by Leslie Moldenauer from Life Holistically
I have years of real life experience with extended breastfeeding and tandem nursing. I would not trade one moment of it for all the money in the world. I treasured every moment of it…every night feeding, every kick to the ribs, every lullaby sang while my son gazed up at me with all the love he could muster. Here is a glimpse of my journey.
I had my first son on February 28, 2006 and already knew that I would be a nursing Mom. That turned out to be a bit harder than planned. I wound up seeing a lactation consultant after a couple of days as I needed help. With persistence on both our parts, we got the hang of it. Please know that nursing is instinctive for the baby, but not for the Mom. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Hospitals have lactation consultants at your disposal, if you are in doubt….ask for help.
Initially I had no grand plan for how long I was going to nurse. I quit my job of 13 years when he was born so I knew going to work and being away from home was not going to be an issue for me. The bonding that took place during nursing was amazing, so I had not even given thought on when “I” would stop. (This is ultimately all I knew at this point, he would nurse until I stopped him)
I found out I was pregnant again when my son was 15 months old. It was a planned pregnancy, but I had never given any thought to the breastfeeding aspect. I had never heard of tandem nursing, nor had I considered that was what I would be doing. I purchased a book entitled: Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond by Hilary Flower
This book told me of all the possible challenges that I might face during pregnancy and beyond. Honestly, I discovered after reading this book that I had more concerns with nursing during pregnancy than what could happen when I had to nurse two babies. By this time I knew instinctively that I would let my son’s decide when they wanted to self-wean, better known as child-led weaning. A baby who self-weans is usually well over a year old, is getting most of his nutrition from solids, is drinking well from a cup, and cuts down on nursing gradually. If children are truly allowed to self-wean in their own time, most will do so somewhere between the 2nd and 4th year. Obviously, some will wean before this time and some after
Among many other valuable things, this book taught me that breast milk might dry up during pregnancy. There would be periods where my milk would be fruitful and others when it would be more like that of a raisin. Nipples will be extremely sensitive. And with a growing belly, well you and baby might have to learn some new positions.
Luckily, even though my milk flow had its ups and down, my son and I did not. My second son was born on February 28, 2008 (for those that noticed, same exact day of the first, two years apart) This was not planned and was a natural labor both times.
This began my tandem nursing journey. There were many times that I nursed them both at the same time, but this can be tricky. If you do not have a jealous toddler on your hands, nursing them separately might work better for you. I nursed consecutively more often than not. However, if I was in a hurry for any reason, one went over each hip, they would sometimes lay on top of each other, and were even known to hold hands while nursing.
I tandem nursed for a year and a half. I never nursed them at the same time in public as it was too difficult. I did however nurse in public all of the time. I never experienced negativity from others, which is a blessing as I have heard some doozies. Both children self-weaned at 3 ½, which must be the magic number in my home. I nursed my children for almost 6 years. Studies have showed that the longer you breastfeed for the less chance you have of developing breast cancer. Why is this you ask? During nursing your estrogen levels are very low, and progesterone levels are raised. Breast cancer is estrogen dependent. When speaking to the health of the breast, the longer you nurse the better.
What Research Shows
Research shows that babies may benefit from nursing beyond one year. One benefit is nutrition. Research has shown that second-year milk is very similar to the first-year milk nutritionally (Victora, 1984). Even after two years or more it continues to be a valuable source of protein, fat, calcium, and vitamins (Jelliffe and Jelliffe, 1978).
A second benefit is immunity to disease. The immunities in breast milk have been shown to increase in concentration as the baby gets older and nurses less, so older babies still receive lots of immune factors (Goldman et al, 1983) Continued breastfeeding may mean fewer trips to the doctor's office. I am a real life example of this. My son’s (now 5 and 7) have only taken antibiotics once in their lives and have overall been extremely healthy happy children.
A third health benefit is avoidance of allergies. It is well documented that the later that cow's milk and other common allergens are introduced into the diet of a baby, the less likelihood there is of allergic reactions (Savilahti, 1987).
The End of My Journey
My husband and I have some special memories that we still hold dear today like catching them trying to nurse their teddy bears as well as trying to use my breast pump. Because my children self-weaned themselves, there was no crying and no feelings of abandonment on their part. The last day they had Mom’s milk; they jumped down and were off to play never looking back. It was bittersweet for me. I knew that a chapter in my life was over, one worth every page turning moment.
Goldman, A. S. et al. Immunologic components in human milk during the second year of lactation. Acta F'aediatr Scand 1983; 722:133-34.
Jelliffe, D. B. and Jelliffe, E. F. P. The volume and composition of human milk in poorly nourished communities. A review. Am J Clin Nutr 1978; 31: Savilahti, V. M. et al . Prolonged exclusive breast feeding and heredity as determinants in infantile atopy. Arch Dis Child 1987; 62 269-73.492-509.
Victora, C. G. et al. Is prolonged breastfeeding associated with malnutrition? Am J Clin Nutr 1984; 39:307-14.
Leslie is the owner and writer of Life Holistically. a blog providing you with the most up to date natural health information and resources that will most benefit you and your family. Leslie has years of life experience as a holistic Mom, practices yoga and an organic life for her and her family. A student of The American College of Healthcare Sciences, Leslie has extensive knowledge in nutrition, essential oils and herbs.