What is tandem feeding and how do I do it?
This is Maureen Farrell and Heather O’Neal and this is The Milk Minute. We’re midwives and lactation professionals bringing you the most up-to-date evidence for all things lactation. So you can feel more confident about feeding your baby, body positivity, relationships, and mental health. Plus, we laugh a little or a lot along the way.
Heather: Welcome back to The Milk Minute Podcast, everybody. We have a very special episode dedicated to those of you who might be sharing your chest with two babies.
Maureen: Yeah. I’m excited to talk about tandem feeding today. And we have a special guest later.
Heather: Yes. A special guest who’s near and dear to our hearts and our chests, Laura Birek from The Big Fat Positive Podcast who is currently tandem nursing. So of course we wanted to reach out to her and get some real time testimonial from her, as well as ask her listener questions from our listeners.
Maureen: Yeah. So we’re going to skip the beginning question. We’re going to ask those all to Laura later and just hop into our content here.
Heather: Hopping, currently hopping.
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Yeah. So what the heck is tandem feeding? It’s not nursing twins, it’s nursing two babies of different ages. So usually we’ve got an older toddler and a new baby.
Heather: You can tandem nurse twins, but that’s not what we’re talking about today.
Maureen: That’s not what we’re talking about today. We will have a twin episode at some point.
Anyway, when, when I talk to people about this who, just, a lot of people like can’t even imagine the circumstances in which they would tandem feed or they’d want to tandem feed. So let’s talk about why first.
Heather: Yeah. Yeah. I bet it’s cultural. Yeah.
Maureen: Oh yeah. And I chose not to really get into that today cause I mostly want this to be just like, you are faced with the decision to tandem feed or not to tandem feed. Here are the answers.
Heather: To tandem or not to tandem is the question. Right? And by the way, I can’t ever stop thinking about that Macklemore song where he goes, we’re going tandem! And I feel like we need a shirt that says that with Rosie the Riveter thing going on. I love it.
Maureen: Yeah. So here’s the thing. A lot of people want to breastfeed beyond infancy, right? It’s biologically normal, super healthy for you and your baby. Great. But if you have your babies close together and you also want to breastfeed your new baby, that means you’re going to be feeding both of them together.
Heather: But not necessarily every time you feed, right.
Maureen: And honestly, like continuing to feed your toddler human milk through a pregnancy and through gaining a sibling, that can make that transition easier for your toddler. Which, it can be a nightmare for some people to introduce a new baby when they have a two-year-old or a three-year-old.
Heather: And by the way, if you don’t choose to tandem nurse, and maybe you’ve already weaned your older toddler, don’t be surprised if they want to start nursing again, once they see the new baby nursing.
So it’s kind of something that you can plan for in advance. So if you’re wondering, like, should I wean this baby before this new baby comes? Maybe don’t. But, you know, get through this episode and see how you feel.
Maureen: Think about it because you know, having them both breastfeed together could reduce jealousy. It can help form a special bond between the infant and toddler. And even more than that, if we’re just talking like clinical benefits, your older baby can help you with engorgement in the first couple of days and weeks. And you know, your baby feeds and you’re like, oh my God, I still have melons on my chest. What? Your toddler can come in and take care of that for you.
Heather: Also, because they’re both nursing, you’ll want your toddler to do that because that’s just helping your body understand how much milk it’s going to need for two. Right.
Maureen: And sometimes if you can manage to continue feeding through your whole pregnancy, then it does help with that initial pain in the first few weeks because your nipples are used to it. Yeah. But that inevitably leads us to the next question. Right. Is it safe to breastfeed while pregnant?
Heather: Oh, yes. Shall I?
Maureen: You shall, should, should, shall you.
Heather: I shall, shall. I’m going to shall all over you. So I get this question at least once a month from a pregnant person who has just gone to their OB visit and their OB has told them that they should probably stop nursing.
Now here’s the thing. One stipulation. If you have a history of preterm labor, that is possibly the case where you should consider not nursing because of the oxytocin that can participate in that labor cascade that might already be happening.
Maureen: Right. And, and also if we’re looking at someone with a history of miscarriage, spontaneous abortion, stuff like that. Really, you know, in a normal pregnancy, we don’t have a history of complications, no known complications at that time, go for it.
Heather: It will not put you into labor. Right. Unless you are already moving in that direction. So therefore, if you are a normal, healthy individual who is in, you know, for example, in your first trimester of pregnancy and you’re still nursing, you do not have to emergently quit breastfeeding. You should continue breastfeeding unless you have the history of preterm labor.
It might change your breastmilk initially, because it’ll become claustrum around 18 weeks and that’s okay. A lot of kids will self-wean because they hate the taste of it. Like it gets a little bit saltier, but most of them, I would say, don’t really mind and they don’t care. We’re going to ask Laura about that later, but a lot of them really don’t mind and they just continue nursing and then you have your baby and when you’re having your baby.
You go into labor; you can actually use that toddler to help you get a better contraction pattern in labor. So we use this in home birth a lot. A lot of people that are in home birth or choosing a home birth are also nursing.
Maureen: And that might be one of the reasons they chose it is because they can keep their other kids with them.
Heather: Yeah. So this is actually great because when you’re at home at a home birth, you’re not going to give somebody Pitocin, augment the labor. You’re not going to speed it up, but you could pop that toddler on there and you’ll start to see those contractions get a little bit more regular, a little stronger, and that will help you get to the finish line with birth. But it will not put you into labor unless you were already heading that way.
Maureen: And the more common challenge that we see for people who are going to continue lactating and feeding that older baby through a pregnancy is pain and discomfort for them. Because sometimes your nipples get more sensitive, right? Your breasts get really sensitive in the first trimester. And often that’s why people are like, you know what, quit touching the boobs kid. We’re done for now.
