Ten things that happen when you’re tandem breastfeeding

Despite the universal-sounding title, this is just how it’s gone and is going for me, breastfeeding older and younger siblings at the same time. The first thing you learn when you start asking other tandem breastfeeding mothers about their experiences is that nothing is exactly the same for everyone. No one can predict how they’re going to feel or what they’re going to need to do. We can share ideas and offer solidarity but there’s no roadmap, no rulebook.

I tandem breastfed for sixteen months the first time around, until my eldest, Talitha, was four years old. Who knows how long we’ll get to this time but I’m now breastfeeding both three year old Ophelia and her nine month old baby sister, Delilah.

I know how crazy this sounds because, believe me, I never expected any of this. Until I met mothers who were tandem breastfeeding, I didn’t know it was possible. It’s not something I held up as an ideal or hoped to do, even when I fell pregnant the third time around. It just kind of happened. Each time, I had a toddler who still needed to be breastfed while also finding myself pregnant, which brings me to the first thing that happens when you’re tandem breastfeeding.

You discover it starts before the baby is even here.

The sore nipples. The disappearing milk. The sickness. The breastfeeding aversion. Already you are sharing yourself between the child at your breast and the one growing inside you. It happens sooner than you expect. Already they are in tandem.

It looks like it will happen. Like it won’t happen. Maybe it will happen.
I wrote a whole post about how I thought Talitha was weaning. I went through the range of emotions over this. She didn’t. And you know, I did it all again when it was Ophelia’s turn too. Except I really, really thought she’d wean in pregnancy. And I felt irrationally guilty because it felt too soon. But then she didn’t either!

You start to wrap your head around the possibility.

At some point, after wondering, “would we, wouldn’t we?”, it was evident that yes, this really was happening. I most likely was going to be breastfeeding my older and younger kids simultaneously. I borrowed and scoured the book Adventures in Tandem Nursing from Bristol La Leche League.

You have all. the. questions.
Is my nursing aversion normal? (Yup!) Will it go away when the new baby comes? (Certainly for the baby) Will I make enough milk? (All being straightforward, more demand = more production) Do I have to worry about the baby getting enough colostrum? (Nope! As long no issues on the baby’s side) Who feeds first? (Probably the baby but it doesn’t have to be a rule) What if one of them has a cold? (It’s good your milk’s going to get fighting it – they’re probably sharing the germs anyway) WHAT IS IT GOING TO BE LIKE? (Sorry, no one can help you there!)

You fumble with positions.
You see all these photos online of mothers peacefully breastfeeding their two together. I persevered a bit more with it with Talitha and Ophelia but it’s never really worked for me. I find the experience of breastfeeding two at literally the same time utterly overwhelming from a sensory point of view. It makes me want to throw things.

I saw a photo the other day of someone tandem breastfeeding on her side with her baby lying on top of her toddler. It looked so lovely. I might try that out of curiosity and because it would give all three of my kids the giggles but, realistically, we have a one at a time deal going here.

In the earliest days, I could never latch the baby well enough with the older one in the way or coach the older one on where to go without the baby slipping off so it was a no-go from that perspective too. I know breastfeeding together absolutely works for some but I’m not alone in finding it really tricky.

You hit a sweet spot.
The older one holds your breast to “feed the baby”. They hold hands while breastfeeding together. You reconnect after a difficult toddler day with a simple breastfeed. You find a way to get them both to sleep.

You hit a hard place.
Your older child finds it hard to share. Your nursing aversion, though not an issue with the baby, hasn’t gone away with your older nursling. You navigate impatience, theirs and yours.

I’ve had to insist that we reserve breastfeeding the older child to when I have another adult around, in case I need someone to hold the baby. This isn’t how it works for everyone but it’s something I find takes the pressure off the situation.

Sometimes it’s hilarious.

Breastfeeding has acquired a new dialogue these days. My older two sometimes give me a replay by laughingly pretending to breastfeed each other.
“OK, we’re going to need to stop now.”
“But I want MUH!”
“It has to be nice for both of us.”
They obviously find it amusing, which makes me feel better about needing to call the feed to an end most of the time.

Your younger baby gets possessive.

