Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tandem Nursing: Part Three

Finally, Part 3--the part where I actually talk about Tandem Nursing!  This should actually be dated around the beginning of August...I just never got around to publishing it.  Here are Parts One and Two if you missed them.

Since I delivered Gemma at a birthing center, rather than at a hospital, we were able to come home four hours after she was born.  Thus, we were only away from Augustine for six hours total!  Moreover, he went down to bed shortly after we left, so he didn't miss a beat when it came to nursing.  

In the morning, Luke brought Augustine into our room to meet his sweet baby sister.  Gemma and I were lying in bed, and after some family bonding and cuddling, Gemma was ready to eat.  I told Augustine that Gemma was going to have some "meme {milk}," and he said that he wanted some, too.  As Gemma began nursing, I said something along the lines of it being Gemma's turn or that she needed to eat first, and Augustine just burst into tears!  It was too heartbreaking for me to see him cry because I knew he didn't understand and because there were so many changes going on all at once for him.  ...So, we had our first literal tandem nursing session right then and there.  In reality, such simultaneous nursing sessions have been very few and far between.  It's a lot more comfortable for all of us when the babies nurse individually.  Yet, on occasion, they do happen.

Over the course of Gemma's first month of life, I got Augustine down from nursing 2-3 times to just nursing once per day--right before his nap.  Each afternoon, I would lay down on a mattress on his floor with him and nurse him to sleep, as I had been doing for the past four months.  It worked well during that season of life for a couple of reasons: 1)  It gave him a set time to look forward to in terms of nursing.  Whenever he asked to nurse, I told him he couldn't nurse then but that he could nurse before his nap and he understood that and would move on with his day.  Although he did often tell me, as early as 9am, that he was "tired" because he knew if he went to sleep he would get to nurse!  2)  It pretty much guaranteed he would take a good nap.  There are very few days in Augustine's life when he hasn't napped so him giving up his nap wasn't really a concern, but I did like knowing that he would peacefully go to sleep each day while nursing.  3)  Nursing Augustine only once a day was manageable.  I felt like I was nursing around the clock the first week--it's easy to forget how often newborns eat!
Silly babies.
But, unfortunately, as Gemma got more and more fussy, I couldn't even put her down long enough to nurse Augustine to sleep, and there was no way I was sabotaging his nap!  So, I began letting him nurse at other times instead of at nap time.  Very thankfully, the transition went great, and he continued to take long naps without nursing to sleep.  I still limited his nursing to once or twice a day though because I was on such a restricted diet for Gemma that, despite eating all day long, I was having a really hard time keeping weight on.  I wanted to make sure Gemma got what she needed first, and I didn't want to burn up all my calories/energy on nursing. 

Once I added gluten back into my diet at the end of May, however, it was much easier to get calories, and I was more lax about when Augustine nursed {due to a dairy/soy protein intolerance and other possible allergies, I cut several foods out of my diet to accommodate Gemma and continue nursing her}.  In an effort to appease him without a drawn out nursing session every time he asked {and to make sure he wasn't drinking all of Gemma's milk}, I would often tell him he could just have a "taste."  It was pretty funny to see him approach me standing up, literally just take a little taste, and then go back to playing.  He caught onto me quickly though and started saying, "sit" before his taste so that I would sit down and hold him and he could nurse for a longer time.  I obliged, as my milk supply was never threatened, and I had put on a few pounds.

Before I knew it, Augustine was nursing more than he had nursed since before I got pregnant--often 3+ times a day!  He nursed when he was bored, when he was sad, when he got hurt, when he wanted to cuddle, when we were at Mass, etc.   I told Luke to just call me "Bessie" because I felt like a Mama Cow between nursing Augustine and Gemma.

As you can see, there has been a lot of ebbing and flowing with our tandem nursing situation.  Gemma nurses as she wants, but with Augustine we do what works for awhile and then adapt as our circumstances change.

My babies cuddling with their Daddy.
At present, we are back to Augustine nursing two times a day...and asking to nurse 47,423 times a day.  It is quite exasperating at times.  I get exhausted just hearing him ask to nurse all.day.long.  It's not always an issue--if we are out and about and keeping busy, he does just fine, but stick us inside all afternoon on a rainy day, and he will ask for "meme" until he is blue in the face.  It is never easy to turn down your wee one when he wants to nurse--in fact, it kills me.  And sometimes I do cry about it.  A primary reason I decided to let Augustine self-wean is for the emotional aspect of nursing, and it can feel counter-productive when I have to tell him no, sometimes sternly.  Once in awhile, I just throw in the towel and decide to nurse him whenever he asks for it...but then he usually ends up nursing several times before noon, and I remember why it's probably not practical to nurse him and Gemma full time {or is it??}.  Gemma nurses like your typical exclusively breastfed baby.  She nurses every 1 1/2-3 1/2 hours during the day, nurses to sleep for most of her naps and at night, and usually gets up twice at night to eat.  On so many levels, I know we have taken the best path for our family by choosing to tandem nurse, but that doesn't mean I don't struggle with it, too. 

For over 2 1/2 years, nursing had been a very special part of my relationship with Augustine--and all we have ever known--but it is really hard at times.  In my experience, the journey of tandem nursing is much tougher emotionally than it is physically.  And for me that emotional struggle is in my nursing relationship with Augustine, not Gemma.  Maybe it is practical to nurse both of them on demand.  I guess that's what I want deep down.  I am just scared Augustine will become even more dependent on it {is that even a bad thing??}, and I am scared I won't produce enough milk for both of them.  Sometimes there is just no easy answer, and this is one of those issues for me.  I just want to do what is best for my babies.  I know weaning Augustine is not the answer, but I don't know whether restricting him or not would be better.  I welcome advice/suggestions from anyone who has been through this or who just has an insight.  Just keep in mind that Augustine really, really loves to nurse.

Anybody who knows me well knows that nursing Augustine as an infant was pretty much heaven on earth for me.  Since his earliest months he has played with my hair while nursing--he immediately reaches for it, and to this day if it is in a bun or a braid, I let it down so he can hold it and run his fingers though it.  The commentary that now accompanies his nursing sessions is quite comical.  He will tell me, "Meme all gone," "Gemmy drank all the meme," "Other side," and, my favorite, "Come bbaacckk meme!"  I love how cuddly he is and how content he is snuggled in my arms.  So, as trivial a problem as it may seem to others, maintaining a positive nursing situation for Augustine is a priority for me.  I don't think Gemma is phased by the fact that Augustine nurses because she has never known anything different, she is only 7 months old, I nurse her on demand, and I always attend to her needs first.

*I quickly want to mention that although I have chosen to breastfeed and follow child-led weaning, I do not judge those who do not take my path.  It would be foolish of me to ever assume I knew more about a someone's situation than I do, and I know there are a lot of variables that influence such decisions.  I feel beyond blessed that I have been able to nurse both my babies, and it is not something that I take for granted.  I speak passionately about breastfeeding in my blog because it is something that I am passionate about, that I love, and that I hold dear to my heart, but I would never want to make another Mama feel inferior or inadequate if she was not able to breastfeed.  I genuinely believe that we Mothers do what we think is best for our children and that you never know fully what another Mom has been through or what factors have influenced the decisions she makes.*   

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