Monday, October 11, 2010

Tandem Nursing (11 days in)

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I'm nursing two.  Sometimes I nurse them simultaneously, and sometimes apart.  I've been lucky, I think, that my older nursling is not jealous about nursing and he's quite patient as we get everyone situated.  He has even been problem-solving various positions in which I've found myself nursing both.  He's told me sadly, "I can't reach," and then suggested I roll one way or another, or that he needs a pillow (which he will go retrieve and start positioning).  We're working that part out and he's totally willing. 

The biggest challenge with positions for nursing both has been finding one that works for me to lay down.  Squeak requires I help him on with both hands, and then that I hold him close.  Otherwise he's slipping on and off or getting a really painful latch.  So, I can't nurse both while I really rest because the baby will slip off.  Alternatively, if the baby is in a good position for me to lay down in (side-lying), then the toddler can't get comfortable without worrying he's going to crush the baby (yes, he expresses concern that he "can't watch out for Squeak").  I don't know if I just need more pillows, or if the baby just needs to be bigger and have nursing figured out a little better.  I think both.

They are very, very sweet when I nurse them together, though.  The best position is actually having Bean sit in my lap and having Squeak sort of in his lap.  So they're both effectively in cradle hold.  They look at each other, and Bean insists on stroking Squeak's head, putting an arm around him, or holding his hand.  I have both my boys snuggled with me, relaxed.  It's really lovely and peaceful.


The problem Bean is having (with everything - not just with nursing) is pushing the boundaries.  Now that I have milk (and lots of it!), I haven't found the limit of how long he will nurse.  He's not necessarily nursing more frequently than when I was pregnant, but he has definitely increased each session's duration!

So, we get to the end of it being nice.  I want to get a drink, eat breakfast (he comes in first thing in the morning), or I am just over it for now.  I give him warning and let him decide the metric for when we'll be done (setting a timer, counting, singing a song, reciting a rhyme).  And then he screams for more.  No matter whether we've nursed for 5 minutes or 25 minutes.

If this were unique to nursing, I'd probably wean him.  It's really maddening.  But this is an issue with everything these days.  He ate all the pasta on his plate and there's no more?  "I do want more pasta!  I do!"  ::cue epic tantrum::  He has been playing a game and it's time for dinner, and we've reached the end of an agreed-upon metric (just like with nursing)?  Oh man...Tantrumville.

He always wants to read one more book, sing one more song, play longer, eat more of what we don't have, or nurse longer than I can stand.  And don't get me started on naps and bedtime.  Holy expletives.  You'd think we were sending the kid to the gallows.

As much as sometimes I dread the fight of ending a nursing, I know that if I weren't nursing him there would just be some other fight in its place - and it wouldn't be preceded by a good snuggle (he doesn't really snuggle other than nursing or in bed for sleep).  And I wouldn't be able to invite him into my lap and make eye contact with him and often work out a solution in the midst of an epic tantrum.  And if I were trying to wean him...I do not want to think about the screaming tantrums and the jealousy.  I can only imagine he'd be pissed every time his brother nursed.  And rightly so, in my mind.

For anyone who is perplexed by this whole tandem nursing thing (I've been asked a few times whether I worry that the baby is getting enough) - Squeak is obviously getting plenty of milk.  He's gulping, he's having plenty of wet diapers (this is really the sign of whether they're getting enough), and he was back to his birth weight at 4 days (they don't look for that until 2 weeks!).

 Photo of actress Julie Bowen tandem nursing her twins that is currently circulating.

Women are able to exclusively nurse twins.  I even have heard of a mom who gave triplets her milk exclusively.  We have two breasts (so the triplet thing boggles me, logistically).  Our breasts operate on a sort of supply and demand principle - the more demand there is for milk, the greater a mom's supply of milk will be.  So I was never concerned that I wouldn't have enough milk - my toddler doesn't nurse as much as a Twin Squeak would nurse.

If anything, since Squeak's suck was so disorganized in the very beginning, his brother's continued nursing ensured that I had a plentiful milk supply.  And, since I have a REALLY plentiful milk supply, Squeak doesn't have to work very hard.

Also, Bean's nursing has benefited me as we've worked on Squeak's latch.  I had major engorgement when my milk came in with Bean, and I also later ended up with two back-to-back bouts of mastitis (the second landed me in the hospital with concerns I had an abscess), and then I had months of clogs and threatened mastitis was tough.  

So it's important I keep my breasts drained and I'm kind of paranoid about any feeling of fullness.  The morning my milk was completely in with Squeak, I had a little extra fullness that a) was uncomfortable and b) made it more difficult for Squeak to latch.  So I invited Bean in for his first long nurse.  He drained my breasts more thoroughly than Squeak or a pump could, and I haven't had a problem with engorgement since.

For whatever reason (I really haven't figured it out yet), Squeak has a lot more trouble (and, hence, causes me a lot more pain) nursing on my left side.  Bean helps me save my more sore side without having to pump.  I just offer my less sore side to Squeak more often (again, supply and demand - if I keep offering that side, he will increase its supply actually separately from the other breast), and then I have Bean nurse more often on the more sore side (since his latch is fine and doesn't cause more pain/damage).  So Bean is keeping that side empty and is also helping to keep my supply even on both sides (so I'm not visibly lopsided!). 

So, I could do without the fights.  The fights are killing me right now, to be honest.  It's so hard to have these struggles with a person I love so dearly.  I feel spent trying to pour on love, patience, attention, and a healthy dose of limits, and fighting no matter what.  We're trying various things to cope and to manage the tantrums, but I think it all just has to pass with time.  And, really, nursing isn't the problem.  Bean is two-and-a-half years old and he just got a new brother, and his routine is totally messed up with my being on restricted activity and then having the baby. 

On the one hand, I can't blame him.  On the other, I'm about ready to list him on Craig's List.  He's awfully cute.  And he's polite and tends to be easy as can be for people other than his parents... 

So, all-in-all, tandem nursing is lovely.  Toddlerhood is difficult!

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