And that’s totally okay. Sometimes we see a reduction in milk supply in that first trimester when our estrogen soars right. And sometimes people choose to wean then. That’s totally okay. But you can, you can breastfeed through that if you want to.
Heather: And some people choose to pump. So if your nipples are really sensitive and maybe you’ve got a toddler, who’s acting a fool and starting to behaviorally be a mess on the boob. Maybe a little chomping and it’s like bothersome or you’ve got some pregnancy anxiety going on and you’re just over touched in general. People can still choose to pump. It’s the same thing. It’s fine.
Maureen: And on that note too, you know, if you’re birthing in a hospital, especially now where you may not be able to have your child there come nurse, you can pump in labor. Or you can pump before and leave milk home for your caregiver. That’s all totally. Okay.
Heather: The only thing to note with that is if you’re in labor and you’re choosing to pump or nurse while you’re in labor, when you have a contraction, stop nursing or pumping just until your contraction is over, wait a couple minutes and then you can start again.
Just for your sanity, for your sanity. And also, you know, there’s like, and I don’t even know if this is evidence-based they probably haven’t studied it. But the idea is you want that contraction to be able to naturally end. You don’t want to elongate that contraction. Because when you are contracting, your placenta is getting a little bit of a squeeze, which decreases the perfusion to the fetus.
So if you start contracting while you’re nursing, just, you know, break that latch and wait, deep breathe, drink a glass of water until your contraction stops. And then you can start again when you’re ready. Yeah.
Maureen: You know, and something that to consider. If you can have your toddler with you while you’re birthing is, do you want your toddler to share with your baby’s first latch?
It can be a really special moment. It can also be a huge pain in the ass if you’re like, ah, I can’t get this newborn to latch. Get off of me four-year-old.
Heather: Or, you know, depending on how your birth went, but that’s just one of those things that you can leave it open-ended. And that does require your support person to know what’s going, you know, to understand your needs, they understand what’s going on.
Maureen: Yeah, for sure. And definitely something to think through prior to labor is if you have a complication, like a tear that needs stitches, an episiotomy, a cesarean section, positioning one baby, let alone two is sometimes a challenge. So ask for help. And just think like, okay, so maybe then we’re going to nurse in succession and not in tandem because positioning these babies with these stitches and whatnot is just painful.
Heather: And it doesn’t mean you can’t do tandem later. It just means not right now.
Maureen: Just like a couple of days at least, you know. Give yourself some grace, as we always say. Like give yourself patience and understand that it takes some time to heal. And, you know, this goes for the fourth trimester, right? For the whole fourth trimester, the newborn days, be patient in how you manage this with your toddler and with yourself. A lot of people worry that their newborn is not going to get enough milk if they’re toddlers also nursing, but, what’s the basic principle of making milk, Heather?
Heather: The more you suck, the more you make.
Maureen: Right? And so for this reason, sometimes people have newborn feed first, toddler feed after, or they’ll choose to use different breasts for them.
My recommendation is if you’re worried about it, yes. Have your newborn feed first and your toddler can finish off at the same boob. And then that just removes more milk, which will tell your body to make more milk.
Heather: But also give yourself some wiggle room because best-laid plans sometimes don’t work out and toddlers are busy. They’re like, oh, that’s nice that you want me to feed right now, but I also have a lot of other toddler stuff I need to be doing. So not so much.
Maureen: Very funny. You said not right now. Yeah. Cause now I crawled over your shoulder and took your other boob out. And we’re feeding already.
Heather: Yeah, I’ve learned how to unbutton your blouse with just my two sticky toddler fingers. And now your boob is mine.
Maureen: And the thing is like, people have done this for a long time without a podcast to tell them how. It usually works just fine.
Heather: Yeah. Just let them be the guide. If you’re open to that. If you are not over touched and you’re open to it, let them kind of judge when it’s time to feed for each of them.
Maureen: And if you’re really worried and if you’ve got a lot of anxiety in the first few days or weeks, like, oh, I dunno, maybe me. As always like, watch your newborns’ feeding cues. Watch their poops and pees, and that can help you assess what’s going on with that new baby. You know, don’t restrict access to the breast for that newborn in order to feed the toddler.
But it is okay to give some boundaries for that toddler in order to feed the newborn.
Heather: I think people that have the biggest issue with this are people who were strict scheduled people to keep their sanity. So type A people that really like things to be done at a certain time with that first child. They now have two, and that schedule ain’t going to work.
Like it’s just not going to be what you think it’s going to be. And there has to be some level of laid back when it comes to tandem because kids have their own agenda.
Maureen: Yeah. Well, let’s talk about managing toddler problems because of course there’s some big feelings that happen here.
Heather: Let’s be honest. The newborn isn’t going to be the problem.
Maureen: No, no. The newborn is going to be the newborn, no matter what. It’s that two- or three-year-old or four-year-old or whatever, who suddenly now has to deal with competition. Also lots of new love, lots of schedule changes, all this stuff in their little, tiny bitty brains that don’t really know how to deal with disappointment over the wrong color cup, much less an entirely new baby.
Heather: Right. A whole other human being.
Maureen: Yeah. So number one problem I hear about is the toddlers nursing like a newborn. Normal. Normal. It’s normal.
Heather: You’re like, you went from eating only once a day after daycare, or before bed, to eating six times a day. It’s fine.
Maureen: Right And that’s because they’re seeing the newborn feed like a newborn they’re like, wow, those boobs are out again. Good idea buddy. Or maybe they’re like, whoa, now there’s a lot of milk. So when I nurse it’s like a meal and not just a sip. Or like, oh, it’s not colostrum anymore. It’s sweet again. Yay. My life is so much better. Yeah. And it’s also, it’s okay to let them feed like that. It’s also okay to put some boundaries up and be like, cool, you get five minutes of snuggles and boobie and then go watch a TV show. Get away from me.
