Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tandem Nursing: Part One

For those of you who don't know, I have a six month-old baby girl {Gemma} and a two and a half year-old little boy {Augustine}, both of whom I have nursed since the day they were born.  Tandem nursing is not always easy, from a physical or emotional standpoint, but I can't imagine it any other way.  In sharing my experience I hope to encourage others who choose to take this path, to enlighten those who don't know much about the issue, and to write it all down as a special memory for me to look back on years from now.  :) 

When I started this journey of motherhood, back when my little man was just a pea sized baby in my belly, tandem nursing was not even on my radar.  I knew my Mom had done it with my older sister and me...but that is because we were born less than a year apart {yes, I am an Irish Twin!}.  Somewhere, probably in a box in my Dad's basement, there is an old picture floating around of my Mom nursing both of us at the same time--my sister on one boob and me, laying on top of her, on the other!  I remember looking at that picture as a young girl and thinking it was such a phenomenon--I never imagined that one day I would find myself in my Mom's position! 
Passed out after a little snack.
 Initially, like most breastfeeding mamas, my goal was to breastfeed Augustine until his first birthday.  Everything past that just seemed like icing on the cake--I just didn't know that icing would still be going strong another year and a half later... 

But as the year mark came and went, my expectations shifted.  From the first moments of Augustine's life, breastfeeding was one of my favorite parts about being a mama--I loved nursing Augustine to sleep, I loved being able to calm and comfort him, I loved how convenient it was, I cherished all the special time we spent together nursing, and I knew it was very healthy for him.  Likewise, from day one he loved to nurse--so much so that he continued to get up to eat in the middle of the night until he was 18 months old.  Though we had met our goal of one year, neither of us seemed ready to give it up yet, and I was feeling increasingly called to let Augustine self-wean.  I am such a hippy.   

At the same time, my husband's expectations were not changing--he still expected Augustine to stop nursing at 12 months, enabling my body to resume normal cycles and giving us the hope of getting pregnant again.  Augustine's frequent nursing was delaying the return of my cycle. 

Like Luke, I was hopeful of adding another baby to our family, but I wasn't in a huge rush.  God so incredibly designed the female body to work the way it does, and I knew that there was a reason my body wasn't ready to conceive again...maybe something to do with Augustine still getting up at night.  I was also trying to live fully in the present moment and appreciate that unique time with just Augustine.  Luke didn't intend to be insensitive, I just don't think even daddies can fully grasp the intensity of the relationship between a mama and her baby.  Though I felt pressure to wean Augustine and "get the show on the road," I knew I would regret it if I weaned Augustine just so we could get pregnant again.        

Nursing outside on a bench in Estes Park. 
We have mastered the art of being discrete.
So, we came to a compromise: Augustine would still nurse but just not as often.  He was eating three full meals, as well as snacks at this point, so nursing was more about the emotional connection and comfort than calories.

Within a couple of months I got my first postpartum period.  The return of my cycle may or may not have been influenced by Augustine's nursing frequency.  My period returned at the typical time for women who exclusively nurse, so chances are it would have returned around that time anyway. 

The next month, we conceived our sweet baby girl!! :)

I was relieved to be pregnant without having rushed Augustine to wean, and I let him go back to nursing more or less whenever he wanted. 

But I knew in the next several months I would have to make some decisions...   
how long would I continue to nurse Augustine?
how would the weaning process work?
would I nurse throughout my pregnancy?
and...would I tandem nurse??

Part II coming up...