Delilah isn’t there yet but I remember Ophelia hit a stage where she was absolutely unwilling to share me with Talitha. She would try to pull Talitha off me if I was breastfeeding her and needed to be distracted.

People ask when you’re going to wean your younger baby

You smile to yourself. Little do they know…

All of a sudden it’s over.
In a sense, Talitha’s weaning was a long time coming. Well, obviously, it was as she was four years old but I mean she was gradually breastfeeding less and less frequently. And then that was it. I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t known the last time was the last time. That was that.

I also didn’t know I’d one day do it again.

More blog posts on this topic:
Tandem breastfeeding – the early months
Things I’ve learned while breastfeeding through pregnancy
How weaning happened – the end of our breastfeeding journey

Information on tandem breastfeeding:
Pregnant and breastfeeding? – an La Leche League Great Britain resource on breastfeeding while pregnant and tandem breastfeeding.


When a home replaces period timber windows with uPVC

We live in an old house. Our cottage dates back to the late 1800s and I still haven’t wrapped my head around that history. When we were house hunting, we really didn’t know what we were looking for so checked out bungalows to new builds to period homes. It quickly became obvious that we were both drawn to “character properties” and, while we just wanted to buy the right place, we’d prefer an older home if possible.

Now that we’re here, we’re at the starting point of learning to live well in and care for our little piece of history. We’re discussing tricks to reduce condensation, how to let the house breathe, how to maximise energy efficiency and whether we might update some of the windows flagged up by our surveyor as a potential fire hazard. The house already has uPVC windows but the ones in the middle floor only open a flap so they’re the ones concern has been expressed about and that we’d be looking to replace.

Certainly, we’re appreciating the benefits of uPVC and the drawbacks of timber having lived here for a couple of weeks, especially as we looked around another period home which had not replaced its period timber windows. Our new windows make the house warmer, quieter and better insulated, all surprisingly so for a cottage in the countryside. The glass is also a lot less likely to break. Our front door has a wooden frame and I must admit the rattling panes set us a little on edge, imagining one of the children running through it.

Our uPVC windows don’t at all detract from the quaint style of the house so we’d be looking for a similar match for the middle floor set. In the event that it is confirmed that we need to update the windows quickly, a look through Rose Collection sash windows offers us three options: UltimateRose, HeritageRose and CharismaRose. Each includes a timber effect sash so by going with one of these options we could even restore some of the house’s historical character if we wanted to. There’s definitely no compromise on style there.

We’re still unpacking boxes and finding places for things to live but it’s something we will have to give more thought sooner rather than later. Like so many things, hey?

Brought to you by Rose Collection


What I learned when we moved

You might have guessed by the blogging hiatus that we finally moved into our new house in Cornwall. It’s been two weeks, in fact. The general chaos and the lack of internet meant that I just about managed a few updates on Instagram.

Other than that, we’ve been up to our eyeballs in mystery boxes, plodding through that stage where the house looks worse before it gets better. Finally, it’s got better. We are starting to settle and from even before we got unpacking, this has felt like home.

There’ve been a few surprises in it all and I don’t just mean the literal rubbish we accidentally moved with (and yes we did).

For a start, I was caught off guard by my need to mourn Bristol the moment we left it. I believe now that this was a natural and necessary part of the moving process and I’m grateful that we got to do it while in temporary accommodation in stunningly placed Crantock.

I’ve been similarly amazed at the gusto with which I’ve thrown myself into life here so far and how genuinely excited I’ve been about it all. I’ve never driven this much or been this adventurous about where I’ve taken the children on my own (this might explain why I got the car stuck in deep sand in Porthtowan last week and had to literally be dug out by kind strangers!). For years I’ve been pretty pathetic when it comes to meeting new people, allowing others to take the initiative but it’s as if I’m being released by the decision to be more intentional.

Moving cross country with a family has made this the most pressured of our moves but, in a sense, it’s been easier than any other I’ve made. Maybe it’s down to being that bit older or that the kids give me a convenient way into meeting people or even just a deep peace about this being where we’re meant to be in this season of our lives.

We were forewarned that moving can affect children in unexpected ways but we still needed to remind ourselves and each other that this is why they were waking up, why they were having nightmares, why they were regressing to younger behaviours.

