Tandem Babies: My Almost-Twins
Common wisdom in the medical field these days is that a child really only NEEDS to be nursed until 12 months old, after which there's no measurable benefit to the child to continue.
Anyone who postulates this theory has never met Abby. Nursing is her security blanket, her favorite thing, her reward. If she had her way, she would still be nursed every two hours like clockwork and would have raisins or macaroni and cheese as a snack between bites. I considered weaning her when my milk supply ran out in the middle of Susannah's pregnancy, but put it off when I began trying and she was absolutely resistant to the idea. Oh well, I thought. There's still time.
Then Grandma Lila got sick, our house was completely torn apart and I had absolutely no ambition to make the determined effort to convince Abby to stop nursing. Poor baby - her whole world was being turned upside-down in every way possible and I wasn't so sure it was worth depriving her of nursing on top of it.
Tandem nursing is usually something reserved for twins or parents who really super-seriously believe in the benefits of mother's milk for their growing children. While I've heard lots of good things, I think I'm probably more of a lazy believer. I believe it's good because not only did God make a convenient way to feed babies that is perfectly geared toward their immature digestive systems, but it's free and comes easily to me. I can't give you statistics and studies and a breakdown of what's actually in the milk that makes it perfect for babies, but if nothing else I'm very happy with the convenience of it (except when I would like to wear nice dresses again). If Abigail had easily weaned before Susannah's birth, I would've been fine with that.
But she wasn't. So when Susannah entered the world, I learned a lot about tandem nursing. At first, every time Susannah needed to be fed, Abigail would be right there. She was so ecstatic there was milk again she pretty much quit eating real food for the first two weeks (and got fat in the process...go figure). This meant I spent much of Susannah's earliest life with my lap constantly full to overflowing with babies. I would wake up in the morning usually under a pile of babies. While Susannah usually only woke up twice in the night to nurse, Abigail still wanted to get up once or twice too. Logistically speaking, nursing two babies at once can be a little comical. It requires patience, a good tactical sense ("Now if I get Susannah settled first, Abigail can just squeeze in here...")...and extra pillows to make up for not having enough hands to hold everyone.
Most nursing moms of newborns feel as if that's all they're able to do. In my case, that really was about all I did for at least six weeks. Eat, feed babies, change diapers and sleep.
In the middle of this time-consuming process, something very special happened: Abigail started holding Susannah's hand while they were nursing. I would see two little sets of eyes looking at each other, one little hand clasping an even littler hand. Talk about a way to melt a mother's heart.
More than their ages, I think this decision - to nurse my babies together - has caused them to be more like twins than single babies. Abby is now always concerned that I do everything with my "two babies". She uses the phrase all the time. "Mommy hold two babies? Mommy nurse two babies? Mommy read to two babies?"
I have no idea what this extended nursing time really does for Abigail physically. Maybe pediatricians are right that there's no measurable benefit to the extra reassurance, cuddling, time and maybe even nutrition Abby is getting. But one thing is for sure: if I had followed the guidelines and weaned her at 12 months, we would've all missed out on a lot of particularly lovely moments and I doubt my two girls would be anywhere near as close as they are. It was a decision based on Abigail's spirit more than her body and I think that's ultimately what has been nurtured as a result. It's not something I planned to do or ever saw myself doing until it was time to do it, but tandem nursing my girls has been absolutely worth the extra effort.
Now to convince Abigail that she's getting to be a big girl and she really can eat plenty of delicious food without needing "milk for Abby" too..
Mary Kay Tuckfield
2/14/2015 10:02:40 pm
I believe my oldest child set an example and tone for the rest of my children. There is a closeness, a willingness for each child to include the other that I never expected. As my children have grown and time has gone by, I look at my first child who held the hand of the second and included each child afterwards; I think it was her heart that created a closeness in our family. Just to know Abby and Sus are holding hands like that makes me think of Lauren and Elizabeth and what time has brought about. How God has blessed us.
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Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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