Category Archives: tandem nursing

The accidental extender

It’s World Breastfeeding Week (yay boobs!) and the Irish Parenting Bloggers, of which I am a proud member, are doing a blog march in its honour. This is my contribution, and I’ll add links to everyone else’s as the week progresses.

August 1st: Wholesome Ireland and The Happy Womb
August 2nd: Office Mum and Awfully Chipper
August 3rd: Wonderful Wagon and It Begins With a Verse
August 4th: Glitter Mama Wishes and Ouch My Fanny Hurts
August 5th: Debalicious and Mind the Baby
August 6th: My Internal World, Musings and Chatterings, and Mama Courage
August 7th: The Nest, Mama.ie, At the Clothesline, My Life as a Mum, and Learner Mama

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If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you may be familiar with my breastfeeding story; indeed, you may be rolling your eyes and saying, “There goes Maud with her boobs again.” If so – well, sorry about that.

When I had my first baby, my husband and I were living in southmost Texas, which is not a place that most of you have even considered might exist. I certainly hadn’t, until we spent two years there. We didn’t have any friends with young children, we didn’t associate with any babies or children, our families were an ocean away, and my babysitting years were far in the past. But we’d been married a year and I was 32 and I reckoned it was time to have a baby.

I did put some thought into it. I researched getting pregnant, and read pregnancy blogs, and checked babycare books out of the library. Pregnancy was achieved pretty much according to plan, which was wonderful, and I tried not to buy All The Stuff, because we had a small apartment and would be moving back up north when the baby was four months old.

My breastfeeding plans went like this: I wanted to, if I could. I hoped to get to three months, six if possible. Having a baby older than six months was not something I could conceive of at that point anyway, so there was no point looking any further ahead.

Perhaps I owe some of my success with breastfeeding to my midwife, who was a very down-to-earth person. As soon as I’d delivered the young master, she unceremoniously leaned over me and squeezed a nipple, hard. Somewhat to my surprise, creamy yellowy stuff came out. “You’re fine,” she announced, and observed us as I brought him gingerly to my breast and saw him latch on like a pro. I was only in the hospital for 24 hours, and I don’t remember the nurses being either helpful or a hindrance, except for the way they had to wake me up every couple of hours to tell me to try to nurse my baby. We would both have preferred to stay asleep, thank you very much.

Nursing in the first few days was difficult because the baby was still very sleepy (duh, newborn) and a bit jaundiced, and my milk had not come in. The pediatrician told us to supplement with formula and wake him to feed every two hours. I was adamant that I would not have my breastfeeding plans derailed by a doctor I didn’t particularly trust anyway, so we alternated breast and bottle, and I let my husband do the bottle feeds so the baby only ever got boob from me.

On the morning of the fifth day we were at the pediatrician’s office for a check-up. As we waited to be seen, the baby latched on – and didn’t come off for 45 minutes. Apparently my milk had come in. I was pretty relieved.

Latching on was fairly excruciating for the first weeks. I found a lactation consultant, who took a look and said the baby had a perfect latch. She sold me a nipple shield and a manual pump, both of which were more trouble than they were worth. I just decided that the people who said “If it hurts you’re doing it wrong” didn’t have my baby, or my boobs, and kept on keeping on, wincing and swearing freely at the start of each feed. Gradually the duration of the pain diminished and after about six weeks it only hurt a lot on the left side. After another week I was relatively pain-free, and from there our nursing relationship took off.

I had no support, really, from the people around me; though I had invaluable help and advice and a cheering section on the Internet. But the corollary of that is that I had no detractors either. There was nobody telling me they thought I probably couldn’t do it, that I should just use the free formula I’d been sent home from the hospital with, that my nipples were too small, or too flat, or too pink. I was already a stranger in a strange land, so I felt no urge to conform to peer pressure and do what others were doing. The rates of breastfeeding in south Texas are not good, so I assumed from the start that I was an outlier – a rebel, if you like. It was sort of liberating. In fact, I never had anything but supportive comments from those who did go out of their way to talk to me about breastfeeding.