Reminders helped us to re-baby them, to try to be understanding, to find ways of reassuring them. Feeling stretched by being so long in an in-between place, far from where our eventual destination was, we kept needing to be reminded.

A friend at church today asked whether we feel like our nomadic life is behind us and that’s an astute description of where we’ve been not just for two months in Crantock but from the time we decided to move here when I was 38 weeks pregnant with Delilah. Feeling unsettled certainly has affected my parenting, sometimes in ways I wish it hadn’t.

Yet they have adapted so well, our five and three year olds. Talitha talks about old friends and was brilliantly excited about the birthday party we went back to Bristol for a couple of weekends ago. Already she’s making new friends here too.

Ophelia is also starting to play with other children and talk about them. She is starting to develop friendships. The friendship between the sisters has really kept them going through this time of unpacking and distracted parenting. Still, they’ve needed us and it’s been hard to get the balance right between trying to get stuff done so we can get back into a life rhythm and making sure that that pursuit doesn’t take over our lives. I won’t pretend I’ve even mostly got that right. Who knows, aye?

They’ve also been such a help to me with Delilah who is going through an extremely clingy phase. They’ll sit and play with her or show her books while I sit her down for the few moments she’ll tolerate it. Upside to the clinginess and Delilah not crawling yet – we’ve been able to sort a lot of the house out without worrying about her getting into all sorts.

Something that’s shocked me, though, and not in a good way, is how controlling I become when I feel out of control. I knew this about myself before but the stresses of this move have really thrown focus on it. There is such a burden on my heart to make sure I don’t take this out on my family. But I do. I’m working hard on it but I know it’s a process rather than something that can be quickly fixed. It’s going to take a lot of slowing down my responses to situations and continually reflecting and asking why I’m doing what I’m doing.

If anything, rediscovering this reminds me that I can’t do this without the help of the One who parents me so gently and isn’t at all controlling. I’m finding that moving out of the familiar is giving me fresh spiritual avenues with God appearing in places I did not expect.

We originally weren’t supposed to move until next month but the quick sale of our house in Bristol and the struggle of Laurence driving down to Falmouth every week sped the process up. With Spring now in the full swing and Easter on its way, we couldn’t have better timed warming into a new place.

I’ll do a house tour, room tours or something similar at some point but we’ve only just managed to clear the floors. Although maybe there’s something in sharing the mess so we all remember we have chaos in common?


When my second child turned three

Ophelia’s birthday was last Friday. Somehow she’s three?

Actually, it make sense that she’s three because the language explosion she’s gone through in the last few months has caught us off guard. I’ll admit I was starting to wonder whether we should get her hearing checked but now she’s coming out with memories that make me realise she’s understood lots more than she could communicate for a long time.

The third birthday is exciting because kids are starting to understand what a birthday is about and that they’re getting older.

I get doubly emotional at Ophelia’s birthdays because it’s not just “oh my, she’s growing so quickly!” but I have my older child Talitha for perspective on Ophelia’s age and no way was Talitha so little at three! Except she was.

Laurence’s parents came to stay for the birthday weekend and we went to the seal sanctuary in Gweek, which was such a treat. It sounds like they’re doing some pretty cool work there and you get lovely rural views of the Helston river, which is still a bit of a shock having come from living in a city.

Not having any of the right equipment and generally finding making wheat and dairy free cakes a bit of a mission, I bought a supermarket “free from” cake which Ophelia chose, along with a few sugar pirates to put on top. You know what? I think she was every bit as delighted with it as she would have been with an elaborate, handcrafted affair. Kids really don’t need much.

We took it to The Beach Hut overlooking Watergate Bay to round up the treat. The whole weekend turned into a celebration of her birthday, with one of her godparents coming to stay after her grandparents departed. It got me thinking about how important it is for children to have other adult figures in their lives, that wider family.

Having them is valuable for me too because after a long hard slog, finding myself struggling with motherhood, I got to see others having fun with my children and it reminded me that I could have fun with them too. In fact, the weekend gave me a series of highs which I’m treasuring up, hoping they’ll help carry me through for quite some time.

Age three seems like a move beyond the toddler-toddler stage. Seeing Talitha and Ophelia play, I know I have two children now. There have been a few times this week when I’ve thought, “Gosh, we really can just all hang out now.”

