Love Bombing With A Three Year Old

There’s been a distinct disconnect between my almost four year old, Ameli, and myself lately. We just aren’t working well together. We’re not cooperating. I’m shouting at her, she’s shouting at me. She ignores me. She tells me I’m not her best friend anymore. She doesn’t listen to me… and the number of times I’ve said the words ‘you’re  not listening to me’ made me realise that maybe, just maybe, the disconnect is because I’m not listening to her, either.

By listening to her, I don’t mean paying attention when she talks, or doing what her three year old demands insist. I mean really, deeply, listening to her, to what her words are not saying.

Love BombingIt started in Australia really, when I guess we pulled the rug out from under her world very quickly and spent six months constantly changing the rules, uncertain of what we were doing, or where, or when. That can’t have felt very secure for her.

Coming back to England has restored a lot of security and routine, but the disconnect has been there, a steady constant.

I remember some time back I started reading a book called Love Bombing which talks about resetting the emotional thermostats of parents and children. It makes sense. When you and your partner aren’t connecting your relationship suffers. When you spend time together, talk and have fun together, you end the day feeling a lot more connected and together than you started it. Why shouldn’t the same principle ring true for our relationships with our children?

The principle of Love Bombing is pretty simple. For a specific period of time, you do what the child wants. Whatever the child wants. You don’t answer the phone, read emails or have other distractions. Your attention is 100% on the child.

Don’t we all like to be the centre of attention for the person we love sometimes?

So, Ameli and I went to see a movie. She didn’t love the movie – she found it a bit scary – but she loved sitting on my lap, hiding in my arms. She loved it being just her and me.

And this morning, she came and sat next to me on the sofa for a while. She cuddled with me. She told me about sharks and shrinkets and all sorts of other things that occupy the mind of a toddler.

One movie doesn’t fix everything. There’s work to do, time to go. We’ll have to have a mamadate again. I look forward to it. I missed the closeness with my little big girl.

Problems And Suggested Solutions For Tandem Nursing

You know how breastfeeding is ‘the most natural thing in the world’, right? And how it should be as easy as that? And how it often isn’t?

Well, picture every newborn problem (and victory) that you’ve ever had with breastfeeding a newborn. Now picture doing it with that newborn, and a climby, excited, gymnastic toddler too.Tandem Nursing

It can be pretty rough (and awesome).

  • The biggest problem I’ve experienced in tandem breastfeeding has been feeling thoroughly touched out. In the 13 weeks since Aviya’s birth, I have felt more ‘touched out’ than any other time in my life before. To the extent that the feel of the sofa cushion irritates my skin sometimes! There is no solution for this, other than making sure you understand why you feel as you do and making an effort to have some you-time, even if it includes going for a short walk, a solo bath or something more extravagant, like a well-timed-between-feeds massage.
  • Logistics. In the early weeks, while baby is small, it’s easy to lie one child on top of the other. Unfortunately, the baby grows at a much faster rate than the toddler and sooner or later, you might find the toddler begins to protest. While it’s quite nice and easy to get into the habit of tandem nursing with one lying on the other, while baby is small is a good time to practice tandem feeding in other positions too, such as holding one or both in the rugby ball position.
  • Your toddler may have a huge increase in feeding, and a massive decrease in eating. Ameli was nursing 2 – 3 times a day when Aviya was born, and suddenly she wanted to drink every time Aviya was. While I knew this would happen, and ‘prepared’ myself for it, I really had no idea how frustrating it would be.  It’s really important to have strategies in place, when you don’t want to tandem feed at every feed, for things to occupy the toddler. Wearing a sling for feeding the baby can be very useful as it keeps your hands free to do things with the toddler.
  • Tandem nursing can be very exhausting, thirsty and hungry work. Have a ‘nursing station’ ready. Somewhere with a lot of pillows so you can all be in a good position, and have an easy to use drinks bottle handy – something that won’t have water everywhere if the gymnastic feeder kicks it – as well as some snacks if you feel you need them. Replenish your nursing station daily, so that you can feed without meltdowns while you’re getting everything ready, or upsetting interruptions to your nursing.
  • Breastfeeding works best in a tribe where mothers can look out for each other.  Spend as much time as you can with sympathetic friends who can entertain your toddler (simply by having their children around too, while you nurse the baby) or by making sure you have what you need while you’re breastfeeding one or both children. And when they’re done, you support your friend again.
  • Sensations during tandem nursing. Unfortunately, if you’re ‘feeling’ something when you’re breastfeeding, it’s probably not pleasant. With tandem nursing there’s an increase in hormones and there is a change in breast size which can affect the older child’s latch. These changes can cause either a very painful feeling – with my two year old, it feels like her front teeth are slicing papercut sized slices into my nipples sometimes, simply because the nipple is larger right now. Alternatively, the increased hormones can cause an incredibly unpleasant sexual stimulation. Trust me when I say it is not a good feeling.  It is very uncomfortable. I can’t cope with it and have to stop nursing when that happens. There’s no real ‘solution’ to it. Just stop, have a cuddle, a repositioning and start again.

