For those of you wondering how I ended up breastfeeding two children, I will explain it all the best I can here. I’m not here to give you statistics (you can find that info here), but I want to share my experience in hopes that it helps other moms who are struggling with the decision to wean or not to wean when becoming pregnant. Or if you’re just curious what it’s like to nurse two little ones, then continue on…
I never imagined that I would end up breastfeeding two children at the same time, but so many things in motherhood you cannot predict or prepare for. I was just happy to make it to one year nursing my first daughter, Olivia. Our breastfeeding relationship started off rocky with an incredibly painful latch and low supply. I worked hard to build my supply and after a couple of months, I started to exclusively breastfeed, ditched the pump, and began to enjoy the bonding time with her.
Everyone talks about how great breastfeeding is and how beneficial, but no one prepares you for the challenges. Breastfeeding is challenging. It is time consuming, and takes up a large proportion of your day. I actually began referring to myself as the milk maid with a little boob savage running around. Ha! Once Olivia turned one, a few people asked me when I would stop breastfeeding her. I was quickly confused. Sure, it was engrained in me that if you make it to 6 months, great. If you make it to one year, even better! But what about continuing past a year? Was I crazy for doing so? Was I supposed to ignore my daughter’s strong desire to continue breastfeeding? What about the fact that the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least two years old?
I knew in my heart I was no where near ready to stop and I didn’t have any hard set answers for anyone. I didn’t want to be discouraged by anyones opinion either. I am so thankful for my husband. He is incredibly supportive and told me to do what I feel is best for her. If it wasn’t for his support some days, it would have been much harder to continue down this path. Even our pediatrician at our one year check up said, “You will never get pregnant while breastfeeding.” However, a few months after Olivia’s first birthday, we got pregnant with our second child! We were so excited and couldn’t wait to have our daughters so close in age. We are so thankful to have gotten pregnant for a second time naturally without IVF. You can read a little about our short lived infertility journey in one of my instagram posts here.
During my pregnancy, I continued to breastfeed. My OB was wonderful and addressed all of my concerns about breastfeeding while pregnant. She just said that if I were to feel any contractions, to stop nursing immediately. I am beyond thankful for her because I’ve read stories of doctors scaring pregnant mothers into thinking they needed to stop nursing their toddler as soon as they became pregnant or shortly after. I understand each situation is different for everyone. Of course no one wants to risk losing a baby. I had already experienced a miscarriage in the past and wanted to take every precaution with this pregnancy to make sure I wasn’t doing anything to harm the baby growing inside me.
Olivia is very attached to me and breastfeeding is a part of our daily routine. It comforts her and makes her feel secure. It’s what I turn to when she’s in pain from teething and nothing else seems to help. She is a sensitive little soul and weaning her entirely would have effected her emotionally. I understand that all children are different, and I am only speaking to my daughter and my experience with her. Sometimes I wish she had weaned herself like so many babies do, but that wasn’t the case. We had plans to move into a new house a few short weeks before the baby was born.
With a new baby on the way and moving into a new house, I knew in my heart that I did not want to take away breastfeeding from my daughter during a period of high stress, life change, and transition.
The last few months leading up to the birth of our second daughter, I had moments where I doubted my decision. My breasts were sore from pregnancy hormones making it incredibly uncomfortable, agitating and painful when she would nurse. I cut down the nursing sessions to nap time and bed time only. To my surprise, she accepted this after a day or two. I didn’t think she was old enough to understand, but they are always smarter than we think. I explained to her that “bubba” as she calls it, was only for nap time and “night night.” A few times I snuggled her to sleep instead of nursing, and she fell asleep on her own. Other times, she would cry hysterically so upset that I was denying her what she had always known. I knew in my gut it wasn’t the right move to stop completely and that I would try again at another time.