Lovely Ophelia, who dances all the time, who loves to shout and balance on things. So often so fearless, you surprise us every day. You make us laugh. You challenge us. You are sensitive. You are fiercely affectionate. You’ve perfected those cuddles. We are loving getting to know you, our wild three year old.


100 ways to home educate – How we do it

I volunteered to join in with the 100 Ways to Home Educate blog hop with gusto but now that I’m sitting in front of my computer, I’m left thinking, “But how do we do it?”

I’ve been really reluctant to talk much about this in anything but vague terms, partly because it’s ever evolving. As the girls develop, as I read and learn more, as our circumstances change, home education looks different in our family. So I suppose that openness to change is a defining characteristic of our approach. Talitha is five and a half, Ophelia is three years old and Delilah seven months old. Obviously, Talitha is the only one who’s of compulsory school age.

I can’t claim that we are unschoolers. I do offer activities using resources I’ve assembled and often have a plan for our days, even if loose and flexible. At the same time, I don’t force anything (though I might encourage) and I’m not particularly bothered if the day takes an entirely different shape to the one I imagined. The majority of my children’s time is taken up in free play and independent creating. Some would probably call us eclectic or maybe semi autonomous.

Certainly there’s been no typical week here for quite some time. Between Delilah’s birth seven months ago,  Laurence splitting his weeks between our home in Bristol and his work in Cornwall two weeks after, our trip to Thailand in December, packing up the house and moving in January and the last six weeks of getting to know Cornwall but staying in temporary accommodation a fair way from where we’ll be – well, the rhythms are all over the place.

Still, a few things remain constant. We spend some time each day reading. I read to them a mix of books I’ve chosen and books they have. There’s always a chapter book in there for Talitha (we’re reading Finn Family Moomintroll), picture books for Ophelia and Delilah and a Bible story. Everything else is ever changing. They might ask me to read a few pages from a Wildlife Trust magazine or an Usborne non-fiction book (space, volcanoes and Ancient Rome are current favourites), for instance.

We’ve come to really enjoy this dedicated time reading together. Though I do most of the reading, Talitha will sometimes ask to read to us. Ophelia also “reads” to us, keen to attempt anything her sister is doing.

The other constant in our days is time outdoors. Wanting our children to have masses of  outdoor play was a big motivator in choosing to home educate so we try to get outside every day, no matter what the weather is doing. We loosely follow a Charlotte Mason inspired nature curriculum mainly to give me ideas of things to notice since, having only lived in the UK for just over a decade and having a rather indoors childhood myself, British seasons, flora and fauna are all still new discoveries to me.

Some days Talitha might do workbooks or play Mathseeds or Reading Eggs on the computer. We play card games or she builds structures with various manipulatives (we have a Spielgaben set and cuisenaire rods) or Duplo and we talk about patterns, numbers and how to work stuff out. She loves writing out sums and testing me on them. If she has a question I don’t feel I’m answering well enough, we sometimes look at Khan Academy online to see how they’ve explained it. We were using a free maths curriculum for a while but, though she enjoyed it, I found it too labour intensive. At the moment, this interest-led approach is working well for us. Numbers naturally pop up everywhere in life, whether it’s telling the time or working out how much pocket money she has left. It’s amazing how much kids learn just by having an attentive adult on hand to chat things through with and the time to work on problems at their own pace.

Similarly, writing is child led. She loves to write lists and letters. I often find pictures and sentences related to something we’ve been reading about or something happening in her life. She’s been asking to learn cursive so I’ve started to introduce it using a printable from Twinkl and I can see that it might help her grow more confident with her spelling since she’ll be able to follow the shape of the word. Neither spelling nor cursive are things I’d be inclined to even mention right now so it’s interesting that she’s taken such an interest in them.

In terms of topics, we tend to be led by what either of the girls are showing an interest in. I jot down questions in the notes on my phone and remind them about them when it makes sense. Often something will emerge from an experience or a TV show. We went to a planetarium show back at half term and we had a book about space so we’ve wound up looking at videos and reading stuff off websites about the solar system. We talked about the recently discovered solar system with planets similar to Earth when the news broke.