I do think that breastfeeding is without a doubt the most committed thing I’ve ever done. It’s been very much all or nothing, and I’ve gone for all.  While there are many challenges and obstacles on the journey, don’t forget to also look at the benefits of tandem breastfeeding.

10 Reasons To Consider Tandem Breastfeeding

When Ameli was a baby I wrote many articles on breastfeeding and its benefits. I wrote about things I wish I’d known about breastfeeding, and some relatively unknown things about breast milk, and how breast milk is made. I’ve shared my confessions of an extended breastfeeder and I’ve written about the highs and lows of breastfeeding during pregnancy. My last post about breastfeeding was on nursing a toddler during the final stage of pregnancy, so it’s only logical that my next series of posts will be on that thing that is the art of tandem nursing.

I’ve been asked a number of times by various people whether it is possible to nurse both babies at the same time, and the simple answer is yes! I know the concept is foreign to many people, so here are nine reasons why tandem breastfeeding is worth considering.

10 Reasons to Consider Tandem Breastfeeding

Reasons To Consider Tandem Breastfeeding For The Toddler: 

1. Bonding and reduced jealousy
This was one of the most beautiful and surprising parts of tandem breastfeeding, for me. The first time I lay my nursling on top of my toddler to allow them to feed together, and my beautiful big girl put her arm around her sister to keep her from ‘falling off’. I think my heart melted in that moment. We’ve had absolutely no jealousy since the birth of our second little girl twelve weeks ago and I am convinced that breastfeeding both children has something to do with it.  Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any studies on this subject yet, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence, and I’m happy to be adding to that.

Regardless of what you do to prepare a toddler for a new baby, the reality of the new addition is beyond anything they’d have expected, and having something that bonds them together from the beginning is very helpful. It’s also something they can do together.  The first question Ameli asked, while Aviya was still in the birthpool, was, “can it walk?”  She is very aware of the fact that Aviya can’t talk to us and can’t play with her. In fact, as Ameli’s book says, “it’s basically a lump of clay.” Having something they can do together definitely creates a bond from early on.

2. Valuable lesson in sharing and consideration
Sharing breastfeeding is an incredible lesson in sharing in general. This is another area my Ameli has surprised me: she understands that the baby, who cannot eat food yet, needs to have milk more than she does. It’s not always easy for her to have to stop feeding when it’s Aviya’s turn (tandem nursing can mean two simultaneously, or one after the other. We do both.) but she usually does. You can see sometimes that she doesn’t really want to, but she does. I think it’s a great lesson for life.

3. All the benefits of newborn milk
Newborn breastmilk is full of so many good things, and the mother’s body adjusts the milk to meet the newborn’s needs. That means the toddler is getting all the benefits of baby milk, all over again.

Reasons To Consider Tandem Breastfeeding For The Newborn:

1. Milk on tap
Now, this is purely anecdotal, from my own experience, but in our case, my milk came in pretty much immediately after Aviya was born. There was still colostrum, as I could tell from Ameli’s nappies, but she had milk available on tap from the start. This meant that she didn’t have to work very hard to fill her tummy, which meant she fed for shorter periods of time than newborns normally do. It also meant that she slept for longer than newborns normally do. In fact, she fed so little and slept so much that she lost 11% of her body weight in the first week, but more than made up for it subsequently (she’s currently in 4-6 month clothes, and is only 2.5 months!) The fact is that she didn’t have to burn much energy in an attempt to consume.

2. Milk supply
Because I had milk and nursed all the way through the pregnancy, bar a few days here and there, milk was just ‘there’ from the start and I haven’t had any issues with supply at all, not even during the six week ‘drying up’ that most people experience as milk goes from reservoired to supply and demand

3. Familiarity with the older sibling
It’s easy to very quickly fall into the habit of saying ‘don’t touch the baby’, ‘leave the baby’, ‘be gentle with the baby’ and any one of a million variations on that theme. We’ve tried very consciously not to plant the idea that ‘sister’ isn’t to be engaged with in Ameli, and have instead decided to accept that babies aren’t actually as fragile as we tend to think they are when you have your first born. Tandem nursing is a way of introducing an older sibling into a baby’s space, so that the younger can become accustomed to the sound and smell of his or her older sibling too.

4. Gag-free drinking
Sometimes the flow of milk can be so strong and forceful that the new baby can gag and choke. Getting big sister or brother to take the edge off, can be really helpful. It’s worth remembering the difference between foremilk and hindmilk and making sure baby is getting enough of both, especially in hot weather.

Reasons To Consider Tandem Breastfeeding For the Mother:

Believe it or not, tandem breastfeeding has a number of benefits for mama too.

1. Put your feet up
If you’ve had a toddler let loose on your house for any length of time, you’ll know what devastation can be wrought in the shortest of times. Nursing both together means you actually get to have a break without having to directively engage, occupy or entertain a toddler. This is where a hands free water bottle with a straw comes in though, because it can be hard to hold a cup while nursing two children!

