others.
Once we got the hang of breastfeeding though, it became a very beautiful part of my relationship with my son.
When I fell pregnant with my second child, and I entered the second trimester my milk supply dwindled. I night weaned my son at this point because with terrible morning sickness and still having countless night wakings with my son, I was concerned about the impact on my pregnancy if I didn’t make a change.
My eldest continued to feed throughout the pregnancy. As the months passed my son showed no signs of self weaning, which I had assumed would happen given he was getting little milk.
I had always been comfortable with the idea of tandem feeding, but as the birth approached I had some questions about the logistics – would there be enough colostrum for the new baby if it was all guzzled by the eldest, would there be enough milk for both, did the newborn always need to be fed first. I reached out to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, a private Lactation consultant and other mums online for advice. While I got some great tips (which I implemented) like parenting itself, all the theory in the world doesn’t prepare you for when the day actually comes.
I had involved my son in the pregnancy as much as possible, we talked to the baby, he came to all the hospital appointments, we read books about becoming a big brother, planned a big brother party for the baby’s homecoming (even got him the t-shirt!) and bought him a present from the baby.
Before my hospital stay I had never spent a night away from my toddler. I was conscious about the adjustment for my toddler to having a new brother, and knowing he would be sharing “his boobs” added another layer to the potential jealousy.
I am thankful from day one my toddler has adored his little brother. If anything it was me he wasn’t too impressed with.
There were some complications at birth and I was in hospital longer than expected. My toddler visited regularly and breastfed when he came. The newborn took to feeding easily and my supply was really good thanks to my eldest.
When I came home, for the first few days I fed both boys together. My toddler’s interest in feeding had increased ten fold as he wanted to be at the breast as much as his baby brother. I had been given advice to feed my newborn first, but sometimes this didn’t logistically work. I have always fed on demand and not followed any structured routine, so there were occasions it simply didn’t work. What did help was always feeding my newborn from a particular breast first and my toddler from the other. I did talk with my toddler about limiting the duration of his feeds to leave some milk for his brother and he now completely gets it, although it took some time.
Being entirely honest, the first weeks, even months were really hard. There were a lot of tantrums and tears and I questioned whether I had made a big mistake not weaning my toddler before our baby came. A few pieces of great advice kept me going during the challenging times.
The first was reminding me that the human body is so incredibly clever that I would be able to make enough milk for both boys (think of mums with twins). Worth noting my baby is adorably chunky, so any concerns about him not getting “enough” were misplaced.
The second, even if I had weaned my toddler the issues I was having would probably have been exactly the same. He is a toddler and the adjustment to having a sibling is huge on any view.
Thirdly, I was doing an amazing thing and the boys would have an incredible bond from day one.
Aside from the physical demands of tandem feeding one of the other challenges has been the judgment of others. I find it strange that breastfeeding is celebrated, but only to a point, and extended breastfeeding is met with what I can only describe as negativity. I’m not the type of person to be dissuaded by others once I’ve made up my mind to do something but it is a factor sadly which may weigh on some mamas.
As my baby approaches 6 months old, I’m happy and proud of my decision to continue feeding both children. Like every decision a parent makes there is no right or wrong – just what feels right for you and your family.
Tandem feeding has been the right decision for our family.
Prue Henschke, mama of two boys, aged 5 months and 2 and a half years, yogi, meditator, beach lover, traveller, newbie blogger, lawyer. Based in Melbourne, originally from Teresa’s home town of Adelaide.