We got to three months, moved north to Maryland, and went on gaily to six months. I became brave and then brazen about nursing in public – the mall, the park, the bus; McDonalds, poker night, the supermarket; whenever, wherever. At six months there was no question of weaning: why would I make my life more complicated, with all those bottles and warming and measuring and mixing? Starting solids was a little daunting, and Dash was never a big eater, so it was reassuring to know he was still getting plenty of good nourishment straight from the source.

Coming up to a year, I began to wonder when my baby would begin to wean himself, and how he would magically start eating all the food he’d need to replace that milk and keep growing. Gradually it dawned on me that he wasn’t in any way ready to wean yet, and that there was no need to. So we didn’t.

I never intended to be an extended breastfeeder. I certainly never intended to tandem nurse. I didn’t think I could possibly nurse through a second pregnancy. If you’d told me in those early days that my baby wouldn’t wean till he was 4 and a half years old – well, to be honest, I might not even have started. But things don’t always turn out the way you think they will. It was always easier to keep going than it would have been to stop, so we just did. I also had the support of two of my best friends, one nearby in real life and one in the computer, who also found themselves nursing preschoolers without necessarily having planned to. Feeling that I wasn’t the only crazy person in the world doing this made a huge difference.

My first baby is seven now. His little sister will turn five in November, and she still partakes of the boob first thing in the morning. It buys me a few more minutes in bed, and apart from her habit of volubly declaring her love for the boobies in front of company, the fact that I’m still, technically, a nursing mother doesn’t impinge on my life at all. Mostly, I forget that it’s even a fact, until I have to check a box on a form at the doctor’s or something. We’ll probably stop soon.

Probably.

Nursing mother and toddler
Nursing Mabel at 22 months

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If you’re interested in reading more of my breastfeeding, extended breastfeeding, and tandem nursing story as it happened, click the links in the tag cloud.

Redirection

I have a guest post today at Code Name: Mama.

She said, all nonchalant-like.

But really, a big thank-you to Dionna for publishing it, and to my lovely friend Miranda for sending me to Dionna’s site in the first place.

If you came here from there, hi! welcome! look around! make yourself at home! have a cuppa! It’s lovely to have you. If you’re looking for some more posts that relate to extended and/or tandem nursing, click the labels at the bottom.

Internal monologue

Time: 5.30am or so
Day: Any day you like (but I don’t)
Venue: The place where the baby and I are sleeping, which is not, in fact, my bed.

Pad, pad, pad, go the little feet, coming closer.
Stumble, stumble go the little legs, falling over my feet as I frantically wave him to the side where the baby is not.
“Morn-side, please,” goes the completely unnecessary stage whisper.

Me thinks:

Je. Sus. Christ. [I rarely take the name of the lord in vain, having grown up with a mother so old fashioned that I couldn’t even say “God!” without getting a Look, and having moved to America where in fact such things are often frowned on, and having two small children now who will repeat anything they hear, especially if it’s juicy and unusual and seems to be naughty. Viz, to wit, the four-year-old who turned to me in front of our new neighbours the other day, just as the lovely lady was pouring us some lemonade as we watched my husband borrow their lawnmower to cut the grass at the new house, and exclaim: “What the heck is going on here?!” because his friend at school has started to say it. Anyway.]

What is wrong with you? Can’t you stop for one second to look where you’re going and see where the baby is before you trample all over us and wake her up, when she’s only just gone back to sleep after her 5am wakefulness and session of mumeet?
Okay, okay, here it is. [Gingerly rolling over, praying baby doesn’t rouse, longsufferingly offering up other side to voracious child.]