And then the, the problem related to that is then the toddler who nurses like a newborn might lose their appetite for solids. Because they’re full of milk.
Heather: Which is okay, because toddlers are weirdos. Like they only need about 500 calories a day, which sounds weird. But toddlers have they, they tend to prioritize brain development during that time.
And they don’t grow a whole lot physically until they hit like four or five years old and then they start shooting up and then they start eating more.
Maureen: Or they just survive off air like my six-year-old. I like, I talked to my doctor about it. She was like, well, his BMI is a little low, but it’s fine. And I was like, well, it’s cause he doesn’t eat, but also he’s grown four inches.
Heather: And also we can trust him neurologically to tell us when he needs to eat. So it’s fine.
Maureen: Yeah. So, you know, it’s okay. You know, and this might be a month or two of your toddler not eating, you know, the squeezy pouch or the apple or the chicken nuggets. And it’ll change. The novelty will wear off and breast milk is still nutritious for them. When they’re three or four, just like it was when they were newborns.
Heather: And the good news is you are absolutely allowed to be like, not right now. And look at your partner if you have one and be like, you need to take him outside to go play basketball. Go do something else. Like I need to just spend some time with this baby and with myself, and that is fine.
And you should not feel guilty about that at all. Right. And that won’t affect your milk supply either. Cause at this point your boobs have done this before they know what they’re doing. It’s very, it’s a lot easier than the first time around for your breast to get with the game, okay.
Maureen: So the third part of this common problem, this is all coming from nursing like a newborn is then toddler’s gonna have diarrhea. Right. They’re going to have newborn poops if they’re only drinking breast milk. Don’t freak out. It’s okay. It happens. I’m sorry if they’re not potty trained yet. Again it’s self-limiting.
Heather: And if they were potty trained, they might have a big regression.
Maureen: Yeah. My six-year-old even went through a regression. I was like, wait, we’re pooping our pants now? It’s been years.
Heather: I did that. Apparently I started peeing my pants again when my brother was born, I was four and a half. Not proud of it, but you know, it was what it was.
Maureen: But you don’t pee your pants now. So this gives me hope, Heather, cause feel like it’s now we’re gonna poop our pants forever cause it’s been five months. Right. And we’re still pooping pants.
Heather: Oh God, I’m sorry. It’s okay. Yeah. Somebody asked me the other day if I recommended potty training before the new baby came to make it easier. And I was like, no.
Maureen: It will not make any, I mean, I don’t know. Some kids don’t do that, but like it sucks.
Heather: Yeah, but it’s like, best-laid plans. Like I said, I was like, if it serves you to do that, go for it, but do it with the knowledge that it might all come apart. Just like everything with your kids. Yeah. One big change at a time. Like if you just put your toddler in a big boy bed or a big girl bed.
Maureen: Have fun watching that sit empty for six months.
Heather: Yeah. Maybe, maybe one big change at a time. And this baby coming is the biggest change ever. So maybe just leave them in their convertible crib thing and you know, don’t switch their daycare schedule. Don’t potty train. Just get through one big life event at a time. Yeah.
Maureen: Yeah. And really as like, just expect these changes for the first three months. You know, just like you expect the first three months with a new baby to be kind of awful and wonderful and unexpected and all of that. It’s okay.
Heather: Yeah. And you know, a big life event for us is really big. You know, like your giant Oak tree falls on your neighbor’s property and they sue you.
Maureen: Never happened to you, Heather.
Heather: Yeah, I’m not saying that happened legally. But, but a big change for a toddler is like moving beds. Rearranging the furniture in their room is like a big deal to them. You got to think about their context. That’s a huge thing for them. So don’t be afraid to really get down on their level and see what they’re seeing, because what they’re seeing is like, my life is falling apart! And have some empathy for them at that time.
Maureen: Well, before we talk to Laura, I do want to talk about one more thing, I think. So the choice to feed in tandem or in sequence is a big one that people agonize over first. I just want to say like, it’s probably just going to happen, how it happens and probably both. Right. So be flexible and adapt to the situation at hand.
Right? If it’s too much to have two babies on your body at the same time, then say not right now to that older one. Right. Or, you know, maybe consider solo nursing time for your older baby as like a special treat and be like, you know, yeah. You know, dad is going to take little Lucy and you and I are just going to have some, some mom and baby time.
Heather: Yeah. And you can, I have heard of people that reserve one time of day for each kid. So if your baby typically naps at a certain time, but that’s when your toddler gets home from daycare, the toddler’s alone time with you. Or if you’re ready to kind of move away from nursing your toddler, you can use that special time doing another activity, but 15 minutes a day for a toddler age kid of alone time, if you can, is fine.
It’s perfect. And then with the newborn, you know, eventually it will space out as your toddler gets used to the newborn. Like, you know, they don’t want to nurse eight times a day anymore, but with the newborn, you’ll definitely want to preserve some times for just you and the baby for your sanity. Maybe morning and night, whatever.
Hey guys, Heather here with a very special message for you. I wanted to let you know that if you’ve attempted to breastfeed your baby even once or began pumping after an unexpected postpartum complication, you’ve taken the first step to a beautiful journey. I also want to let you know that you can breastfeed no matter what kind of labor you had, no matter what kind of baby you have, no matter what kind of job you have. There is a way to breastfeed that can work for you.
The thing that I really want to get across here is that the fear of what if I don’t have what it takes to breastfeed? What if people think I can’t do this? What if I fail? What if I can’t do my job? What if I’m not enough? Here’s the truth. Everyone has those thoughts. But some people push through and succeed at breastfeeding anyway.
