Just the Nine of Us

Just the Nine of Us

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Adventures in Tandem Nursing

I never thought I would have the privilege of nursing two babies at once. I would see those women at La Leche League who were nursing all their babies through toddlerhood, sometimes several babies at once, and I thought they were superhuman. They were the untouchable heroes, and I was over there struggling to maintain enough supply for just one little newborn. I thought, maybe nursing is just always going to be a struggle for me. I was convinced it was best for my babies, but I was over there just barely eking out an ounce of milk after half an hour of excruciating pumping, while these amazon women were filling up buckets by the second. I never thought it was possible to have a good supply like that, especially not for two babies. I figured if I ever had twins, breastfeeding would not be an option.

Things began to be different with my sixth baby, Bethany. Having had endured nearly all the possible roadblocks in nursing, from thrush to improper latch to insufficient weight gain, I had learned a few things. More Milk Plus by Motherlove was an essential herbal supplement. Nursing Blend Breastfeeding Supplement by Fairhaven Health was another I had begun to swear by. And this time, for the first time, I saved my placenta and had it encapsulated for consumption in the postpartum weeks. All of these things, combined with eating enough healthy calories and staying hydrated, gave me a good supply of milk for the full first year. She was the first baby I nursed for one year, and, proud of us for enduring, coupled with being 12 weeks pregnant with number seven, I decided to wean. We might have been a little eager. My husband and I left for our first overnight without the baby on her first birthday. :) I remember what I thought was her "last" nursing session. That day I had taken the kids to the planetarium with a homeschool group. When the lights dimmed, another baby there Bethany's age started screaming. But Bethany latched on and found comfort, nursing herself to sleep. Just a few drops of milk and she was out. It was satisfying for both of us. I dropped everyone off with my parents and went off for the night with my husband. I felt a little weird at night, not nursing her to sleep, but I didn't get engorged or have a letdown. And from what I hear, she didn't miss me either. I figured we were done. That was April, and I wasn't due with the new baby until October. So I didn't consider that tandem nursing might still be a possibility.

A week or so after her first birthday, Bethany fell or was disturbed by something and I couldn't calm her down. She reached in my shirt and said, "Nurse." So we "nursed"until she calmed down, although there wasn't any milk. Over the next few months, she "nursed" like that to take a nap or calm down from any upset. It wasn't for nourishment in these months, but for nurturing. And she didn't necessarily do it every day. I noticed there were times when it was more frequent. She wanted to nurse a lot during our RV road trip, probably reaching for the familiar in all the unfamiliar environments, and I was glad I was able to minister to her in that way. Then she might go several days without needing it. I had heard at one of the LLL meetings something like during the toddler years, when you might be wanting to wean, have a "don't offer but don't deny" kind of strategy, and that's what I did. I just allowed her to nurse whenever she reached for it. Sometimes it was inconvenient, but usually it was awesome for me because it allowed me to rest too and put my feet up in those last few months of pregnancy. I remember nursing her during the duck tour of San Fransisco, and around the campfire in Utah. They were precious memories.

Then Silas was born. For several days after we came home from the hospital, my husband took care of the older kids while I recovered and took care of Silas. Then one day, I had just gotten Silas to sleep and decided to take a nap myself, when he brought Bethany to me. "I can't calm her down," he said. "She just wants you." I sighed, a little nervous about her latching on because my nipples were so sore and I didn't want her to take what little bit I had for Silas. I took a deep breath when she latched on, then I realized it didn't hurt at all. She had a mouth full of teeth, but she had a great latch so it was just fluid. She seemed pleasantly surprised when milk filled her mouth again, and off she went to sleep. A little while later, Silas woke up, which woke Bethany up, and they both wanted to nurse. I got Silas situated and let Bethany on the other side. Within minutes, they were both gulping. :) It was the best feeling! Two babies satisfied at Momma's breasts! It just made perfect sense to me. I knew it was the best nutrition for both of them, and since both breasts let down at the same time, it made sense to have a baby on each side. Less waste!

The next couple of weeks were bliss like that. I was still in recovery mode, so I was okay with just hanging out in my pajamas and nursing two babies all day long. I even noticed a great increase in my supply, now that both kids were nursing full-time! I seem to just be overflowing with milk and they are both gaining weight! Then came the day when I had to get out in public. :) It's all well and good to put on a cover and latch one baby on. But when the older one comes over and says, "Nurse!", pulls down the cover and pushes her way into your shirt, it gets a little awkward. That's still the place we are in right now. I'm trying to figure out the balance and how to be available to both babies. Bethany goes to the nursery at church, so I can just nurse Silas during the service and all is well. But for some events she is with us, and when she sees me nurse him, she wants to nurse too. So far I've just had to excuse myself and find a quiet, empty room. Usually they hold hands and fall asleep and I just sit there until my husband comes to get me. :) I'm reminding myself that it's a season, that right now this is more important than being at the center of every social event. This is motherhood. I am reading The Ministry of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson right now, and in the very beginning she asks the question, "What do you think God had in mind when He designed the role of motherhood?" That was a great thing for me to reflect on, because the words that came to mind were nourishing and nurturing, among others. To remember that I am a mother and it is the ministry He has for me right now, helps me not to disdain it or think of it as inconvenient. I'm not really missing anything that I can't catch up to later. Right now I am building a solid foundation for my children's health.

Another thing that has helped is being a part of a great pediatric practice that firmly believes in breastfeeding. We drive to Tennessee to a practice called Cool Springs Family Medicine and see Dr. Kla, but all the doctors there are great. In the last week or so, both Bethany and Silas have developed sinus infections that had me concerned. I took them to the practice yesterday and hesitatingly admitted that I was nursing both of them, so possibly one gave the sickness to the other. The doctor said that was the best thing ever, because both were receiving antibodies from me to fight the infection, both were thriving, neither one was really "sick" with ear infections or chest congestion or anything other than minor sinusitis. I was encouraged to keep breastfeeding, even squirting breastmilk in their nose and eyes and ears, since "breastmilk is the best medicine!"

Just like with anything, my mind can turn a blessing from the Lord into a terrible inconvenience. I try to remind myself of those early days of breastfeeding, sitting across from those women at La Leche League, wishing I could have that experience, and seeing how God has so graciously granted it. For today I'm going to see it for the blessing that it is and embrace it. For today I'm going to send fist pumps to the women I see breastfeeding and remind them that what they are doing is amazing. This too shall pass and we will be so glad we slowed down and did it.

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