Thursday, 10 April 2014

Five ways to prepare your toddler for tandem feeding

I never planned to tandem feed. I'd never even heard of it before falling pregnant with my third. But my second was so attached to nursing that it just kind of happened.

Tandem nursing has given B and W an extra special bond.

When it became apparent, towards the end of my pregnancy, that I would in fact be feeding a toddler and a newborn, I set about preparing my then 22 month old for the birth of her baby brother (although at that time we didn't know the sex of the new arrival). See my post on breastfeeding while pregnant.

Here are five things I did to ease the transition for my daughter to sharing her 'momma mulk' with the new arrival.

1. Role play. In the weeks leading up to the birth I would often feed my daughter's dolls, teddies and even toy dinosaurs and explain that when the new baby came it would not be able to eat or drink anything except for mummy's milk. I even encouraged her to feed them too and pretend that it was the new baby.

2. Taking turns. Every time we were in a situation that required sharing and taking turns, I reminded my daughter that when the baby came she would have to wait until the baby had its turn before she would be able to have mummy's milk. All the time, I reassured her that she would still be able to nurse too and that it would be a very special thing she would do for the new baby to share mummy's milk.

3. Setting limits. One thing I wish I'd done before baby was born was to set some limits on nursing my daughter. Looking back, my life would have been a lot easier if I had night weaned her before he was born. Getting up in the night to tend to a tag team nursing duo was really, really hard work, especially if they woke at the same time because I struggled to feed both simultaneously and rarely did so. In the end, we night weaned my daughter when she was 27 months and my son was 4 months because I really was shattered. I left it as long as possible because I didn't want her to associate the new arrival with a feeling of being pushed out. We night weaned by introducing a simple pyjama rule. If she was in pyjamas she could not have milk. She could only have milk when she was dressed. Being so tired contributed to some nursing aversion (NA - see my post on nursing aversion) when I breastfed my daughter where I got really touched out by her. Again, I'd never heard of NA before I experienced it, but it can be quite common in a tandem nursing relationship. To get round the NA I introduced a time limit on our nursing and we introduced a game where we would count down to the end of a nursing session. I also introduced times when I wouldn't nurse her. Before meals was a big one because she was gorging on the milk and then not eating properly and then getting hungry (for milk) again not long after. When setting limits, consistency is key, so you're toddler knows exactly when and in what circumstance she can nurse. For example, I would often say:  "You can't nurse now because it's nearly dinner time, but when I've finished washing up after dinner you can have some milk." And once a promised nursing time was agreed, I always stood by my word.

4. The gift that keeps on giving. A couple of days after my son was born, my milk came in when my daughter was at nursery. When she came home, I told her that her baby brother had a special present for her to say thank you for sharing mummy's milk. I added that her brother had brought in some very special milk. When I started nursing her, she was ecstatic. After months of low supply and then sticky colostrum, the huge supply of rich, creamy milk was absolute bliss. I will never forget her face as she finished nursing, with milk dripping down her chin. And she is always grateful to her brother for the influx of some amazing milk. Even now, we still sometimes talk about the extra special gift she got from her baby brother.

5. Go with the flow. Often, older nurslings will self-wean when supply drops in pregnancy. Sometimes, they may go on a nursing strike: my daughter went for 10 day without nursing when I was pregnant. However, after my son arrived, she, too, fed like a newborn. I believe she needed to connect and seek reassurance through this massive life change. My youngest is now 21 months and my daughter is 3.5 years. We are still tandem nursing. Sometimes I wonder if my youngest will wean first. There have been some tough times along the way and some memorable moments (the smell of my daughter's nappies during the first weeks of newborn milk were definitely something special - and not in a nice way!). But I wouldn't change it for the world. Every journey is different and sometimes you just muddle through. But follow your instincts, go with the flow and enjoy the ride.

Are you tandem feeding? Is there anything you'd add to this list?

They don't often nurse at the same time - but it can be done!

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