Nursing and Nurturing Two Babies under Three
Milton, FL, USA
From New Beginnings, Vol. 31 No. 2, 2010, pp. 10-11
Gabe was a little over a year when we decided to try to conceive our second baby. He was still nursing all day and all night and not very interested in eating other foods. I offered him the foods my husband and I were eating. I was breastfed for several years myself and his lack of interest in table food was normal to me. I knew he would eventually eat more foods, but I was very concerned that if I got pregnant and my milk supply decreased or disappeared, he would starve. Although I wanted to wait until Gabe was at least two to get pregnant again, with my husband Ryan's future military deployments and frequent moves to plan around, we decided it would work out better to have a baby sooner.
I conceived again when Gabe was 18 months old. I really wanted Gabe to have as much milk as he wanted until he was two. I planned to continue nursing throughout my pregnancy and then to tandem nurse. My milk supply gradually decreased and Gabe slowly started eating other foods. My milk supply had dwindled by the time I was 18 weeks pregnant, but Gabe, 21 months old at the time, was still very keen on nursing. And he didn't starve himself! He didn't even appear to notice the drop in my milk supply. He just nursed as normal and ate food to make up for not getting nutrition from nursing. He was not a picky eater. He ate what the rest of the family ate. For this I am very thankful.
Nursing during pregnancy was not painful, although it was uncomfortable from time to time. I believed Gabe deserved to nurse and decided I was not going to wean. This mindset helped me get through the uncomfortable times. Nursing also made it easier to rest with a busy toddler. He was still waking often at night to nurse, which did make me more tired, but it was manageable. By the end of my pregnancy, Gabe was 27 months old and not nursing a lot. He was sleeping through the night and nursing in the morning and at nap and bedtime.
I knew I was going into labor when I nursed Gabe to sleep one evening, which made my still irregular contractions stronger. By the time he awoke the next morning, I was having regular contractions and had been in contact with my midwife. My husband took Gabe to my mom's house across the street so that he would not want to nurse while I was having contractions.
My daughter, Susanna, was born at home that afternoon. My mom and Gabe came over shortly after the birth and the first thing Gabe said was, "I want milk." I was nursing Susanna at that time, but I let him latch on and I nursed them together.
During those first few days before my milk came in, my mom and Ryan tried to spend a lot of time with Gabe. I did not want him to nurse all the time, although I let him nurse as often as he had prior to Susanna's birth. Unlike Gabe, who nursed every couple hours as a newborn, Susanna nursed continuously. I quickly reacquainted myself with nursing a baby in a sling! I later learned to nurse Gabe on the other side with Susanna in a sling. I learned how to do pretty much everything -- cooking, helping Gabe use the bathroom, playing with Gabe, laundry -- with Susanna nursing in the sling. I cannot think of another way to manage with a newborn and a toddler!
We sleep in a family bed. We have a king-size futon and a twin futon on our bedroom floor. Gabe had been sleeping on the twin but moved himself back near me after Susanna's birth, booting my husband to the twin. My husband doesn't mind. I think he's just glad that he gets to sleep all night, without waking to go get a baby who needs to nurse or to have to go comfort a toddler in another room. When the babies wake, they just nurse right there, not disturbing anyone. It can be a problem when Gabe wakes while Susanna is nursing because he has to wait. He accepts waiting but whines a little bit about it. Sometimes I wake up nursing one of them with the other one whimpering and I'm not sure who is nursing and who is whimpering! Gabe started night waking again after Susanna was born, but by the time she was six weeks old, his night waking was minimal.
Gabe has shown only positive feelings toward Susanna. I know this is because he does not feel like he was replaced, and because his needs have been met. When she cries, her needs always come first and he seems to understand this. He is capable of carrying on a conversation and will say, "Susanna's fussing, Susanna needs milk." By seeing me tend to her immediately when she fusses, Gabe is learning how to take care of a baby. I suspect that he knows anyway but now he is seeing it from the outside instead of always being the one taken care of.
We talked a lot about having a baby before she was born and he was accustomed to seeing babies and toddlers nurse at La Leche League meetings. I had a family member staying with me full time until Susanna was one month old. We staggered the grandmas' visits and my husband taking time off work so that someone would always be here with me but the house would never be full of people. This worked out very well and I don't know how I could have managed without someone to help me that first month! My helper primarily played with Gabe, which he loved.
I think it would be much more challenging to have a weaned two-year-old and a newborn. Like any mom with two so young, I am always busy but in a positive way. I spend my time nursing and playing with my babies, as well as accomplishing basic household tasks. With Gabe's needs met, I haven't had to spend time preventing him from hitting the baby or managing temper tantrums. I have prioritized my household tasks and only set out to do the most important ones: grocery shopping, cooking nutritious meals, and laundry. My husband does the dishes and anything else that must be done.
Gabe did start eating less and nursing more after Susanna's birth, especially after the first month when I was alone with the children at home all day. He gradually started eating more as time went on. My mom tandem nursed my sister and me and has always told me it is very normal for a toddler to nurse more after the birth of a sibling.
I do tell Gabe "no" sometimes when he wants to nurse. He usually accepts this or waits without much of a fuss. If I could have spaced the gap between my children however I wanted, not having to worry about other factors, I would have waited to get pregnant until my youngest was at least two. However, it is no bad thing having two under-threes -- it is just very, very busy! I sleep when they sleep and I am not exhausted. I am happy to spend all my time with my two healthy, thriving children.
Flower, H. Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond. LLLI, 2003 combines research with personal stories. http://store.llli.org/public/ product/3