Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tandem Mama

And there I was. I knew what had to be done. I was sitting cross legged on the floor of the penguin exhibit at the Melbourne aquarium. I had a fussy, hungry 6 month old and a 2 year old who had been having a major meltdown who wanted the cure-all. I was going to have to tandem feed. IN PUBLIC. We were already being stared at for aforementioned meltdown and now I was going to whip my breasts out and put a child on each one. And one of said children was ~gasp~ a toddler.  So there I was amongst the penguins and tourists feeling quite a few stares as people did a double take because, sadly, it is confronting to see tandem feeding in public.

Because we don't see it often enough.
Because there is still a lot of misinformation about the benefits of feeding into toddlerhood.
Because  women are not supported as mothers.
Because feeding during pregnancy can be really hard.
Because there is too much bad advice around.
Because a lot of Mamas feel the need to breastfeed toddlers in private.

I remember the first time I saw a tandem feeding Mama. My eldest child was about 6 months old and I had just joined an attachment parenting playgroup. I knew I agreed with feeding as long as Mother and baby wanted, even if that meant through a pregnancy and beyond, but I'd never seen it in action. It was confronting. Not only seeing a child older than 2 breastfeeding (I'd never seen that before either) but to see his younger sister feeding on the other side. Later at home I felt sad that seeing toddlers feed  in public, as well as tandem feeding, is such a rarity and made such a big deal out of.

When I was pregnant with my second child I was surprised that my eldest daughter weaned all of a sudden about three weeks before her sister was born. What surprised me more was how sad I felt. At just over two years old she still seemed so young! I was grateful however in the months to follow when I only had one child at the breast. When I fell pregnant by surprise just before my second born's first birthday I was determined to keep the feeding relationship going through my pregnancy and beyond to make it to her second birthday, which would be four months after the next baby was going to arrive.

I won't lie. It was not all rainbows and unicorns. I had supply issues which made my little nursling rather unhappy and nipple pain that I was not impressed about but I made it! The look on my child's face when my milk came back in after the birth of her sister was priceless: “boo back in there!” I was a Tandem Mama. But I never fed them at the same time in public. Always one at a time.  I felt embarrassed and all too aware that what I was doing was not what western society considers “normal.” That was until the day at the aquarium I mentioned.

Sure, people were staring. One rude woman actually pointed at us. You know what I did? I shut my eyes and pretended I was at home on the big recliner. Then I started thinking that more women need to feel free to feed wherever and whenever they want. There I sat, on the floor, a child at each breast and my eldest at my side and I started smiling at everyone who checked us out. And I counted my blessings that my 2 year old had stopped screaming.

We are proud to host today's guest post from Shae. Shae is a stay-at-home homebirthing, home-cooking, unschooling Mama to 3 amazing girls. She blogs over at Yay for Home!

Do you have a story to share about nursing in public and/or the normalization of breastfeeding? We'd love to host it!


Yes, I've tandem nursed in public. It was at a store and I managed to do it without showing anything. I was shocked and amazed and very proud!

I seldom NIP anymore, but that's because my kids just don't ask that often in public. I still randomly nurse them, but not at the same time--they just don't ask (thankfully--as I'm not talking about a toddler and a baby, I'm talking about a preschooler and a toddler) but I still might do it if they did.

I agree that it's something that needs to be made more commonplace.

I haven't tandem nursed in public yet because it hasn't been required, but my youngest is only 2 months old. I'm sure as he gets bigger we'll be out more and we may very well need to tandem nurse. So far, I've only tandemed at home and in public, I'll nurse one at a time right after each other. Part of it is because of anxiety about it, but some of it is that the 2 month old needs lots of support from my hands/arms still. When he ca do things like sit up on his own, juggling two will be easier.

The only time I've seen a mom tandem nurse in public was at a nurse-in, so while it was awesome, it still wasn't the ordinary-daily-life scene.

Go you! Maybe I'll get to count myself in your ranks someday. :)

How sad, that something so innocent and wholesome is made such a huge fuss of.
Well done! I only fed to 13 months (baby weened) and 8 months (lots of issues with mastitis) but if I could of I wuld have gone a lot longer - well done!

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