So what’s the difference? Consistent support. Yeah. Consistent support is the linchpin in the breastfeeding plan. Having support available to help you through the natural hiccups of feeding your baby is essential to decreasing that anxiety and making those doubtful voices in your head disappear.
Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been accepting virtual private lactation clients to meet people where they are despite the crazy circumstances with COVID. At first, I honestly wasn’t sure how it was. But as it turns out, it was better than ever. I’ve decided to continue doing virtual consults and help people all over the world. As an IB CLC, I hold an international certification and breastfeeding is a universal language.
If you find yourself needing that personal support and would like to work with me, one-on-one you can schedule at your convenience at my link in the show notes or by going to breastfeedingforbusymoms.com/private-consultations. Let’s get you to where you want to be with breastfeeding and start asking new questions.
What if I succeed? What if I can breastfeed and do my job? What if you are enough? What if it works? We got this.
All right, everybody. We are so excited. Maureen and I just talked about tandem nursing and we had to phone a friend because we have become close with Laura from The Big Fat Positive and we’ve been following her journey of tandem nursing. And we knew we had to bring her on here today to talk with her about that.
And we have actually been getting all the excitement going in our Patreon because they have some questions for you as well. If you wouldn’t mind answering those.
Laura Birek: I’m all ears. Hi.
Heather: So tell us, introduce us, for those people that don’t know you, who your children are, how old they are and where you’re at right now in your journey.
Laura Birek: Okay. So I am Laura Birek from Big Fat Positive Podcast. I have two kids; their names are Augie and Sebastian. That’s not actually their real names, but those are the names we use on the podcast. Augie is two and a half, and Sebastian is seven months old. And I have nursed Augie from day one. I think he latched right after my planned C-section because he was breach. He latched and no one told me to unlatch him or switch sides and he nursed for two straight hours. And no one bothered to tell me that, like, maybe we should take a break. And I was so drugged up that I didn’t notice. So he has nursed from then like, that I feel like is a great encapsulation of how he feels about nursing.
He would do it all the time, no matter what, like would never stop if he had a choice and has been that way since day one. And then I got pregnant when I was about 15 months postpartum, when he was about 15 months with my now seven months old Sebastian and we nursed throughout the whole pregnancy. You know, it turned into dry nursing and then colostrum nursing.
And since my baby has been born, we’ve been tandem nursing. So it’s now been just over seven months of tandem nursing with the two-and-a-half-year-old and the seven-month-old.
Maureen: Well we are so excited to talk to you about that because Heather and I both have big gaps between our kids. So it wasn’t even like a thing we considered.
And I mean, there’s a lot that I can say theoretically, and like, from what I’ve heard from clients, but I just want to know, like the nitty gritty, you know, how’s this working? What are the big feelings?
Laura Birek: Yeah. I mean, so I’ll preface this by saying I had a fairly uncomplicated, or I would say like pretty much completely uncomplicated breastfeeding journey with Augie.
Like we never had latch issues. We never had supply issues. So I’m coming to this from like a place of very little to no baggage. Right. I don’t have a history of sexual trauma. I don’t have anything that would really be a barrier in that way to nursing. So when it came to tandem nursing, and I should also say that I have a family history of extended nursing, right?
Like I famously nursed till I was like three and a half or something. And I say famously, cause my mom like never shuts up about it. Right. As well as she should. But it’s always like, you never wanted to wean. I was like, you were the adult. You could have chosen, you know, it was a relationship. It didn’t seem weird to me to want to nurse Augie for long.
Like I felt when I got pregnant though, like it was a no brainer that we would nurse, as long as he wanted to nurse and it brought him so much comfort. So that’s all to say that I come from like a very good baseline of like, not having all these challenges against me and even so it’s been harder than I expected.
I feel like. So just to clarify, so when I say I’m tandem nursing, I don’t mean I have one, the toddler on one boob and the baby on the other boob. I mean that I am nursing both concurrently, but not literally at the same time, because I did that twice. There was one time when Sebastian was maybe like three weeks old and Augie was having a lot of big feelings about wanting to nurse and the baby was nursing and my mom was like, why don’t you just try it?
And I was like, all right. So like I got my two-year-old, he was only two. Then I had my two-year-old, like on bottom. And then I had the baby sort of sitting on top. Now they loved it. Like they freaking loved it. They were like looking at each other and it was super fun for them. I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin.
Like it triggered the worst aversion in me. And I was really surprised by it because I had never had problems like that before. It was just, it was just the best way I can kind of explain it is it felt like system overload, you know. Was just like too much input, too much input. And so the first time I think I gritted my teeth and just dealt with it for five to 10 minutes.
The second time was we were in a stressful situation. We were trying to get our house ready for sale and we were staying at a hotel overnight. And of course it was just like so much was going on and Augie slipped and bonked his head on something. He was losing it. I was right in the middle of nursing the baby. And the baby was three months, I think at this point. And I was just like, you know, my husband Corey is like trying to comfort the toddler and I’m trying to nurse and he’s screaming, mommy, mommy. And I was like, oh, fuck it. Just bring them over. Maybe it will be better this time. Nope. Nope. It was worse.
So I think after like one minute I was like, I cannot do this. So I now have that boundary where I’ll nurse the baby first usually. And then I’ll let the toddler come and have his seconds basically.
Heather: Yeah. I think it’s important for people to hear that and just know that it really is okay to set those boundaries and to follow your body and not put those expectations on yourself.
And also don’t put those expectations on your toddler that they’re going to want to nurse at the times that you want them to nurse. So that’s, we had just talked about that in the episode so we’re really glad to hear that that’s how that kind of played out for you as well.
