A few months ago, my Penelope, my two and a half year old daughter, started nursing again. She stopped breastfeeding on her own shortly before her bother was born, but recently, what started as little curious requests for suckles and kisses, turned into her sitting on my lap, in cradle position, breastfeeding again.
Perhaps she was craving that closeness, or maybe it was simple toddler curiosity, especially as she sees her brother nurse often. Regardless of the why, my girl, the one who very often needs very little from me, was asking me to nurse. I could have easily said “There is no more milk” or “This is for your brother” – and I very well may still say that – but not today. I allowed her to need me, and if I was able to honor a request she had, I was absolutely going to.
When I was pregnant with Oliver, I often wondered what tandem nursing would be like. I imagined holding both my children in my arms, sharing the warmth, comfort and closeness of breastfeeding with them simultaneously. Experiencing that now, when I didn’t expect I would, has been wonderful.
Nursing a toddler, in my experience, is very different than nursing a baby – but maybe not in the way I would have thought. Penelope is a little fire cracker; constantly on the go, full of energy, but then she stops and asks for “leche” (usually when her brother is nursing too) and her little body melts into mine. For a few minutes, she finds a calm and stillness in me, one that I otherwise don’t see very often anymore, and it’s precious. It’s pretty special.
Some days she doesn’t ask to nurse, others she asks more often, but the feed that almost never fails, is before bed time. After stories, I position my children on my lap, and at the same time, nurse them before they go to bed. They smile at each other, they laugh, their little legs intertwined in such a way that allows them to both comfortably fit on my lap, and for about 5 minutes, the three of us just are. As they simultaneously breastfeed, I look down and see the two little humans I carried in my womb. They are completely connected, the closest to how it would have been had they shared a womb, and at their center – me. To experience that, I know I am lucky… even if it’s just for a little while.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t experience conflicting feelings about all this.
Penelope asking to nurse again after months of being weaned, seemed like a regression, which in definition, it was – a return to a former state. Regression, however, is a word that has such a negative connotation, that part of me began to wonder (and care) what people would say or think. I still did what felt right and intuitive, to me; I just didn’t share it with many people.
The stigmas associated with breastfeeding “timelines”, the criticism, and the pressure from the world on what one must, or must not do, are there. As much as I would like to say I didn’t care, I did. I was afraid of being judged. Fortunately, the confidence in what I was doing returned, and I felt good about it, but also a little hypocritical.
I was comfortable sharing images of me breastfeeding my 10 month old, and yet, I hadn’t shared any images of me tandem nursing my babies.
So today, I share this.
I am tandem breastfeeding my baby and toddler, and though it wasn’t something I was expecting, it has become an experience I am completely loving, and one I will cherish forever. I am their mother, I am doing my job, and I there is no shame in that.
La Leche League and BACE (Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton) are two amazing breastfeeding groups in Edmonton that I highly recommend whether you’re looking for more information, education or support when it comes to breastfeeding. In the past few months, the meetings and events I attended made a huge difference in my confidence towards my tandem breastfeeding journey.