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Siblings and Friends

Elizabeth Smith
Elverson PA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 2, March -- April 2007, pp. 62-63

"Your children get along so well! They act more like best friends than brother and sister." If I was given a dollar every time I heard this remark, my children's college funding would be complete. Yes, my daughter, seven, and my son, five, get along beautifully, and they always have. I say this not to boast, but simply to state a fact. They share toys, secrets, giggles, treasures, chores, and food treats. Disagreements between them are rare.

I love peeking into the playroom to see them cuddled together on the sofa, poring over a book on a rainy day. Or curled up in Zeb's bed, his blonde head next to Mijka's brown one, the two of them snoring lightly, surrounded by stuffed animals. Whether it's playing with each other, getting together with friends, or deciding which show they should watch, they make decisions together. They know how to get along, compromise, and respect one another.

My mothering secret? Simple: breastfeeding. Mijka was 26 months old when Zeb was born. I had no plans to wean Mijka, preferring instead to let her wean when she was ready. Zeb's birth didn't move her to give up nursing. And why should it? The upheaval the birth of a baby brings -- not just for an older sibling, but for parents as well -- makes us all long for the stability and the nurturing support of the routines we know and love. Removing one of my daughter's primary sources of emotional sustenance seemed cruel and unnecessary. Weaning was not an option for her, so it wasn't for me either.

Nursing a toddler and an infant at once was not always easy: I could not have done it without the help and support of my LLL Leaders. With their care, concern, and expert guidance, I was able to come to see tandem nursing not as a burden, an annoyance, or as a time to be "gotten through," but rather as an opportunity.

Getting pregnant when my daughter was 18 months was not something my husband and I had planned. Initially, I was frustrated because I didn't know how I could meet the needs of two very needy little beings. Because of what I learned from LLL, I soon realized that nursing both a toddler and an infant was an asset, not a liability. Nursing provided a unique opportunity to meet the needs of both children while, at the same time, allowing them to bond in a special way. They did not need to compete for my love and attention; rather, they could share me and enjoy being together and being with me. The memory of my two sweet little ones curled up with me, nursing peacefully, their fingers entwined, is one I will treasure forever.

What I learned, too, was that having a nursing toddler was a great way to ease the pain of engorgement and help with my milk supply. It was a great comfort to also know that I was meeting my son's nutritional needs while meeting my daughter's emotional needs and supplementing her nutrition. Both of my children were premature (Mijka by a month and Zeb by three weeks), so the added benefits that breastfeeding provided were critical. And their father's history of severe food allergies gave me an additional incentive to keep nursing. My children have never had an allergic reaction to any food.

An LLL Leader once told a group of us attending a meeting that responsive parenting -- and breastfeeding -- would "pay dividends." As a business woman, I appreciated her analogy, and I trusted her judgment. I also knew what I felt to be true: that my mothering instincts to continue to let my daughter nurse were the best thing for both her and her brother. I tandem nursed, thankful that I was able to give my children this gift of stability, nutrition, and shared comfort. And, perhaps most importantly, the gift of a beautiful and lasting relationship with each other.

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