2. Health benefits of extended breastfeeding
All those things that hit the headlines from time to time? Those. Reduced risk of breast cancer being the biggest one.  And some people put weight loss in this category. Breastfeeding gives me a sweet tooth, so no, I don’t lose any weight!

3. Relieves engorgement
Despite popular belief, when your milk comes in proper, you can still get really engorged, even if you’ve been breastfeeding through pregnancy. I haven’ t had to express once this time round, nor have I had any problems, such as mastitis or clogged ducts, because when I’ve needed to, I’ve been able to call on Ameli – even in the middle of the night, since Aviya sleeps through – to quickly and effortlessly drain an engorged, painful, leaking breast.

So there you have nine reasons to at least consider tandem nursing. It’s not always easy, and there are days where I wish more than anything that Ameli would wean, but looking at the list above, the benefits are fantastic, and this is a phase in our mother and daughter(s) journey that I will always look back on with a distinct sense of pride in all of us.

Dear Aviya – Letter To A Two Year Old

My dear beautiful Squidgeling,

Here we are, staring down the barrel of your second birthday, and I feel a little bit shocked. A few days ago I looked up at you with your hair in pigtails and twirling around in a fairy dress, and for a moment, I wondered where my baby was. It was just a split second, but it took me by surprise, to see this little girl looking back at me.

Avi 2 yearsI realised that your first almost two years have passed in one almighty blur. I feel somewhat bad, because I haven’t written to you as often as I would have liked to, and I haven’t kept as detailed a record of all the little things that you do and have done, but I want you to know without doubt that I have loved being your mama. I have loved watching you develop and grow. I have loved traversing the journey of mama of one to mama of two with you, and I have loved the lessons being your mama have taught me.

I look back through the pages of our two years together, through the medium of this blog, and I know that it looks like so much time and attention has been focused on Ameli, rather than you, but I hope that you will realise that pictures and journals only show us the bit we’ve recorded and that there are hundreds, thousands of moments between you and I that could never be captured on paper, on film or on screen.

You’re coming up for two now, and you’ll be having surgery in a few weeks because of your teeth – you were born without enamel on the first four, a fun throwback to my Hyperemesis days – and that’s caused you problems in your eating, but on the up side, for you, it’s turned you from indifferent to breastfeeding, to a definite lover of mama-milk. I am grateful that you’ve had that as an option, and that I persevered through the early days with you, where it was quite difficult and we battled thrush for months.

I am grateful that despite the dentists saying it’s breastfeeding that’s done this to your teeth, I had the wherewithall and the brains to find out the real reasons, and to stick to my guns. I’m glad that when they tell me to stop nursing you, but can’t tell me what I’m then supposed to feed you, I’ve been brave and strong enough to stand up for you, and for us. I am proud of me for that, and grateful to you for trusting me.

As we go into this surgery, I know you’re going to have fears. You’ll be asleep, and you’ll wake up in a bit of pain, and you won’ t know why, and you’ll look at me and have questions, and doubts and fears, but I hope you know I’ll be there, every step of the way. I hope you know I’ll be there, holding you and looking after you and caring for you. I hope you’ll trust me that this really is the best option for you.

You show such personality these days. You love singing and dancing and twirling and being a little girl. You love making up your own little songs, and you love copying the things your sister says and does. You love  playing with her, and following her around. You love running squealing and hiding in your tent when it’s time to change your nappy. That one is less fun for us.

You’ve always been a little book worm, and you’d sit paging through all the books you could find your hands on, but recently you are a little Kindle and Netflix obsessed, so we’re trying to wean you off it – largely by hiding it away or letting the battery run flat. I really miss the days you’d sit looking through books while I worked. Hopefully we can get those back. It would definitely be better for you.

You’re also somewhat more prone to tantrums than I’ve been accustomed to from still one year olds and I’m trying to remember all the positive parenting techniques I learned and pretty rarely needed to use for Ameli. We’ll get through this, I’m sure. I’m trying to view it as you making us more empathetic to other parents. And to standing your ground and not being a trodden-over second child. Good for you.

You seem to have been deeply touched especially by your Oupa’s visit here, and refer to him often. Like saying you want him to help you put your shoes on. Not me, him. And when I point out that he’s not here, you want daddy to do it. Little Miss Independent.

You are deeply sweet, and kind. You are gentle and you are laid back. And then you are angry and shouty and passionate and a minute later you’re chilled out again. I think you may have a bit of my temperament there. Long may it keep us happy.

You are my beloved baby girl. I can’t imagine a life before you, can’t remember a time I didn’t love you.

I hope that as this next phase of our story unfolds, that you will feel my love every day, and that even though I don’t always have the time to write to you, you will know, in your heart, deep in your soul, in the most inner part of you, where foundation is laid that I have loved you, every day, and that I will do so into forever.

With all the love in my heart,

happy almost birthday,

Mama.

 

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