tandem feeding

Arlo was 19 months old when I wrote the last ‘breastfeeding a toddler’ post. He is now two and a half years old.

We have experienced a near constant demand to nurse – that’s where we were last time I wrote on the subject of breastfeeding. As with most bad moments, that turned out to be ‘just a phase’. We rode through the phase and entered the most laid back time of our whole breastfeeding relationship – a relaxed morning and bedtime feed that he could take or leave, and the ability to be resettled during the night without a feed – meaning I felt no burden of ‘responsibility’ for being the only person who could get him to sleep.

We’ve experienced breastfeeding during pregnancy, right up to the end, including during labour. I still find that I have so little to say on the subject of breastfeeding during pregnancy, as it proved no more hassle than breastfeeding whilst not pregnant. There was no discomfort, there was no reason not to carry on as usual. Arlo did not comment on my milk changing, although I’m sure it did.

We’ve experienced tandem breastfeeding. And this is where we find ourselves today. I am currently breastfeeding  my 5 week old and my 2.5 year old.

tandem feeding

Arlo is going through a phase where he wants to feed every time his little brother does. In the interest of fairness and not wanting to push Arlo away, I oblige where possible (although not so much in public. I did draw the line at having both boobs out in the middle of a Croydon shopping centre – I have not yet found a way to retain the same level of modesty of feeding one child when I have two children feeding at once).  It can feel rather unflattering to be so frequently in a disheveled state of undress, both boobs out and two children sprawled over me – there’s nothing delicate about this scene.

And there are times when I feel touched out. It’s not even the breastfeeding, really. I just feel like I’m being constantly climbed upon. Under the guise of a game, I’ve imposed a time limit on Arlo. I give him the option of having 10 seconds or 5 seconds.  He thinks this is really fun (and strangely enough, prefers to choose 5 seconds), so for the moment it works quite well. We are both happy with this. Currently Arlo is having a morning and bedtime feed, with a couple of 5 second ‘snacks’ during the day. The rest of the time I manage to distract him from feeding every time Rory does without actively saying the “no” word – it feels awful to refuse if he’s not happy about it, I don’t like seeing his little dejected face. To him, there’s no reason for me to say no, and I can’t help comparing it to me saying no if he asked me for a cuddle. This is the way I’ve been parenting him for 2.5 years, and I would hate for him to feel that I’ve suddenly changed the rules.

(I drafted this post two weeks ago, and in the last week I have noticed Arlo’s requests for milk have lessened. I had been prepared for Arlo to decide to feed every time Rory did, I read that it was very common when a newborn is introduced. And I followed the advice to let him, not make a big deal out of it, and he’d shortly go back to his old feeding routine. I think we are starting to see this happen now).

I don’t particularly encourage Arlo to continue, we’ve basically been doing ‘don’t offer, don’t refuse’ since he started sleeping through the night (at 19 months). The silly stereotype of someone who breastfeeds their child way past infancy is far from how I see mine and Arlo’s situation. I don’t continue to breastfeed Arlo because I want to keep him like a baby, or for any other ridiculous reasons. Neither was tandem feeding a particular aim of mine, we have ended up here because it was important to me that Arlo choose when he wants to stop. That being said, of course there is a part of me that will be sad when it does end. Breastfeeding has been such a constant for us, it’s been there every day of his life since day one.

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I see a lot of benefits in continued breastfeeding, even more so now that there is a younger sibling on the scene. It’s a great way for Arlo to bond with his new brother – the main reason he wants to nurse now doesn’t seem to be because he wants to be close to me, or because he wants milk, but because he wants to be close to his brother and share his experience. I have come to realise this by observing how Arlo watches Rory when they are both feeding, how his hand has to be constantly in contact with Rory, stroking him or patting his head.

Arlo is very understanding of Rory’s need to nurse so often, thankfully he doesn’t seem to begrudge me spending lots of time of the sofa not being immediately available to him. I really think that this is largely because Arlo is still breastfeeding himself and can understand why Rory likes milk so much. When Rory cries, Arlo will ask me to feed him “He wants milk, Mama. Can you feed him?”

I have not had to worry about supply. Just as in the early weeks with one baby, if I feed on demand, my supply adjusts accordingly. If I let Arlo and Rory feed when they want, my supply adjusts to accommodate them both. Due to the 10 second rule we’re doing, I don’t think I will suffer too much from oversupply once Arlo decides to stop feeding during the day again. Meanwhile, Rory will slowly increase the amount of milk he is taking in, so I am hoping that the two should balance themselves out. I don’t worry about Arlo feeding first and taking all the milk, there seems to always be enough milk. Although usually timings work out that Rory will wake just before Arlo’s main feeds in the morning and evening, so I feed Rory first. Rory’s very healthy weight puts a stop to any doubts about supply.

I’ve tried to touch upon all the aspects of extended feeding, tandem feeding and feeding during pregnancy that have had an impact on our family, but if there’s anything specific you’d like to ask me, do leave a comment.

This post is part of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, use the Rafflecopter at the bottom of the post to enter the competition.

All week, bloggers are writing posts about their experiences for National Breastfeeding Awareness Week. Here are some of my favourite posts from this week:

‘Have you still got the juice?’
‘Um….’  I felt a bit uncomfortable.  I may be fairly blase about breastfeeding but this did seem a bit much An anectode from Respectable Breast Spectacle that reminds me that often our expectations and assumptions of what other people think are, in fact, completely off the mark.

