22 January 2014
I was recently asked by a stranger, admiring my beautifully healthy baby boy, ‘Are you breastfeeding?’ My straight answer, ‘Yes, both of them’ produced a response of mild shock as she turned to look at my toddler running ahead.
Tandem feeding, the practice of breastfeeding two children of different ages, is not common in our culture. It is however perfectly healthy and works well for some families, like mine.
My boys were born two years and seven months apart. When his brother was conceived, our eldest was still very reliant on receiving comfort at the breast. My husband and I had agreed that it would be best to allow him to outgrow breastfeeding at his own pace, especially considering that the World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding along with family foods for two years or beyond.
My greatest concern entering a new pregnancy while still breastfeeding, was how I would cope with breastfeeding if I again experienced intensely tender nipples as I had during my first pregnancy. I didn’t intend on prompting my toddler to wean, but knew there was a chance that we would have to go down that route.
I know some mums who had weaned a toddler during pregnancy for a range of reasons, on the initiative of either the mum or the child. I know others who have tandem fed after the arrival of a new baby. I saw both of these as realistic possibilities in our case.
Before planning my second pregnancy, I did some research to confirm the safety and feasibility of continuing to breastfeed. I learned that in most cases, it is perfectly safe for a well-nourished mother to continue breastfeeding throughout a normal, low-risk pregnancy and to continue feeding both children after the baby is born. It is however a very personal decision and there are many factors to weigh up including the needs of the mother, the child and the foetus.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) is supportive of mums who wish to tandem feed. ABA’s Position Statement on Breastfeeding includes the statement ‘A mother can continue to breastfeed when she is pregnant. A mother may also simultaneously breastfeed two children of different ages — this is called tandem feeding.’
I found the ABA a huge source of support. Through regular attendance at group meetings I met other mums breastfeeding toddlers or tandem feeding. I also talked through personal concerns at various times with breastfeeding counsellors both locally and on the Breastfeeding Helpline.
Unfortunately health professionals are not always so supportive. The various midwives I had contact with during my pregnancy were supportive, some even delighted that I was still breastfeeding my son and planned to continue. However when our very blunt obstetrician became aware that I was still breastfeeding, his first response was a steely stare and the comment ‘well that will have to stop’. This floored me as I had expected him to be supportive. However I quickly pulled myself together and informed him that this was contrary to information I had received from ABA. I asked whether he had any particular concerns for me with this pregnancy, or just not like the idea of breastfeeding through pregnancy in general. It turned out to be the latter. I can understand his position, his job is to minimise every possible risk to mother and foetus. However my job as a mum is to consider the needs of my child as well as any small risk to my foetus.
After this encounter I felt extremely shaken and started to question if I was actually doing the best thing for my children.
Prior to pregnancy, I had not chosen to set limits around my son’s breastfeeding. He still breastfed regularly, although of course as a toddler he was also tucking into family foods. During pregnancy this changed. I started refusing him some feeds and limiting others due to physical discomfort. With the encouragement of my ever supportive husband, I also made the difficult decision to night wean a week before our second baby was due. At two and a half my big boy managed this admirably. We were stunned how easily he transitioned from frequent night feeds to ‘just cuddles until the sun wakes up’.
In the days following the birth of the new baby, my toddler visited us in hospital and had a few feeds but there was plenty of colostrum and milk for the baby. Once we came home I continued breastfeeding both boys, although chose to further limit feed frequency and duration for my big boy.
This pattern has continued for four months so far. Generally I feed them separately for ease and individual ‘Mummy time’, but there have been times with a tired or slow waking toddler when ‘milkies together’ has been requested and granted. This is generally brief and logistically awkward for me, but undeniably worth it to be able to comfort both boys at once. They even hold hands sometimes, and I think the tender moments outnumber the times little brother gets ‘poked’ – just!
My top tips for other mums considering tandem feeding:
- Do your research. A good place to start is ABA’s article on tandem feeding.
- Find other mums who have continued breastfeeding throughout pregnancy or beyond. They can be a great source of encouragement and practical suggestions.
- Surround yourself as much as possible with people who support your decisions – your partner, close friends and family, supportive health professionals or ABA
- Be flexible in your expectations –probably not everything will pan out as you expect, but that’s ok.
There is not much about my breastfeeding journey so far that I would want to change, and I am happy for both of my babies to continue breastfeeding until they are ready to move on. I am sure it will happen eventually!
Have you tandem breastfed your children or are you contemplating trying? I'd love you to share your thoughts and experiences below.
About the Author: Tanya Fyfe is an eco mum and environmental engineer and lives in the WA Goldfields with her husband and two young sons. The family's aim is to live sustainably and for their children to grow up understanding where food comes from and how it is produced. They generate solar electricity and have an organic vegetable garden and modest fruit orchard irrigated entirely with grey water.
