Tandem breastfeeding – the early months

I transferred to hospital a few hours after Ophelia’s home birth because the midwives were unsure about the severity of my tear.

So, Talitha, who’d been at her grandparents’ house during the labour and birth, first met her new baby sister at the “hopsital” as she calls it.

She’s still a little confused about that. Sometimes she’ll say that Ophelia came out of my tummy at the “hopsital” and other times she’ll say that it was in the paddling pool in our livingroom (it was a real birth pool, by the way).

Anyway, she was so excited to see Ophelia, who was snuggled up in the stretchy wrap. She exclaimed, first thing: “Mummy, your baby is not in your tummy anymore! Your baby is in your sling!”

After the excitement of checking out the new baby settled down, barely, she wondered if she could have “milky”. I think I must have been feeding Ophelia at the time because I somehow ended up with one at each breast.

Laurence wondered if I’d want a photo of this first tandem feed but I asked him not to. It felt awkward and strange. I endured it for a while but then nursed them separately which felt much better.

Over the next few weeks, I kept trying to feed them together in hope that we’d all three get a nap, to include Talitha when she seemed to feel a bit left out or because I’d started nursing Talitha and suddenly Ophelia needed me.

It was frustrating for all of us. Ophelia needed a lot of support and kept slipping off. Talitha couldn’t get into a good position. I felt touched out and stressed in a way I’d only experienced while breastfeeding in the first trimester.

I felt angry at Talitha for being so demanding. I found her crying annoying. Ophelia’s cries drew all my compassion. Breastfeeding Ophelia was so lovely, so natural, all I wanted to do. Breastfeeding Talitha was a chore.

The nursing aversion was powerful. I wanted to throw her off me. To walk away from her. I felt guilty for feeling this way but, looking back on it, I was incredibly hormonal and still trying to find some balance.

Everything rushing through my body was telling me to prioritise the newborn who was utterly dependent, needing everything from me. My mind knew that my older child, only two-and-a-half still needed me too, especially now that her world was changing.

Friends who were breastfeeding supporters offered wisdom and empathy. Laurence was very supportive too. He took Ophelia at bedtime so I could spend that special time of day with Talitha and give her a bedtime feed.

I decided to limit her time at the breast for both our sakes. First it was three times a day, then two, morning and bedtime. Then I started counting to ten when it got uncomfortable. At first she would cry every time I asked her to unlatch.

I felt awful about it so would let her go on some more but then she kept pushing for more and I kept feeling like it was all too much. So I began to stick with ten for consistency.

It felt like an endless cycle and I dreaded feeding her, knowing it would only end in tears as she would go on and on, breastfeeding for far longer than her newborn sister would if I’d let her, which I just couldn’t bear to do.

Many times, I wanted to wean her on the spot. I talked to a few women who’d breastfed beyond infancy or tandem breastfed to get some ideas and encouragement. They reminded me that it was still really early days and that things would change and settle. I knew they were right but it didn’t feel that way at the time.

And I’m not sure when it did but it has settled. Breastfeeding Ophelia is still a dream. Breastfeeding Talitha twice a day is mostly manageable but sometimes quite lovely too.

It’s mostly just for a few moments, actually. She usually decides she’s had enough before I have. She’s also started asking for other forms of comforting if she’s sad, hurt or unwell in the day (times when I would nurse her if she asked) though she will still have the odd feed in those instances.

She is three now and I veer between thinking she’s weaning and that she has time yet to go. I know that I am encouraging weaning by placing restrictions but that feels right for us.

It also feels right to continue to allow this to be a gradual thing. She said something yesterday which convinced me again that it is so. I told her that it is alright for her to start doing more things for herself, without my help.

She replied: “I am big but I am still little.”

Yes, yes you are, my little big one.


This post had a giveaway attached, hence some comments are a little random.

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  • For us breastfeeding Littler as a bigger child was part of helping support through her dairy allergy – it gives a great bond and has always been a superb way to re-engage after being away at work

  • I didn’t tandem breastfeed but if I had of done then I can really imagine this is how I would have felt. I know that in our case it would have really helped Cherry with the transition of being an only child to having to share me but I found breastfeeding Tiger all the time so consuming that I’m not sure how I would have fitted anymore in.You’ve done so well to persevere though. I really struggled to make sure I gave Cherry my proper attention in those first few months, I pretty bad about it really. I did find the urge to look after my newborn stronger I guess and as Matt is so much better with kids over babies I found he did everything with Cherry while I did everything with Tiger but oh well. guess there is no point in regretting anything! x
    Jess @ Along Came Cherry recently posted..Experimenting with iPhone Lenses

  • I’m currently feeding at 13m and hoping to be pregnant soon. My little girl is a milk monster so I imagine I will end up tandem feeding. Its nice to read a real life version of events and not just a “its beautiful, perfect and amazing” etc. Thank you for your honesty x

  • Lovely post. Currently feeding my third baby, both my older two self weaned around the time I got pregnant so I’ve never tandem fed but sometimes wished I could have! Loved feeding older babies though – mine were 16 & 18 months respectively when we stopped feeding.

  • I’ve never gotten past 4 months, our 3rd little one is 3 months old now so we’re yet to see how long my milk will last, if I would have continued to produce milk I could easily now bf a 3y, 2y and a 3 month old but unfortunately it was not ment to be 🙁 x

  • My toddler mainly feeds at bedtime now. I love that no matter how busy we are during the day we have that quiet time at the end of the day. Breastfeeding is a great comfort when my son is unwell or teething.

  • aww that last quote from Talitha is so true! Wilf stopped breastfeeding a week a go now, it wasn’t planned although I had wondered a few times lately if we would be drawing to the end of our journey. He’s only bf in the morning for the past 6 months and then he just forgot for 4 days in a row (because of the care bears!) then on the 5th day he remembered and asked and I found myself saying ‘there’s none left’ and other than trying to fill me up again with almond milk he’s accepted it. When I think about it I do feel a little sad, especially as I probably could start up again even now as I still have milk but I’m glad it happened this way. I think you are doing so amazingly well to be conscious of both their needs xx
    Fritha recently posted..Anthropologie wish list

  • I love how easy it is to distract my tantruming boy with milk and the comfort when he’s unwell. And how bedtimes are tear free. But I don’t like how demanding he gets over milk.

  • Oh wow I can only imagine this must be very hard and I think i would feel awkward as well. I fed my little man till just past 2.5yrs and he is nearly four and still has not totally gotten over it and often asks why he cannot have “mummy tea” anymore so I don’t know what he will do if we have another on who I will feed, will have to wait and see.
    Beautifully written post by the way

    Laura x
    Laura recently posted..Tips for creating a floral themed room

  • Sounds like we are in similar places with our 3 year olds. I get touched out a lot more by Arlo than I do with Rory, but as Arlo only feeds once in the morning, it’s easy to deal with. I feel like I’m going to wean one demanding preschooler only to head straight into the demanding years with another toddler! Just going to take it day by day (as usual), as I can’t predict what will happen and Rory might end up being completely different to Arlo.

  • I had nursing aversion during pregnancy – it was horrendous. I was fortunate that it disappeared as soon as I had given birth. I love that continuing to feed B after M was born has helped with their bonding and prevented a bit of jealousy.
    Laura recently posted..Low Supply

  • I only made it to 2 weeks but my bestie fed my godson until he was almost 3 and their bond is incredible!

  • I fed my first baby for 15 months, my second only for 12 months and I would love to get to 18 months with the baby.

  • I’ve missed the giveaway (not that I could make use of it, lol) but it must be a tricky time, gradual like you say must be the key, and whatever works for you all together xxx

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