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Tandem Mama

Shireen Caminschi
California USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 20 No. 4, July-August 2003, p. 132

Aryanne was almost one year old when I became pregnant. Finding out I was pregnant was a wonderful surprise, but I also had some regrets. I had wanted an extended breastfeeding relationship with Aryanne and to let her wean naturally. I felt Aryanne was too young to be weaned. Our breastfeeding relationship was so rewarding to both of us. Aryanne was beautiful, chubby, and enjoying solids, but her main staple was still my milk. When she was ill, she relied very heavily on mother's milk.

After Aryanne turned one, I read a lot about night feeding and how it relates to not sleeping through the night. Aryanne had never slept a full night in her life, waking anywhere from every hour to every three or four hours. The sleep-deprived nights had taken their toll on me. With the new pregnancy, I felt it was necessary to wean her from nighttime nursing. It was really tough not to give in and feed her in the middle of the night, but eventually, she would go back to sleep with some back rubbing for comfort and wake up around 5 am for her morning feeding.

In my first trimester, my breasts started to hurt. Each feeding felt like an eternity. The pain made me start to resent breastfeeding, yet the thought of weaning Aryanne broke my heart. I borrowed some books from my local La Leche League Group to read the stories of other mothers who had breastfed during pregnancy. I weighed the pros and cons and decided to follow Aryanne's lead. If she showed signs of wanting to wean, we would. Otherwise I would attempt to continue breastfeeding her through my pregnancy and then tandem nurse.

After the night weaning, I felt a little more positive about continuing. The breast pain seemed to come and go at different times throughout the pregnancy. About halfway through my pregnancy, I noticed my milk supply was reduced. This did not deter Aryanne. My happy little toddler continued to breastfeed.

Around the beginning of the last trimester, my milk supply diminished even more. Aryanne continued to ask for "breasty burger," as we called it, because she held my breast like a burger. Nursing continued to be our special time together, but I tried to encourage cuddle times outside of nursing times, including afternoon naps. When I cut back on daytime nursings, to prepare for the new baby, I would ask Aryanne to snuggle. Soon she was asking me, "Mama, snuggles?"

A couple of weeks before Elyse was born, my milk seemed to change. Again this had little effect on Aryanne's breastfeeding. About one week before Elyse's birth, Aryanne was only nursing briefly to go to sleep at night. After Elyse's birth, I was so pleased to have such an efficient little nursing toddler. She went back to nursing several times a day to help with my engorgement. After the first week or two, we cut back to twice a day, once first thing in the morning and once at her request late in the day.

Elyse latched on within 30 minutes of her birth. It was so unusual to me to feed such a little baby again after feeding a 30-pound toddler. I had a night of uncertainty in the first week, when Elyse wouldn't latch on properly and hadn't fed in several hours. After 45 minutes she finally latched on and started sucking. Though I worried, my husband was awake with me saying, "Don't worry, she will when she wants to." And she did.

At nine weeks postpartum, I felt as though I had tandem nursing under control. I frequently got raised eyebrows and skeptical comments, such as, "Oh, you are nursing both!" or "Gee, Aryanne is still nursing!" Of course, everyone has a different opinion on nursing two children. I have tried to let my gut feelings help me to be a good mother. I still felt as though Aryanne was not ready to wean, and so I didn't force her. She had compromised by cutting back on the number of nursings, and I had compromised by not weaning her completely.

At 21 months old, I was only breastfeeding Aryanne first thing in the morning and after her afternoon nap. The afternoon nap started to become a marathon nursing session, with her saying "other side" frequently. This was wearing me down so I decided to stop this feeding. She coped really well and didn't seem to miss it.

I was so busy trying to keep up with my toddler and the necessary house chores, but luckily, Elyse went with the flow. She was a very easy baby and a very efficient nurser. Some days she was feeding as often as every 30 to 60 minutes. I had read that if you feed a baby more in the day they nurse less at night. This theory didn't apply to my first born, Aryanne, but it certainly seemed to work for Elyse.

When we were nearing Aryanne's second birthday, Elyse got her first teeth. I thought that one set of teeth on my breasts was enough and felt it was time to see if Aryanne was ready to wean. I was very nervous about how she would react on the morning I chose to try it. It was an amazing experience because I didn't need to say anything. She seemed to just know. I made her a sippy cup of milk and brought that with her to our bed for our morning snuggle. She didn't even ask for "breasty." Over the next few days she half-heartedly asked only a couple of times, without making a big deal of it. When we had our morning cuddle she wanted to snuggle into my chest, which was fine. I think her weaning was more emotional for me than for her.

Elyse is now a healthy and happy 21-pound six-month-old. It has been several weeks since Aryanne weaned and she is still a happy, healthy toddler. I am proud of how I stuck it out and waited for a time that felt right for both of us. Even my husband, who used to say occasionally, "You need to wean her, she is a big girl," has changed his tune. Now he even brags, "She was breastfed until she was two!"

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