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Laura Birek: I definitely have a little bit of aversion now when the toddler is nursing. Just because like, the way I think about it is, you know, a toddler latch and a baby latch are so different, but when you’re growing with the baby, you don’t notice because it slowly changes or they get teeth and it changes. But then, you know, you adjust slowly, slowly, and then you have a newborn and all of a sudden you remember what it feels like to have a newborn latch.
And then you feel the toddler latch and it’s like, oh no, this is not the right. Like, this is not how it’s supposed to be working. So now when I’m solo nursing the toddler, I do have a little bit of like, it’s not so much like, oh, I got to like throw them across the room and I’m crawling out of my skin, but I do have to like set a timer. Tell him, you know, we’re going to do two minutes and I have to look at my phone. And I’m like, I know we’re supposed to be happy with bonding experience with them, but I’m just like, we’re either, I’m either looking at my phone and scrolling Facebook or like, we’re not doing this. I need to take my mind off of this a little bit.
Maureen: Yeah. I mean, we talk about it a lot on the podcast that if you’re nursing a toddler, you need some boundaries because otherwise you end up with a little booby monster who opens your shirt and takes out your boob and bites you. And it sucks. And nobody’s happy. Toddlers also like boundaries. It’s hard to get them used to it, but like that routine and consistency is just as important for them.
And like, you know, if you’re not happy and healthy, tandem nursing then, like, we don’t need to be doing it. So if you want to do it. Yeah. Those boundaries like setting timers, setting spaces and time definitely is important.
Heather: And another thing is all the research points to after a year of age, rarely is it infant led weaning. So until they’re four. So if you make it to that one-year mark, between one and four, if you want to stop, it’s going to pretty much be you initiating it as the parent. That kid’s just going to keep doing it because why not? It’s delicious. Mom smells good for the most part.
Laura Birek: Yeah. I mean, he’s obsessed with boo boo time. Like we also had, it was really funny, I think at the beginning is that, you know, when you have a newborn they’re nursing constantly. He thought that was like his realm. Right. And he’s really sweet. Augie is really sweet with the baby. But he would do this thing where I’d have like the newborn latched and then he’d come and just like press his face right up against my boob right next to him.
Maureen: My six-year-old still does that with my five-month-old. He’s not still nursing. He’ll like, like he just wants to be in the space between us, even though it’s thiiis big.
Heather: So, was there a point in time during your pregnancy that you considered weaning at all or no?
Laura Birek: Not really. Only because it seemed okay and we were in the middle of the pandemic. And that was kind of a big factor for me. Like I think I actually might have initiated weaning with the toddler earlier if we weren’t right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because first of all, I got my COVID vaccine when I was six weeks postpartum with the baby.
That’s when it was like first available for me. And I wanted to try to do whatever I could to pass the antibodies on to the kids, to both of them, if possible. Also, you know, just like not even talking about antibodies and breast milk and whatever, like you’re stuck at home all the time. The three of us, you know, when I was pregnant. And I figured if it got painful, if he stopped being interested, great, whatever we’d stop, but that never happened.
So, I mean, there were times where I’d have to limit our nursing sessions, because I would get like contraction, you know, not like real contractions, but I would sort of get Braxton Hicks when I was really pregnant. And so I would stop and just say, let’s take a break. You know, let’s not go into preterm labor.
I don’t think that actually happens, but like, it doesn’t feel good. I don’t want to be having contractions. Yeah, but I will say I let him nurse as much as he wanted. Like from when I turned 38 weeks, I was just like go to town kid, because I was trying to have a VBAC and I didn’t know. And, you know, I was taking a pretty conservative approach to it.
I had a C-section scheduled the day I turned 39 weeks because my doctor thought that was best, but he was okay with letting me try for a VBAC if I went into labor naturally. And I was like, let’s try, like, let’s do it. And so I let him nurse as much as he wanted. And I don’t know if it helped, but it didn’t hurt because I did end up having a VBAC. So, you know.
Heather: I knew you would, girl. When we interviewed you guys, I was like this girl that’s coming out the vagina. I know it.
Well, so I’ve remembered though, if I can recall from that last conversation, when you were pregnant, that we had together, you did have fears about nursing two. Remind me what your fears were. I remember being over touched was one of them because you just generally know yourself pretty well, but were you also nervous about like losing a bond with one or not being able to form a bond with the newborn?
Laura Birek: Probably. I mean, it’s, you know how it is. Like the amnesia you get when you have a baby you’re like, was I pregnant? I don’t remember. That didn’t happen. So it’s so hard for me to remember, but I do think, yeah, being over touched was definitely something I was worried about. And I think I got that a little bit but putting the boundaries and the limits on the toddler nursing sessions definitely helped.
And yeah, I mean, I guess, because it didn’t come to fruition, I’ve forgotten completely about like losing the bond with either of them, you know, like. They’re both just mommy obsessed, which is great and awful. You know what I mean? Like it’s like awesome and terrible at the same time. Cause you’re just like my seven-month-old is at the point where it’s like, if I turn my back to him, he starts crying.
I literally, I literally turned around to grab a burp cloth.
Heather: But that’s also what makes peekaboo so fun.
Laura Birek: Yes, exactly. Like, God, goodness.
Maureen: Yeah. Well, let’s keep on the track of feelings here. What about for Augie? Like, did he have really big feelings about having to share you and share nursing time?
Laura Birek: Yes. I mean, he was just two, so he turned 25 months a couple of days after the baby was born. So, and he’s a pretty verbal kid, but even then, you know, he couldn’t really articulate what he was feeling, especially at the very beginning.
But you could tell. The jealousy was there and the confusion was there. Like, wait a second. This was like, we always called boo boo time, which is what we would call nursing. You know, it was like special mommy time. And now like there’s other thing having special mommy time. So I would try to include him as much as I could.