We’re still finding our way with groups here in Cornwall but so far we’ve done one or two home ed groups a week and met up with friends outside of that, which is pretty much what we did in Bristol too. Talitha was doing ballet and swimming in Bristol and she’s asking to get something similar started again but I’m conscious that we need to move into our new house first and just get a bit settled. Also, at three, Ophelia might like to try something low structure too.

No doubt our approach will morph with time. They are so little yet. And I’m sure Ophelia’s path will look quite different from Talitha’s as we can already see that they’re quite different people. For now, this is a little look at how we’re gently dancing together.

Check out the days and ways covered so far on 100 ways to home ed and see the linky below for new ones added in the month of March.




Half a year with three children

Delilah is seven months old and I’ve been meaning to write this post since just before she turned six months old. So that says something about how it’s all going, I guess. I feel like it’s all been a bit nonstop, with this baby and the move and a host of other unsettlers that come with family life and getting older.

For the first time in five and a half years of being a mother, I genuinely feel like I want a holiday and I don’t mean anything like our family trip to Thailand back in December.

I find myself thinking, “When this settles”, “When that settles” about so many things. When the baby’s sitting up, when we finally all move to Cornwall, when we’re in our new house, when we’ve settled into a new community…

At the same time, I know I don’t want to wish our lives away. There is so much to smile at in the every day, the right now. My kids can see it. They don’t wake up thinking about the future. They’re ready to enjoy today. I have to hold on to that because it won’t settle for quite some time since we’re not even moved into our new house yet. And then life has a way of throwing something else in just when you’ve got your head around everything.

Right now, I’m struggling. I feel rubbish even admitting that because I know I have so much to be grateful for, so much that I am grateful for and it seems whiney not to be able to just flip the switch and be 100 per cent positive.

I’m getting through the days with the kids but keep winding up wondering why others are so much better at it and enjoying it more than I am.

I know that isn’t rational. If another woman said that to me, I’d wish she could see the brilliant life building stuff she’s doing. In fact, maybe if I were doing more support work right now, I’d have a bit more perspective – just a random musing.

This was supposed to be a reflection on what it’s like half a year in with three kids. I suppose, in a way, it is. I feel like my parenting bandwidth is maxed out. I have no desire to be any busier parenting-wise. But it’s impossible for me to say if that’s purely because of the kids or because of all the other stuff going on in our lives right now.

I cannot separate my experience of having this seven month old from my experience of mothering a five and a half year old and an almost three year old. None of us would be the people we are without Delilah. Everything that came before her is a struggle to recall.

She fills our lives with smiles and growls and giggles and raspberries. She pulls our hair and bites our faces because she’s teething. She fills my mind with beauty even just writing about her right now. I put these words down and everything feels that little bit more manageable.

Because it will all get more manageable in its own way. Or at least it will settle. And once we’re in a new home and in a new routine, when we’re less exposed and raw, life can throw that new thing in and hopefully we’ll be a little bit more ready to take it on.


Home education in times of chaos

I skipped out of doing a home education update for the last couple of months. It’s just been too much with three weeks in Thailand then the house move. Though we’ve now moved out of our home in Bristol, we haven’t moved into our new home near Falmouth. We’re staying in a holiday home near Newquay. It’s beautiful in this part of Cornwall but it’s also a bit remote both from Laurence’s work and from the groups we’re likely to join with, ongoing.

So the days with the kids are pretty long and we’re all doing rather a lot of driving. There is so much to enjoy about being here, though, and I’m looking forward to continuing to make the most of it with some days out planned to locations that will be a bit further away once we’ve moved.

I only say this to explain that I wasn’t sure I’d give an update this month either because we’re still feeling unsettled. Then again, transitions and times of being out of routine are also a part of home ed living so I thought I should write about that too.

Home educating through chaos-5

With the chaos of new baby, travels and house move it’s been difficult at times to maintain any sort of predictable rhythm to our days but one thing has remained the same. We read a lot of books and spend a lot of time outdoors. I was also making time to listen to Talitha read but we even fell out of a routine with that. She was instead left to read to herself or her little sisters, which she preferred at the time. Then, suddenly, I realised she was really reading everything, even chapter books. In fact, she started reading ahead in The Folk of Faraway Tree both because she didn’t want the session to end and also because then she felt less scared when I read the next chapter.