Stop poking me. Stop pinching me. Don’t even think about touching the vicinity of the other one. This one’s yours. The other one is sacrosanct. In fact, all of me is sacrosanct, except that one bit you’re currently orally mauling. Get that hand down. Down. Off me. Away. Why are your nails so sharp? Hasn’t anyone cut them recently? [Oh right, that would be my job.] They’re sticking right into me. Get your pointy knees out of my tummy. My bladder has been full since 4am and it’s not getting any emptier, since if I had gone to the bathroom before you appeared the baby would have woken up and called out and that might have hastened your appearance, and now that you’re here I can’t even move to look at the clock because my bodily presence is the only thing keeping the warm ball curled up at my back in a horizontal and inactive condition, and if I move at all she might realise that it’s not my front and therefore her instant access has been cut off and – worse! – given to the opposition, and then she would immediately demand it back and all hell would break loose.

This is really very uncomfortable… Hmm. That seems to have been a dream, because I’m not currently staying in a boarding house on the coast of England with two cats who can’t be left alone and a very very short (like, a-head-on-shoes short) landlord. I must have dropped off there, against all odds.

Maybe it’s late enough to cut him off now. That’s it, you’re done. I hope him up there in the bed that is supposedly also mine has had enough sleep, because that’s it for him. [Rolls over. Luxuriates. Baby wakes up.]

Musical beds

That house. The one I saw. We put in an offer today. Who knows what will happen now.

I am determined to go to bed early tonight, after last night’s non-sleep-apalooza. Usually when I’m woken at 3am or whenever it is (I can’t see the clock without craning, once I’m sleeping with Miss), I’m quite alert – no doubt from however many years it is now of being woken around then by one or t’other. But last night when I moved my arm and it was enough to make her splutter awake, suddenly totally bunged up with an insta-cold, it was only one-something, and I was still in the depths of wanting to be asleep. The exciting new nasal-congestion issue meant it took forever to get her back to sleep and I had to sit up (horrors!) to do it, so she could nurse and breathe at the same time (always a plus). And then gently ease us back down to a horizontal position an inch at a time, ending up with her head elevated on the pillow and mine falling off the back end, ensuring that I couldn’t sleep myself.

It felt like 15 minutes later when Monkey appeared on the horizon. Every morning in the grey light I register the pad, pad, pad of his feet through my shallow sleep and raise a grim hand in warning to make sure he knows where his sister is and not to wake her, and hopefully to convey that I’m not at all pleased to see him and would be a much nicer mummy if he would just wait an hour or three. Then he slides under the duvet on my other side and says in an all-too-shrill whisper, and as if I didn’t know, “Please may can I have morn-side?” (May can is his ultra-polite asking. I think it’s because his father taught him please may I and I went with the simpler – I thought, for some reason – please can I, and both stuck. Sort of.)

His appearance has been getting earlier lately, from a very reasonable 6.30 to 7.00 a while ago to hours with 5s in them lately. This morning I looked at the clock, saw 4.30, and ushered him straight back to his own bed. But then I had to stay there with him, which I did for about half an hour and then, though he still wasn’t asleep, I reckoned he should drop off so I left with a quick pat and an excuse about getting back to the baby. I crawled into my own bed once I’d ascertained that Miss was fine, and had 15 minutes or so of trying to get warm when pad, pad, pad, he was back. Lather rinse repeat. This time I fell asleep in his bed and was woken by B telling me very quietly that Miss was awake and looking for me, so then I had to go back to her, long-windedly put her back to sleep… or did she even go back to sleep? Maybe at this point it was 6.30 and I let her get up with her father and took myself back to bed, finally, for an hour’s lie in… it’s all a blur.

It’s probably a blur for you too, in the unlikely event that you’re still reading this, and you’re no doubt wondering why I let my children walk all over me like this and why their father can’t lend a hand. Honestly, I prefer him to get a solid six or seven hours and then be able to get up early with them than to disturb him during the night, when he’s usually a lot more comatose than I am and finds it hard to get back to sleep once woken. And really, it’s not normally this way: Monkey has been sleeping through the night very reliably for almost two years now, and Miss is having a particularly bad time just now with the stuffy nose and the five – yes, five – teeth she’s working on. I just found a molar poking through this evening. The other molars are all right there, bumps under the gum, and the last incisor is so close I can practically see it, but it refuses to break through. Poor girl.