Like I would try to have him sit with us or, you know, try to make it so it’s not just like, no, you got away. This is just for the baby. Okay. But yeah, no, I mean, he, he did, and he’s two. Two, you know, like all two-year-old’s are fucking psychopaths in a lot of ways. Right? Like they, that sounds awful. They’re lovely, emotional, wonderful beings, but they have, they just, you can’t predict how they’re going to react a lot of times or you can’t. Like there’s no, they have no empathy. But you know, I was lucky in that he always always has been, has been very, very sweet to the baby.
Like just wants to protect and love on the baby. But yeah, the jealousy was definitely there. We just tried, you know, I just tried to make sure I had lots of special time with him and you know, doing all those things, the books tell you to do, you know, have one-on-one time that just with you and the toddler.
And to be honest, like I got to the point where I felt like I was neglecting the baby because the baby was like a chill little guy and the toddler is not so chill. So, I mean, are there any chill toddlers? Like, I’d love to hear if someone has a chill toddler. He demanded a lot more of my attention.
We were so worried about like sleep regressions and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Like all that stuff that like so much time was lost with the baby, you know, like, cause the baby, you can plop the baby down. He stayed where you put him and it was fine. So it kind of backfired. Like I ended up doing so much of the toddler focused stuff.
And like the baby didn’t get as much one-on-one time. And that’s not to say the baby was neglected, but I think I kind of overcompensated, I think in retrospect. So but yeah, I did all the, all the stuff trying to make sure he felt included and whatnot, and he still had regressions. He still had sleep regressions.
He still had potty regressions. He was potty trained. Now he’s been back in diapers the whole time the baby’s been here and, you know, that’s all fine. That’s all fine and expected. And it is what it is.
Maureen: Yeah. And it’s going to happen if you tandem nurse or not. We were just talking about my six-year-old was pooping his pants again, because hey, why not.
Laura Birek: Yeah, the baby’s doing it right? Yeah, exactly.
Heather: That’s great. Yeah, Theo did it too. I had friends over one time. I was nursing the baby and in our living room, we have like this weird little closet. He went in the closet and took a dump in his pants. And my friend is sitting on the couch and her husband goes, do you smell that?
And I was like, he did not. He did not do that. He did. He was five. Yeah. So but then it also begs the question, is this how nature designed it? Because technically your toddler does need more attention. He’s like at a different developmental stage that requires a lot of adult guidance and supervision and safety issues that come up with toddlers. And newborns, like really only have three things that they need from you.
So it’s like, thank God.
Maureen: Right, strap that baby on and go keep that kid from running off a cliff.
Heather: Right. And then also it’s like, well, this is why oldest children are the way they are. Why middle children are the way they are and why the youngest children are the way they are. Because, hello!
Laura Birek: So true. It’s so true. Like there was a cartoon I saw recently that was like nursing my first baby. It might’ve been on your Facebook group. And it’s like, you know, calmly listening to music, sitting rocking on the chair. Nursing my second baby, it’s like holding the baby, chasing after a toddler, trying to kill himself some way, anyway. So yeah, it’s just, it’s a very different experience, but you know, I love it.
Maureen: Yeah. And do you, I mean, do you feel like nursing two babies at once your mental health was a harder thing to manage this time in the postpartum?
Laura Birek: That’s a really good question. I am having a really hard time. Okay. So this is what I think about mental health right now, postpartum. Is that I remember when I gave birth. I think 20 minutes after the baby was out of me, I was given, or rather Corey was given a sheet of paper with like a postpartum depression screening. Like how do you feel? All this stuff, right. And I’m like, shouldn’t you be asking me this, like later? A. And then B was like, all of the questions were like, is it postpartum depression or is it just living in the middle of a pandemic?
I don’t know, like it was like, do you feel less supported by friends and family right now? Yeah. Yes, yes. Yeah, but they’re not allowed to come over. Like, oh, what a, what am I supposed to do? Do you feel like you can call on people for support? Kind of? You know, like call like literally call. Yeah. I’ll call them, but like, you know, all that stuff is so wrapped up in my journey that I it’s hard for me to separate it. And so I don’t know how much tandem nursing really affected it. I will say though, it did allow me to heal, I think, a little faster just by the necessity of like sitting down and nursing. So it’s like, oh, sorry. I can’t clean those dishes because I have two kids to nurse.
Yeah. Like it kind of provided a good excuse to just chill out in that way. And I got to like, you know, I’m the type of person I would have to justify things. Like, I don’t know if you’re fans of the Simpsons where Marge is like shopping and she’s trying to buy like an expensive outfit. Right. And she’s like, I think it’s, Lisa’s, Lisa’s like, mom, you don’t have to justify everything.
You can just buy it for yourself. And she’s like, well, it’ll be good for the economy. Like, I feel like that’s me with everything. I have to be like, well, you know, I’m nursing like, like, oh man, I should be doing the dishes. I should be doing all this stuff, but I’m nursing and that’s really good for their health and development and immunity.
Like I have to have all these reasons but accidentally fell into rest in that way, you know.
Heather: Whatever it takes, whatever it takes to get you to rest and relax and recover. Yeah. So let’s do some questions from listeners. Yes. Okay. So, this is a question from one of our patrons, Molly Ann, and she is a badass, by the way, love this woman.
She says, do you think a special bond has developed between your babies because they were tandem fed?
Laura Birek: Maybe. I mean, I think that if I had had them literally nursing at the exact same time, it would have been better. The two times they did it, they loved it and they were really like close. I’m not sure it’s facilitated much because if anything gets driven a little bit of tension with Augie, with little jealousy, having to have him wait.
So I don’t know. I think that if you’re a person who can handle having them nurse at the same time, like yes, absolutely. But I couldn’t do it. So instead it was just, and maybe made it worse because I’m constantly telling Augie, like, no, you have to wait. Now you have to wait, please don’t smash your face up against my boob. Like, wait your turn. So.
