As told to the BMSG Editorial Team
For many of us who are expecting our second or subsequent baby while still nursing our older baby, nursing through pregnancy and tandem feeding may seem to be an uphill task. We speak to our EXCO member and breastfeeding counsellor Nur Shirhaini, a mother of four, as she shares her experience nursing her third child during her fourth pregnancy and how she survived tandem nursing with the arrival of her youngest.
Making the Decision to Nurse During Pregnancy
Nur, a working mother of four, loved breastfeeding her children. When she was pregnant with her fourth child, her third baby was a mere seven-month old. As breastfeeding had gone rather smoothly since her little baby was a newborn, she was keen to continue breastfeeding her third child. “When my OBGYN confirmed my pregnancy, he advised me to quit breastfeeding as it was believed that it could cause early miscarriage,” said Nur.
The early childhood educator refused to stop breastfeeding and was positive that her pregnancy would turn out well. Having done her research, she knew that as long as she had an uncomplicated pregnancy, any possible risks of breastfeeding were low.
More importantly, she felt her third child was much too young to be weaned. “I did not want to put my very young baby through the trauma of weaning off breastfeeding,” said Nur.
A Temporary Bout of Nursing Aversion
All was smooth-sailing during the first two trimesters and the thought of prematurely weaning her third was never on her mind. However, when she arrived at the third trimester, things took an unexpected turn.
“I suddenly had nursing aversion. My nipples were always sore and hot from nursing my toddler to sleep. I found it difficult to wear a bra or a t-shirt without feeling uncomfortable,” said Nur, who felt that it took every bit of willpower to keep on breastfeeding. The struggle was real and it was an ordeal during every feed. She would feel her daughter’s tongue grating on her nipples and the pain was so hard to bear that she couldn’t wait for each session to end. At times, Nur would avoid breastfeeding her baby but her cries were too much to bear for her mother’s instinct. She would then cave in to her baby.
Nur describes the dilemma of wanting to nurse her baby but fearing the pain: “I would ask my husband to put my daughter to sleep because I was afraid to nurse her. However, whenever she cried, it would crush my soul and I would run back into the room and offer her my breasts.” Her third baby was the first child she had breastfed for so long; she loved breastfeeding and enjoyed nursing her previously. “But at that moment, I dreaded it so much that I prayed she would just self wean,” said Nur.
However, luck was on her side in the form of robust family support from her spouse, her mother and her in-laws. She bit her tongue and endured for a few more months until the day her newborn arrived.
How Tandem Nursing All Began
The moment was surreal; there was her precious newborn on one side and her 18 month-old daughter on the other. “I remembered Maria (the toddler) looking at me while I was breastfeeding Dyana (the newborn). She then went over to the other breast and helped herself to it!” Nur continued to tandem feed her babies for another seven months until her fourth child was hospitalised for bronchitis. Her toddler then self-weaned at that point.
Nur acknowledges that tandem feeding was not without its challenges. She had her fair share of sore and cracked nipples, coupled with exhaustion especially with her newborn. However, she reminisced about the feelings of bonding and positive association with her children that breastfeeding offered to her and her children, especially as a working mother: “I felt somehow that when I managed to tandem nurse as a working mom, I represented the possibility to other working moms that it was possible. Although it was hard, it was achievable.”
Tips on Breastfeeding Through Pregnancy & Tandem Nursing
Nur’s advice to other mothers who are apprehensive about tandem nursing include the following:
- Do lots of research on breastfeeding during pregnancy and tandem nursing. Your OBGYN may not recommend that you continue breastfeeding while pregnant. However, it is important that you read up and make an informed decision.
- Be mentally prepared. Tough times build resilience. It will get easier with each passing day. Nur’s toddler would always help herself to the right breast and she would say the left one is for the little sister. This made it easier for her as she knew her daughter was finding a way to cope and adapt with the change in circumstances. Tandem nursing also helped to tighten the bonds between the two sisters.
- Make things easier around the house as tandem feeding may mean that you are spending more time with your children at the breast. Nur chose to invest in healthy foods and snacks so that she had one less task to worry about.
- Find ways to connect with your toddler or older child. Talking to your older baby/child and doing some simple activities like reading and playing can greatly help to assure your older children that you still love them.
- Babywear your younger child so that you have your hands free. Nur found that her baby slept better when she wore her, which gave her more time to bond with her toddler.