It’s become a habit for her to take books to bed, rushing independently through the bedtime routine so she could get into bed and curl up with whatever book she’s reading. Sometimes she manages fine on her own. Other times, she’ll enjoy reading then ask me to read the same chapter of whatever book again so she can learn any words she wasn’t sure about.

Her questions about reading or writing pretty much direct where we go in those areas at the moment. I’m just amazed by how this is all coming together, almost on its own. Ophelia too has started picking out letter sounds. Her progression is already incredibly different from her sister’s. It’ll be equally fascinating seeing how that takes shape too.

Home educating through chaos-6

Balancing their needs has been particularly challenging lately with one or the other making it clear when they’re feeling neglected. I often feel like there’s not enough of me to go around. At the same time, they’re learning important lessons about patience, independence and compromise.

Our times away and now in the holiday home have shown me that they really don’t need much in the way of toys. We have books, a few crafty, arty things that the girls have been freestyling with, Duplo, Lego, Hama beads, cuisennaire rods and that’s it.

Home educating through chaos-4

Seeing what’s happened with the cuisenaire rods has been pretty interesting because they’ve not played with them for ages but now, with less stuff out, they’ve been loving these. They primarily build with them, without any interference from me, but sometimes Talitha uses them to work out sums she’s not sure about. It’s really sparked an interest in number bonds for her. I notice her working on the same concepts across day-to-day play and conversations, using her pocket money and these rods. These concepts have also been coming up in Mathseeds, an online game she plays. She’s had a revived interest in working on written maths in a workbook she was doing, which was a surprise. Some of her questions were really challenging my ability to explain so we’ve started looking at videos on Khan Academy together, which she’s enjoying more than I could have expected.

Home educating through chaos-2

While venturing into these new spaces with my 5.5 year old, I have to keep remembering that my very nearly three year old needs puzzles and picture books, play and singing and dancing a-plenty. I sometimes have to be firm about carving out time to do what Ophelia wants to do now.

We’ve been in Cornwall for a couple of weeks now and have started meeting up with home ed friends we met when we came house hunting last year. We’ve also tried a couple of groups so far and have more visits planned this week. It’s such a relief not to worry about the community aspect of our choices. Though, just to contradict myself, we’ve also just spent a lot of time on our own, mostly on beaches. Right now we’re just getting our bearings but I’ve no doubt we’re going to be just fine settling in.

Home educating through chaos

Actually, what’s been hardest about this time of change has been the spotlight it’s put on how stretched I am, personally. In times of overwhelm, I find myself inwardly screaming “Me too! Me too! I have needs too!” Things are often out of balance, messy, imperfect. I don’t have all the answers about how to fix that, though I do have a few ideas (I need to get back to volunteering and some other work, for one).

Whereas in times past I would have felt guilty about not having it all sorted, treating feeling overwhelmed as if it were a moral failing, I’m actively trying to resist that vicious cycle. I’m also trying to savour the times when it’s all just fine and when I’m feeling thankful that we’re able to choose to live this way. There are a lot of those too.
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Every month, I give a little update on what we’ve been up to as part of This Homeschooling Life, a linky I host with blogger friends Jess and Polly. If you blog, consider linking up.

This Homeschooling Life is a linky sharing a week, a day or even just a moment from your life as a homeschooling family. We are hoping it will be a great way to discover new blogs and learn how we all do things differently.

The linky will open at 8am on the first Monday of every month and, throughout the rest of the month, the hosts will share your posts on their social media channels.

The Hosts:

Adele who blogs at Beautiful Tribe
Polly who blogs at Enchanted Pixie
FACEBOOK / TWITTER / PINTEREST / INSTAGRAM

The Rules:

1. Link back to one of the hosts. You will find the code for the badge at the bottom or if you prefer you can use a text link.

2. Link up a post from your month, no more than 3.

3. Link directly to a specific post, not your main blog.

4. Follow the hosts on at least one of their social media platforms.

5. Visit and comment on some of the other blogs linking up.

6. If you share on social media then you can use the #thishomeschoolinglife so we can all find each other.

This Homeschooling Life

An InLinkz Link-up