Following My Heart: Nursing Two Children
When my 25 month old daughter came flitting through the hospital room door with my husband, I had no idea how she would react to her tiny, four-hour-old brother. During my entire pregnancy, I had been wondering anxiously how the first few days would go, and along those lines, how breastfeeding two children would be. I wondered if I was cut out for it and how we would manage.
Getting Prepared: Nursing During Pregnancy
My daughter is a very active little girl–she is like a living pixie that never holds still. Up until her brother’s birth, she had been slowly weaning herself except for mornings and nights, chiefly because she was too busy to take a break throughout the day. I couldn’t guess what her reaction to breastfeeding would be after her brother was born, and part of me dreaded the thought of her weaning herself entirely.
I had been hoping to tandem breastfeed from the moment we found out I was pregnant, but it had been a rough 38 weeks. I battled a great deal of soreness and great discomfort while nursing along with a creepy-crawly nursing aversion. Those of you who have breastfed during pregnancy may know the feeling: it is a very strange, awkward sort of feeling that makes your skin crawl. To think of that feeling still sometimes sends shivers up my spine. Throughout all of that I was still determined to continue breastfeeding our daughter until she self-weaned. I wanted her to be the one to tell me when her last time nursing would be and I couldn’t bring myself to take that source of comfort away from her when I knew she still needed it. Now, that isn’t to say there weren’t times I wished and pleaded with her (silently, in my mind) not to ask to nurse that day. I did. Yet, at the same time, visions of breastfeeding two little ones made me want to push through each uncomfortable experience, even if it was only just bearable.
I read all I could about breastfeeding and tandem nursing, and it did not make me feel any more prepared. The gist of most articles seemed to be, “It will all fall into place.” I was left disenchanted. There had to be more to it–more details, more struggles, more techniques, advice, etc. When I was first learning about breastfeeding before my daughter was born, there were countless resources. Now I felt like I was venturing into a virtually uncharted territory armed with…nothing. I had no idea what I was doing and knew very few people whom I could ask for help. So I realized I just needed to follow my heart.
The last month or so, when the colostrum came in, I no longer had pain while nursing my daughter, but the aversion slightly remained. I wondered what would happen when the milk returned and I hoped it would change.
Those Tough First Few Days
I am the sort of person whose imagination often takes over and I am left a nervous wreck. But those moments when my daughter first walked into the hospital room shine in my memory as very sweet and very telling moments of the weeks to come. “NICE BABY!” were the first words she said when she saw the tiny blue bundle in my arms. Everyone in the room laughed. Though a little shy at first, she was immediately the cautious and concerned big sister that she remains two months later. Though it wasn’t until we got home the next day that the first full day of tandem nursing began.
My milk came in much faster than before. By that second evening my milk came in, and as soon my daughter discovered this she instantly reverted back to the nursling she had been at 12 months. She was hooked. I mean HOOKED. She was nursing more than our newborn and I was left utterly exhausted, sick of the taste of water from drinking so much of it, and I was also very sore. I remember laying in bed that night thinking,
“What in the world have I done? I must be completely insane!”
Now I can look back on that and smile to myself, but at the time, I didn’t realize that it gets better.
It is so difficult during the initial days of breastfeeding after birth because there are so many things in transition. You now have a tiny new precious person who depends upon you for everything, and at the same time, you feel exhausted, sore, and quite frankly, terrible. What I discovered with having a second baby is that I knew more of what to expect. I knew how exhausted I would be, how uncomfortable and emotional I would feel, and I also knew I wanted to prepare myself for how my daughter would react. I wanted to involve her in everything that was going on so that she wouldn’t feel brushed aside. My husband was more than a little surprised with the extent of “nesting” I had done to prepare for this birth. I lined up little projects, activities, and classes for our daughter to do. I cooked meals, froze them, and got everything around the house I could possibly get situated for postpartum and for nursing a newborn. Yet in those first days and weeks, much of the time I felt like I was winging it. I broke down and cried more than once just from exhaustion alone.
Questions We Worked Through
In those early days I had some questions and was quickly able to figure out answers that worked for us.
Who should I nurse first? I tried it both ways and discovered it depended upon what side and the time of day. During the day, if I was going to nurse on my right side, I let my toddler nurse first. The let down was very fast on that side and too forceful for our newborn to handle. If I nursed on the left, I had our newborn nurse first. At night, if she woke up, I let our toddler nurse first (on both sides) to decrease the discomfort of engorgement and decrease the forceful letdown for our son. It seems like a lot, and was difficult initially, but it became second nature faster than I had first anticipated.
Should they nurse at the same time? That would only work in a relaxed position, otherwise it was incredibly uncomfortable for me, especially at the beginning.
At about a week postpartum our toddler went on a breastmilk-only strike for two days where she only wanted to nurse. ALL. DAY. LONG. My husband and I were both concerned and had food available for her throughout the day without much success. She ended up eating a few other simple foods the second evening, but no solid meals and nothing could persuade her that there was anything on earth better than breastmilk. I definitely had not planned on that. I thought perhaps she was reaching out for extra snuggles and attention, so I didn’t want to say “no,” but I quickly became afraid that this was becoming the new normal. By the third day, she seemed to realize that though breastmilk was her first choice, it was not very sustaining and she began to eat more regularly but still very reliant on nursing. It wasn’t until she became more comfortable with the situation that I noticed a decline in how often she asked to nurse. When I look back, I think the regulating hormones had a big part to play because at the time I felt like I was failing.
Hitting Our Stride
After the rough first two weeks or so we slowly began to hit our stride. It turned out that all of my daughter’s nursing in the beginning had really helped her with the transition. She didn’t exhibit any jealousy towards her brother. In fact, as long as she could nurse often, she was at my side through much of the day wanting to “help” in any way she could. We discovered how well our daughter took to being the big sister and out of the difficulties came very heartwarming moments.
One night I was nursing them both to sleep and our daughter reached out and grasped our son’s hand and fell asleep that way. It was the sweetest moment I had witnessed. Her little showers of kisses that she gives him, her concern for him while asking him questions, and singing to him, are so maternal even though she is so young. I think these things are the sweet moments I will hold in my heart forever, while the difficulties fade away with time.
Looking for Un-Nursing Wear?
If you need to add some nursing clothing to your wardrobe, but don’t want to spend money on pieces you’ll only wear for a short period of time, then head on over to Melody Lane for the best in regular clothing that is versatile enough to wear before, during, and after breastfeeding! They offer trendy, classic, and comfortable clothing that is hand-picked for all the life stages women usually experience. With nothing over $100, always free shipping, and new styles featured every season, Melody Lane makes sure your “fashion meets life”.
Photo Credit: Kirsten
Tags: baby, breastfeeding, breastfeeding benefits, breastfeeding challenges, infant, natural, natural living, nursing, nursing two, parenting, pregnancy, pregnant, stay at home mom, tandem, tandem breastfeeding, tandem nursing, toddler, two
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Kirsten is a military wife by day, an artist by night, and an around-the-clock-mommy to her (almost) two year old daughter and a son due in the Fall. She loves to travel and is always dreaming of her next adventure. Her interests include everything from extreme sports like skydiving and rock climbing to languages and studying philosophy. As a Californian now living in South Dakota, there is no taking that golden sunshine out of this California Girl.