Heather: But maybe like, hard to say if it would have been even worse than that, if he had been cut off completely. Right.
Maureen: And I, a friend of mine is tandem nursing now with a two-and-a-half-year-old and a five-month-old. And you know, when I’ve watched her tandem nurse, she is super strict boundaries with that two-year-old.
And she’s like, no, you sit that way and your feet go there and your hands go there and do not move. You know, so it’s like not, you know, for a lot of people, not even then do their kids get to like snuggle and hold hands. Pinching the fidgeting, just like,
Laura Birek: Augie wants to touch my ears now, which I’m okay with a little bit. Like, but I have to make him after he, like, I want to touch your ears. I’m like, after.
Heather: Yeah, one thing at a time, actually, I don’t like anyone touching my ears and my husband really loves to kiss my ear hole and I’m always like, leave my ear hole alone. Like if I’m doing the dishes and you want to come up behind me, the neck is a great area.
My shoulder, my forearm, literally anywhere, but my ear hole. And if you make that smacking noise with a kiss in my ear hole, you might get punched. Like I just hate it.
Laura Birek: Do you have misophonia? Do you know about misophonia? Probably. The hatred of sound. It’s like, do you hate when people are chewing? Cause I have it. When people are chewing, like, especially if they’re behind me.
Heather: Yes. It’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older, to be honest with you, like everything bothers me. Like if there’s a fly in our little studio space, I’m like bothered by the fly. Very bothered. And like someone was weed whacking earlier. No. Go out there and tell him to quit week whacking! Very inconvenient thing. But anyway, next question from our other Patron.
Maureen: This is from our patron, Sam Cardinal. And she’s asking, how do you stay hydrated and nourished with two breastfed babies? Do they cluster feed at the same time? And she joked that maybe you need one of those beer hats with straws for water, liquid IV.
Laura Birek: Basically. I mean, I don’t go anywhere without my like gigantic Hydro flask. I mean, this, I get, I don’t think this is the biggest one, but if this is not within arm’s reach, I feel naked and I’m usually actually naked, but this is like what I really feel naked if I don’t have. So I drain these constantly and yeah. And like, it’s hard. We just moved to a two-story house and a lot of times I don’t have the hands to get the baby and the things we need and with the Hydro flask, and then I’ll forget it upstairs. And I’ll like not be drinking my water and it’s a problem.
So yeah, I, I think what I need to do is just buy multiple ones of those so they can be all over the place. But yeah, it’s a problem and eating. I am ravenous. Especially in the beginning when I was nursing all the time, nursing all day and night with the baby. And then I didn’t have like the boundaries with Augie, like right now with Augie, I’m nursing about twice a day.
If he gets a really bad bonk or something in his head, I’ll, you know, do a, a bonus booboo time. But he but yeah, I’m limiting it now, but at the beginning, when I was like free for all, for everyone to try to make this transition easy, I could not eat enough. Like I’ve never felt hunger like that. Not during pregnancy, not during my first postpartum period.
I just would devour all the carbs basically.
Heather: Oh yeah. I remember the breastfeeding cravings and it was very carb heavy for my cravings too. Yeah, sure. And it was like storm eating where I’d be like, all right. Cause you can’t just eat all day. So it’s like, I’ve got five minutes. How much cereal can I cram into my face in the next five minutes?
Laura Birek: Yeah, absolutely. And it would make me sick almost. I’d be like so sick and I’m like, I do not know the next time I’m going to have a chance to eat. So like I need to stock up. Yeah.
Heather: Oh my gosh. And by the way, if anybody is out there who feels that way and is losing a lot of weight and is like having a hard time, keeping their weight on, our friend Alasen Zarndt is a nutrition doula who specializes in that. She went through it and she actually went from being an engineer to a nutritionist who specializes in postpartum nutrition.
So we can drop that link in our show notes as well cause she’s fabulous to work with. And you know, working with people’s postpartum schedules. So you definitely want to talk to someone who’s specialized and knows what they’re talking about with that kind of thing.
Laura Birek: So you’re saying like an entire package of the chocolate covered pretzel thins from Trader Joe’s was not my number one choice?
Maureen: I mean, no, but do we all do it? Absolutely. So I’ve had to switch my diet around a bunch with Hashimoto’s and my partner really sweetly and also really annoyingly has been buying me gluten free cookies. It’s like now you can have things you love and I’m like, yes, but I eat the whole box and then you buy me another. And then I eat that whole box. And it just keeps going. And maybe I shouldn’t be eating whole box.
Laura Birek: Maybe we just shouldn’t have them in the house. Yeah.
Heather: Well, the last question is actually mine because I just did all this research on weaning and I would love to know what you’re thinking about as an end goal, if you’ve thought about it at all. And if it’s something that you’ve even like began considering in pregnancy, because most American women, as it turns out do, but before they even begin breastfeeding, they’re thinking about weaning.
So do you have a plan or is this just, yeah. Or are you just going to kind of like, let it flow?
Laura Birek: Literally let it flow. I have thought about it cause there are days where I’m just like, I’m so over nursing this toddler. Like, you know, he’s he can identify every spaceship from all Star Wars movies, but like, you know, he’s still nursing.
Right. You know, like I’m like it’s a weird disconnect. And then I, then he gets COVID, which, by the way, like we talked about in our podcast. He gets COVID and I’m like so happy and I’m so happy that we can nurse, because I’m like, this can help them get over it hopefully. And he had a really mild case. Most kids do.
So who knows, but, you know, I don’t think my breastfeeding hurt him for sure. So I waffle on that all the time. My main thoughts about it are it’s probably going to have to happen at the same time for both of them based on Augie’s love of it, you know. Like I just think the chances of me being able to continue nursing Sebastian and like really being okay with holding that boundary with Augie, I think that would be actually really hard for him.