So today I forwent Monkey’s nap, at great personal expense (oh all right, I mis-timed our walk and he was still awake at the end of it) and he was in bed early and I hope hope hope this will be enough to break the pattern and get him to sleep a solid twelve hours. Eleven? Ten? What are the chances? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

Also to see whether we’re home-owners.

Full disclosure

I left a comment on Leah‘s blog earlier today outing myself as the crazy hippie lady I really am, and thought in full frankness and in all honesty and to be up-front and a decent human being about it all, I should probably explain myself here. I’m not ashamed of it, but at the same time it’s not something I go shouting from the rooftops unless I know exactly what sort of company I’m in.

I’m still nursing my son, who will turn four in April.

Yes, that means that he still partakes of his mother’s milk, direct from the source, twice daily if not more often; rarely less.

I never intended to do this. My friend and I went to a local attachment-parenting meeting about weaning when our kids were about 10 months old, and there was a mother there who admitted she was still nursing (and co-sleeping with, but that’s a different story) her almost-seven-year-old. (I think he was almost seven. I may have added a couple of years as time went by. Maybe he was almost five.) We were shocked. We, with our cute little babbling babies, were nothing like these crazy granola people with the clumpy German shoes. We just wanted to know what to expect as our little darlings naturally and voluntarily weaned themselves over the coming few months.

We are both still nursing our almost-four-year-olds. She’s still co-sleeping with hers. I’m not, because I’m co-sleeping with my next one instead.

If I hadn’t got pregnant again, I think he would have weaned the summer after he turned two. At least, if I had brought some pressure to bear, it would have happened. But as it was, since I found I could nurse while pregnant, I didn’t want to traumatize my wee snowflake by weaning him at that point, and I certainly didn’t want to turn him against his baby sister by weaning him once she arrived, so I was sort of stuck with it. By my second trimester I had cut down drastically to just twice a day, but after she was born it all went to heck in a handbasket and he was partaking at all hours. There I was, tandem nursing, just like I’d sworn I’d never do. You live and learn and then you eat your words with a nice chianti and some fava beans. Oh wait.

Anyway. We gradually cut back again and by the time the baby was a year old we were pretty much back to where we’d been before, at just morning and evening, and that’s where we’ve stuck. He appears by my bed as soon as he wakes up demanding his “morn-side” (side is his word for it; his sister seems to be calling it “mumeet”, which amuses me because whether it’s mum-eat or mum-meat, it seems quite appropriate), and there’s much whispered repositioning so he doesn’t wake the baby as I long-sufferingly come up with the goods, under the rationale that at least it keeps us all lying down and quiet a little longer, and I don’t have to open my eyes. And then after dinner, he must have his “bed-side” before I put his sister to bed and his dad puts him to bed.

It’s not really worth the aggro enough to me to push it any further at this point, since I’m still nursing Miss anyway; and have you met my son? Well, probably not, but you’ve read about the Spider-Man thing, right? All three-year-olds are stubborn, but he’s single-minded with the determination of a bulldog whose favourite rubber squeezy toy you’re trying to throw away because it’s old and smelly. I suspect that both kids will wean together, when Miss is two, maybe. I’ve told him plenty of times that most of his friends don’t have side any more, and that maybe when he’s four he’ll stop, but he just laughs at my hilarious jape and tells me that he’ll still be having side when he’s a teenager, and when he’s grown up, and when he’s married to Helen.

Luckily, Helen tells her mother the same thing, so at least we’ll all be crazy hippies together.

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Seriously, though , if you’re looking for some good books on this subject, I recommend Mothering Your Nursing Toddler by Norma Jane Bumgarner and Adventures in Tandem Nursing by Hilary Flower. Both were very helpful in making me feel that I wasn’t quite as peculiar as I felt, and that many mothers before me have done this and survived to tell the tale.