The sensation of breastfeeding one little mouth can be kind of sweet (once getting past the initial poor latch and soreness). But tandem breastfeeding, for me, was a different story.
In the beginning, I had to grit my teeth, dig my nails into my palms, and tense every muscle in my weary body to keeping from screaming and ripping those sweet children off of me. They suck at different rates, strengths, and rhythms. Their mouths are different shapes. It was like having two people scream into each ear at the same time, in different languages. While accidentally grazing my nipples with a hair brush on a freezing cold morning. For 45 minutes. Twelve times a day.
Not awesome when coupled with sleep deprivation and back pain. And the sweating. And the babies kept falling asleep. I found out that this feeling has a name: nursing agitation. Turns out many moms experience nursing agitation during tandem breastfeeding. This isn’t sore nipples, poor latch, or strong letdown. It isn’t even painful; frankly, pain would have been easier to deal with. Nursing agitation is just really, really annoying and uncomfortable in a primal sort of way.
Feeding the boys individually just didn’t work for me; they would gradually drift into totally different schedules or suddenly sync up so that they were screaming at the same instant. I persevered with tandem breastfeeding, wondering at each feeding how much more I could take. By 8 weeks, I no longer had the dreaded obsession with listening for swallows, and I practiced ignoring the ravaging of my senses by reading or surfing the web on the iPad. Finding other stories of moms who have been through nursing agitation during tandem breastfeeding really helped normalize my situation.
Instead of special bonding time, I tried as hard as I could to tune my children out. With my twins occupied and cuddled close, I could switch off the mommy-attiention radar (at least set it on low) and wander onto blogs, check email, stalk people on Facebook. It was a sanity saving solution.
When the boys were three months old, we spent a weekend at a mountain cabin. Central heating, yes. Phone, internet, TV – no. I was apprehensive, but also thought it might be nice to tune back in and really be present.
At first, it was awful. I was uncomfortable. Trapped. Bored. Then, after a couple days, it suddenly wasn’t awful. The agitation I was feeling early on had almost completely abated. I saw their little faces peeping up at me sometimes. I realized that they were finishing in only 12 minutes. R loved to stand up on the nursing pillow while I was burping him and breathe excitedly into my ear, eager to check out the view over my shoulder. M loved to look at me – simply look, and connect and smile. What fills your heart with more smushiness than a baby that can’t get enough of your face?
We hear often that phases for babies don’t last long – “this too shall pass.” Luckily, parents have phases too – we also change. I am so glad I grew out of nursing agitation during tandem breastfeeding. At around 9 months, I stopped tandem feeding and instead nursed individually on demand until 13 and 16 months. It was a world of difference.
Have you experienced nursing agitation during tandem breastfeeding? How did you cope?
RebeccaD is MoM to fraternal twin boys, R and M, now 19 months old. Breastfeeding twins is one of the most challenging and rewarding things she’s ever done.