I thought he was going to try and feed before going to bed but instead he looked thoughtfully at my boob pulled a bottle top out of his pocket and put it over my nipple. He must have decided to make sure I left him that one for later –Life, Love, and Living with Boys shares tons of positive stories about breastfeeding in public.

The ‘two top’ method allows you to feed your baby in your normal clothes (so without buying any expensive nursing tops / dresses or using a shawl or breastfeeding cover – A really useful demonstration of how to breastfeed discreetly from Blog of a Mom

I knew I wanted to breastfeed but I also knew that for many reasons sometimes breastfeeding does not work out and I was ok with that. I knew that all I could do was try my best and for me that involved finding out about and preparing myself for breastfeeding whilst I was still pregnant – Claire from Great British Family shares her story of breastfeeding her now 8 week old. 

Without the support of those closest to you, maintaining a breastfeeding relationship can be incredibly difficult. The same can be said for both the milk donor and the recipient of donated breastmilkLushcka from Diary of a First Child writes about the value of donor breastmilk.

And Rayne Beau Boos are kindly donating one of their ingenious Booby Beanie hats as part of the grand prize!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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27 comments

  1. I think you have done so well to carry on for so long and let Arlo choose, sounds like he’s not been too jealous over Rory feeding off you too. Alex used to stroke Sam when he fed which was lovely to watch 🙂 x

    1. He’s not shown much jealousy at all. He’s been surprisingly happy to let Rory share what was once his alone. I think we must have lucked out because it’s been such a smooth transition for Arlo.

  2. What a lovely post! I do think tandem nursing prevented jealousy in my girls, and aided in their bonding, but it can be quite a journey! Love your photos 🙂

    1. Thank you, Luschka. Your tandem feeding post from last year is one of my favourites, definitely helped me prepare for feeding my two : )

  3. When I first decided to breastfeed my first born, I decided on 6 months then wean….. 2.3 years down the line we are still feeding early morning, to go to bed and twice in the night. I am also 23 weeks pregnant and she has yet to common on the change. I never in a million years would have ever put myself down to be a tandem feeder or even a feeder of a toddler so have shocked myself but like with Arlo I want Verity to be able to decide when she wants to stop! Lovely post. Fills me with confidence for the future.

  4. a great post thank you for sharing. I breastfed my daughter for 19 months, we’re currently 18 months with no sing of stopping with my son…. we’ll stop when we are both ready hopefully

  5. This is amazing. I considered tandem feeding when I fell pregnant with Harry, although I worried about how it would work with them sharing my milk. My milk supply was quite low and due to this Charles just stopped feeding which was upsetting.
    Well done for doing such a great job. I’m in awe of you xx

    1. I can really see how supply could become a big worry, especially if you’ve had experience with low supply in the past.

  6. I’m experiencing a very similar situation at the moment, my toddler is 2.5 and my baby is 14 weeks, my toddler however is currently wanting to nurse more often than the baby which is hard, I don’t like to refuse and want him to stop when he’s ready but it is a struggle just now. I worry because he has stopped eating so much and refusing most foods and just wants ‘boob’. I know it won’t last forever and am trying to get through it a day at a time. My baby is thriving though even though I’m nursing his big brother so much (he’s the same weight/length as an average 7 month old so no problems there!)

    1. You’ve reminded me about something I forgot to mention in the post – Arlo’s appetite has decreased recently too, most likely as a result of a larger milk intake. Hopefully it will balance out soon for the both of us!

  7. I wish you all the best. I was still finding tandem feeding relatively easy at that stage, but feeding by almost 3-y-o alongside my 7-m-o is starting to really get to me – I’m getting major agitation feeding DS1 now. He’s been feeding morning and evening only since 16 months – he did up it just after DD2 arrived but had settled back – but has been asking in the afternoon too for the last few weeks. I decided to try just going with it today and he actually fed 5 times – including 20 mins each morning and evening! I don’t want to force him to wean, but I’m so ready right now… I’m trying to not hate it but I don’t think that’s helping 🙁

    1. It’s funny, isn’t it? I’ve definitely been through quite a few stages where I’ve been more than ready for him to wean…and then it all gets relaxed again and I don’t mind. Feel like I’m going round in circles sometimes!

      1. Actually, since complaining on a few of these posts I’ve actually found it easier 🙂 Maybe just letting off some steam is the key!

  8. Amazing post! I really struggled with bf my first but am determined to do it for as long as possible with my second!

  9. Lovely post, so cute that Arlo asks you to feed Rory! Thank you for including my blog post as well.

  10. Thank you for this post. It’s really encouraging. I have IGT, so couldn’t exclusively breastfeed my daughter, but after she gave up the supplements at 11 months, we’re still breastfeeding at 22 months. I’m pregnant too. I have found feeding during pregnancy to be uncomfortable, and painful at times – for some reason she keeps forgetting how to latch properly as well! I want her to feed until she chooses to stop, but I will have to be careful that when number 2 arrives, number 1 doesn’t drink all the milk I do make. I think it will be a case of limiting when and how long she feeds for. Funnily enough, because of the discomfort, we’ve already started doing the 10 second feeds, which doesn’t seem to bother her, so I’m pleased to see that that is something that works for you too.

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