Olivia was 21 months when Baby Emmy was born. She has been amazing with her since day one. I had worried about jealousy issues or the fact that Olivia would have to share her bubbas (ha!), but it went better than I could have ever imagined. The first time we tandem nursed, I felt like superwoman. I could never put into words how special this moment was and how empowering it was as a mother. I created these two little babies staring up at me and can feed them with my body. How freaking amazing is that?! And although they can’t interact much right now, they’re able to bond while nursing, which has been an incredible experience. Olivia will rub the baby’s head or cheek softly and often they hold hands. Talk about making my heart explode. I can’t say that the entire process has been cupcakes and butterflies because there have definitely been challenging moments and times of exhaustion.
Olivia used to only breastfeed at nap time and bed time, but regressed when the baby arrived. I did not want to deprive her since she is too young to understand why baby is allowed to nurse but she isn’t. So I would tell her “The milk is for the baby to grow big and strong like her.” After a couple of months, she started to understand it. Now she only nurses for a few minutes at bed time, then falls asleep on her own most nights without a fuss.
This is our journey, and tandem nursing is not for everyone. Breastfeeding is demanding, time consuming, inconvenient, and exhausting, but it is also beautiful, intense, and a bond like no other. I’ve answered some questions below, but if you have any questions about tandem nursing or nursing while pregnant, please do not hesitate to ask.
Motherhood is hard, but one of the best parts about it is the ability to follow our instincts.
Q & A
What was it like to breastfeed while pregnant?
Physically painful. Your breasts become super sensitive because of hormones. I usually cringed at the initial latch but then it became tolerable. It was hard to stick to it but I did not want to disrupt my daughter’s routine or force her to wean abruptly. Instead, we worked on cutting the nursing sessions down.
Did your milk dry up?
I think so, but it didn’t stop my daughter from nursing. I think she could sense something was different about me (besides the obviously growing large belly), but she continued nursing for comfort.
What did you do when you had to go to the hospital for delivery?
Prayed. Really hard. Ha! This was my biggest concern. I was so afraid of all the changes I knew were about to happen in our lives and I was afraid of how Olivia would handle being away from me for longer than she had ever been before. The time away was incredibly hard. It meant that I wasn’t around to nurse her or comfort her. But she survived and was excellent for her Daddy, and Gigi and Mommom! I had a c-section and managed to only spend ONE night in the hospital. Thank God! I plan to write a post soon about my experiences with c-sections with both of my daughters and how they were similar but also very different.
How do you juggle it all?
There are many different ways to handle tandem breastfeeding. I find it easier to feed them both at the same time laying in bed, instead of separately. I have many nursing sessions throughout the day with the baby, and then I nurse them together at nap time and bed time. I find it very relaxing because most days this is the only time I get to rest.
When do you plan to stop breastfeeding your toddler?
She just turned two and only nurses for a few minutes to fall asleep at nap time and again at bed time. Or if she’s just not quite feeling like herself- gotta love those pesky two year molars. This works for us. I plan to wean them naturally and don’t want to put too much stress or pressure on any of us. Olivia has started to fall asleep at night snuggling me instead of nursing; I tell her a bedtime story and she rambles on talking about her day or whatever toddler thought comes into her head. Eventually she will drop the afternoon session too I’m sure, but I’m not going to force her.
How do you stay hydrated?
It is so important to stay hydrated. I try to drink as much water as I can- or as I remember to. Sometimes this can be a struggle though and I end up chugging a bottle or two at a time.
Will I run out of milk?
I found it to be quite the opposite! I have a larger supply than before Emmy was born! It is such a great feeling to have an abundance of milk and to store some in the freezer. Before Emmy was born, I would struggle to pump 2oz. It’s truly amazing what our bodies can do. Breastmilk is magical.
How do I know each child is getting enough?
In the first few days, I let the baby nurse first to make sure she was getting colostrum. Now, I will let Olivia nurse first sometimes since my let down is so fast.
Does your toddler get jealous or mad about sharing what was once hers?
Thankfully, no. It has actually bonded them. Olivia is so in love with her baby sister. She amazes me at how fast she learned to share her milk too. I’m beyond thankful for how well the transition went bringing baby sis home.
Again, if you have any questions about anything, please do not hesitate to reach out!