And as much as I’m always advocating for parents to put themselves first and have their boundaries are like very important. And I think I would do that for myself if there was a really strong, compelling reason to, to wean Augie, but like, in a lot of ways, since I don’t have a strong reason to do it, it does feel like it would be kind of cruel to him.
For him to have to witness this thing that he loves and was so special to him and that he still wants to do and not letting him, but that could change. Like it could get so uncomfortable. Like this morning, I did notice two little teeth marks on my nipple and I was like, dude, like we don’t, but I can talk to him about it.
I can be like, you need them, you know, we can reassess your latch and stuff. But as of right now, my thoughts about it are that it’s probably have to happen at the exact same time for both of them. And the Lord knows when that happens.
Maureen: Maybe he’ll surprise you and he’ll be, yeah, I’m, I’m too old. I’m done.
Laura Birek: Yeah. That’s totally possible. My mom said I self-weaned because I mean, you’ll, you’ll laugh because it’s not really self-weaning. I apparently had like a stomach bug and threw up and my mom told me it was her milk that made me throw up. And so I was like, yes, I’m like, I chose to stop. I mean, she wasn’t wrong. There was some of her milk in it, I guess.
Maureen: A creative spin on the news.
Laura Birek: Which is possible. I might end up doing too, because Augie recently, he, we’re the parents who we go through McDonald’s like, we don’t care. I, I just can’t fight those fights. And so he used to love hamburger happy meals. And then he stopped eating them and I couldn’t figure out why.
And then just the other day he said, I throw it up, I throw it up. And I was like, what? And I remembered he had had a throwing up incident right when we were moving out of our old house. We got hamburgers; everything was happy. And then he decided to spin around in circles in the living room. He made himself throw up, but it was right after eating the hamburger. And so we finally put it together. Oh, that’s why you’re not eating hamburgers anymore.
Maureen: Yeah, just tell him no, it was, it was nursing.
Heather: You had mentioned, you know, you don’t want to put him through that emotional wreck and morale, but really it’s okay that you don’t want to go through the emotional burden as well as trying to manage your toddler’s emotions and still nurse and be postpartum and work and run a successful podcast. And you know, it’s, it’s fine.
Laura Birek: A hundred percent. Like you’re right when I say like, I don’t want him to have to go through that. I also don’t want; I just don’t want to deal with the tantrums. Like every, I don’t want to have to deal with every time I bring my boob out to nurse the baby, which the baby still needs. He’s only seven months, having to deal with the tantrum at the same time, you know?
And it’s not. I don’t have real, any real problem with still nursing him, except for just like slight discomfort. It gives me some scrolling time on Facebook.
Heather: So pick your battles people. Exactly.
Maureen: And it’s okay to change your mind about that tomorrow or next month or whatever.
Heather: Well, Laura, from Big Fat Positive, thank you so much for coming and telling us your tandem story. This has been very helpful to us, and I know it’s been very helpful to other people. And if you guys have not checked out the Big Fat Positive Podcast yet, please do it. It is so nice and entertaining. And I feel like I get to hang out with my friends, Laura and Shanna every week.
And I just love it. So thank you guys so much for doing what you do and for coming to help us today.
Laura Birek: Thanks. Can I plug our socials real quick? Absolutely. All right. We are on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and now Tik Tok occasionally at BFP podcast. And you can find us at bigfatpositivepodcast.com.
Heather: Oh my God. Now I know what I’m doing.
Maureen: Download Tik Tok for that.
Laura Birek: TikTok is what got me through early nursing, for sure.
Heather: It is the only thing that makes me smile on my worst day. Like that is my new therapy. I’m like I got 45 seconds. I need to laugh. I don’t know how to do a Tik Tok. I just know how to enjoy it. And figure it out someday. Well, proud of you for doing that.
Laura Birek: We’re trying. We’re trying.
Heather: Good job. Awesome. All right, well, we’ll see you later.
Laura Birek: All right. Thanks for having me guys.
Maureen: Thanks for listening to our tandem feeding episode today. Before you go, we’d like to thank a couple of patrons. So I’m going to say a big thank you to Catherine and Valerie, some of our newest patrons. We really appreciate your support and we hope you enjoy all the extra bonus stuff.
Heather: We’ve been putting a lot into our Patreon lately, and we’ve really enjoyed hanging out with our top tier Dairy Queens during our live Q and A’s. And our next one is, when? September 21st. So if you’re hearing this now, come on in. Join us.
Today’s award in the alcove goes to Starla Pendergrass. She posted the cutest picture in our Breastfeeding for Busy Moms group with the caption that says my hubby took this for me of my four-month-old and two-year-old holding hands while nursing. And it is the sweetest picture and just perfect for the episode. So congrats!
Maureen: Congrats Starla! We’re going to give you the terrific tandem award for actually managing to feed your babies at the same time.
Heather: Yeah. And I’m actually going to give your husband an award also for taking the picture of you, because thank you. It’s nice to have proof that you existed in your children’s lives, you know, and we’re usually the ones behind the camera.
So anytime a partner takes a picture of you when you’re doing something cute, it’s amazing. So your husband is going to get the. The documenting dad award. Perfect.
Maureen: Okay. Well, thank you for listening to another episode of The Milk Minute Podcast and educating yourself about breastfeeding.
Heather: The way we change this big system that isn’t set up for breastfeeding parents is by educating ourselves and sharing with our children and our friends.
Maureen: Now, if you found some value in the episode we produced for you this week, please go to our Patreon just like Catherine and Valerie did. And show us your support with a small donation.
Heather: That’s Patreon.com/MilkMinutePodcast. And don’t forget, you’re going to get all the cool stuff.
Maureen: All right, bye.
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