Long before I became pregnant with my second son, Exley, I planned to tandem nurse. I was inspired by photos that I saw on-line. I was moved by yet another aspect of parenting and the power of my body. What an amazing thing that I could do and experience with my children. I had a rough time getting started with breastfeeding with my first son, Jack. When we finally hit our stride I fell in love all over again with him, my body and breastfeeding.
When I became pregnant I was excited. About a growing family, but also about the prospect of being able to do something that I wanted. I had hopes and expectations about tandem nursing. I hoped that Jack would continue to nurse through my pregnancy. When he slowed down I panicked. But he kept going. It hurt, but it was a familiar feeling. I know pain. We all do. Around 34 weeks I was confronted with an unfamiliar, awful and ugly feeling. I had read about nursing aversion and when this feeling set in I instantly knew this is what it must be.
Soon after this feeling set in during pregnancy, I started to make colostrum and last minute plans for baby amped up the tension in the home. Jack reacted by upping his nursing to like 45,879 times a day and night. Breastfeeding was getting harder and I was starting to not like it. All the while Jack was nursing more and more.
Upon the birth of Exley, Jack slowed his nursing for a day or two and then reved up again. I experience it with Jack, but not Exley. I am not going to begin a debate about why it happens because the truth is no one really knows. But it was clear I had to step in and create some boundaries and find ways to cope. Jack reacted negatively to the boundaries; hitting, kicking, temper tantrums. I knew that my highly sensitive child wasn’t going to simply stop nursing any day soon. I wanted to keep his perspective in mind as well. His world is rapidly changing with a new brother and new family dynamics. Breastfeeding has always been everything to Jack. Everything. I needed to find ways to cope with the nursing sessions that remained so important to Jack (nighttime, naptime and upon waking).
I am not a breastfeeding professional and I simply talk from personal experience. Here are several interventions that have helped me cope with my nursing aversion.
- Up to my eyeballs in water: Drink water. All day. Or even tea/iced tea. I keep a plastic straw cup filled with water and fill it over and over.
- Sleep when baby sleeps: LOL! Just kidding! Obviously if you are tandem nursing you probably have a baby and a toddler/small child so what in hell is sleep, right? I will say that when I feel tired the nursing aversion is more extreme. But when you figure out a way to get more sleep you let me know and I’ll add it here.
- Let it go or be dragged: Stress just adds to the awful feeling of nursing aversion. I try really hard to let things go. I try really hard to let anything go that doesn’t have to do with the safety of my children. It’s new for me. I have always been a fan of hanging onto things and stewing about them, but I can’t afford the cost anymore.
- Take to Facebook: It’s no secret that Facebook is ripe with drama. I never saw any good in this until I started to find ways to cope with nursing aversion. Now I seek out the most dramatic and ridiculous threads on Facebook that I can find. Go where no man cares to go anymore. Seek out posts about religion, politics, parenting, Ebola or whatever new mass hysteria is out there. My friend Rebecca Michi is a sleep consultant and has been working with us on helping Jack get to sleep more comfortably. She thought this was a great idea and also recommended threads under White House reports. Really, paperback novelists are going to go out of business.
- Plan your week: I never lie down to nurse Jack without my phone. Thank god for this phone! I open up my calendar and plan my week, I return text messages, I write grocery lists, blog ideas, etc. But make sure it’s fun stuff or else stress creeps in and you’re back at square one.
- Limits and boundaries: There is nothing that can make me feel guiltier than turning my little guy down when he asks to nurse. But I must pay attention to my own needs as well. I limit the amount of nursing sessions per day. I limit the length of time of each nursing session. (Expect at nighttime and bedtime when I know Jack is still in the early stages of transitioning to other ways of falling asleep-If I become desperate for a break during those times I call on my husband to help).
- One at a time please: I always envisioned tandem nursing to be the way it is in pictures. Both kiddos latched on, mom smiling, the older child caressing the younger child. This is one of the reasons Facebook can lead to moms feeling so isolated. People post the good times and rarely talk about the bad. I find nursing aversion to be much more uncomfortable when both kids are latched on. I limit this practice now to only when it is absolutely necessary. It doesn’t happen often in my house. Which might be why I am so excited to share those pics, because it is something that doesn’t often happen happily. I am sorry if I ever misled you!
I highly recommend the book Adventures in Tandem Nursing. You are not alone in your feelings of nursing aversion. This book can be a big help in your transition to more than one child. I would also like to note something that many people refuse to talk about. Nursing aversion can also be accompanied by feelings of sexual arousal (although this is not limited to nursing aversion or tandem nursing). If you have ever experienced this you likely felt ashamed, angry and guilty. You are not alone. This book can help you too.