10 January 2014, by Mandy Loh
This may come as a bit of a shock for some folks, but I’m gonna let you in on a secret: I’m still nursing Cristan, and plan to continue doing so even after Doubbles is born.
Some friends whom I have shared this revelation with have expressed surprise or concern at whether it is even ok to breastfeed during pregnancy, but no worries, it IS perfectly safe for mother, unborn baby and toddler. I just have to ensure that I eat well enough and have sufficient nutrients for all of us. I’ve also gotten my ob/gyn’s approval on the matter, so all’s well!
While it might sound totally rad and hippy-like, it was never something I planned to do at the outset. It just sort of happened. For starters, I had no idea that I was going to continue breastfeeding Cristan beyond his first year, but there was no real need or reason to wean him (since I’m staying home and its really convenient to nurse him). Besides, it is a great way to calm him down during his toddler tantrums, or to lull him to sleep. Not to mention the times when he’s unwell, and nursing provides him with the best nutrients and comfort when he most needs them.
So as the pregnancy progressed and Cristan showed no signs of being ready to wean, I started to read up more about “tandem nursing”. This is a phrase that describes nursing two (or more) children of different ages at the same time. And if you think nursing while pregnant is strange, imagine the reactions I’d get from tandem nursing!
After some googling, I realised that there is one particular book on tandem nursing that comes highly recommended by various mothering websites, especially those in the La Leche League camp. It’s called “Adventures in Tandem Nursing” by Hilary Flower.
Unfortunately, while the book does advocate tandem nursing, it also gives a rather balanced view and cautions that it might not be an easy journey ahead. Many mothers who have shared their stories in the book seem to talk about “initial rough patches” before everyone settles into a comfortable rhythm. Despite the reality check and potential challenges, I’m still keen to try tandem nursing, for the following reasons:
1. Tandem nursing helps ease the older child through the transition of having a new baby in the family: Instead of feeling like his newborn sibling is “usurping” his place at mom’s bosom, the older child will still get special one-on-one time with mom, and can still feel close and connected to mom in a special way, amidst the upheavals in his little world.
2. It helps sibling bonding and consequently, lowers sibling rivalry: Many moms who have tandem nursed their children say that their children hold hands while nursing together. That definitely sounds like a great way to bond!
3. The older child can help with engorgement and other milk flow issues: In the early days before milk supply is well-established, there would often be issues with engorgement, or overly forceful let-down that makes nursing challenging for the newborn. The toddler will come in useful during such situations.
4. Overall, breast milk still has benefits for the older toddler: Nursing still provides plenty of antibodies, nutrients and good stuff for a toddler beyond the age of 2. In fact, the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and American Academy of Paediatrics all recommend breastfeeding to continue if both mother and child are mutually happy with the arrangement.
So there, the secret’s out! It’s probably not a common arrangement around here (in fact, tandem nursing is pretty rare even in the US and other cultures worldwide) but hey, if it’s a good thing, why not give it a try, right? Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how things go!