15 August 2012
By: Laura Trotta (BEng(Environmental), MSc(Environmental Chemistry))
Turn your winter leek crop into a hearty and nutritious meal for your baby or toddler
A couple of winter's ago we had a bumper crop of leeks in the garden. This coincided with my first son moving onto chunky solid foods and I spent much time in the kitchen devising recipes to best utilise our organic leeks. The dish that was the biggest hit with him was this tasty chicken, leek and potato casserole.
Leeks are a true superfood and add lots of flavour to your baby's food. They are full of vitamins A, C, E, folate and potassium. Leeks are also easy to grow in your garden and whereas commercial varieties may be heavily sprayed, home-grown organic leeks are super tasty and free from nasty chemicals.
Preparation: 20 min, Cooking: 20 min
- 1 large organic leek (or 2 small leeks)
- 2 organic potatoes, chopped in 1cm cubes
- 200g free-range chicken breast or thigh, chopped
- 1 cup organic full cream milk
- 1/2 tablespoon organic butter
- Brown chicken in a medium-hot pan. Remove.
- Turn heat to low. Add chopped leeks to pan with butter and sauté approximately 2 minutes until soft.
- Add chopped potatoes to pan.
- Cook, covered for approximately 10 minutes until soft.
- Add milk and chicken and simmer until potatoes very soft and creamy.
- Add fresh organic herbs (eg chives) to taste if available.
About the Author: Laura Trotta is an eco mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She lives in regional South Australia with her husband Paul and sons Matthew and Christopher. Laura is an avid organic gardener and home cook and enjoys experimenting with new recipes to best utilise her home-grown produce.
24 July 2012
By: Lisa Reid (BEng(Environmental))
Increase the likelihood of your toddler enjoying a range of healthy foods by making mealtimes fun!
When first eating solids, my son would gobble up anything put in front of him. He’d devour everything including vegetables with great gusto. Somewhere between 18 months and 2 years old, things changed. To our disappointment and dismay, our growing toddler decided that he didn’t want to eat his veggies or some of our family’s staples – soups, zucchini slice, lentil roast and quiche.
After reading a few parenting books, speaking to friends and family with older children, and watching our son’s eating habits, I realized that he would eat (or try) veggies if they were separated out rather than all mixed together or hidden. And if they were presented in a fun way! So here are a few ideas of how we’ve brought veggies back into our toddler's!
- Create a smiley face on the plate (this can be done with fruit or veg)
- Have a tasting plate of veggies which can be picked at during the day, therefore taking the stress out of meal times
- Make funny faces using rice/corn cakes topped with a healthy spread (avocado, hummus, peanut butter, cream cheese), fruit or veg pieces (thanks to Play School for this idea), and/or dried fruit
- Put together people made from fruit or vegetables
- Use dips (hummus or guacamole) with fruit or vegetable dippers (carrot, celery, cucumber, apple and pear work well).
So get creative and take the pressure off your family mealtimes!
About the Author: Lisa Reid is an eco mum and environmental engineer and resides in Melbourne with her husband Tim and young children Jacob and Edith. Lisa is working to reduce her family's eco footprint by growing her own vegetables, using less chemicals and making her home energy efficient.
23 April 2012
By: Laura Trotta (BEng (Environmental), MSc(Environmental Chemistry))
Photo Source: Narelle Debenham, NaturedKids
Nature play is lacking or sadly absent for many children of today. Increased urbanisation, smaller backyards, parents working longer hours with lengthy commutes, higher electronic screen times and tight schedules of organised activities have all contributed to making the outdoors a restricted place for our young ones.
Parents have the ability to give their children the outside playing opportunities and free play time they possibly enjoyed as a child.
Children are healthier and happier when they have the opportunity to play outside every day. A recent study conducted by the University of Western Australia reported the following positive benefits of nature play1:
- A decreased risk of children being overweight when more nature is present in their neighbourhood.
- Playing in natural environments assists with building children’s motor skills.
- Nature contact enhances children’s learning and development including, but not limited to, children’s personality development, cognitive functioning, attitude and school behaviour.
- Contact with nature, especially during middle childhood, has an important role to play in children’s mental health.
- Children’s manage stress better when they have more contact with nature.
- Time in nature assists the performance of children with ADHD.
- Children displaying delinquent behaviour benefit from nature-based programs such as wilderness camps.
Photo Source: Narelle Debenham, NaturedKids
Teacher, nature playgroup facilitator and mother of three, Narelle Debenham runs NaturedKids an outdoor program for babies to five year-olds and their families to explore and connect with nature in their local area. Narelle also provides training for adults to inspire nature play.
She passionately believes "when regularly immersed in their natural environment, children’s involvement in nature during their formative years guarantees eco-literacy, care for our natural world and environmental sustainability."
Narelle encourages parents to introduce their babies from just a few months old to nature-based activities in the back yard and offers the following nature play ideas for children to enjoy.
- Make worm stew (mud pies).
- Feel moss, leaves, feathers and other textures.
- Tickle their cheek or tummy with a flower or feather.
- Walk bare-footed.
- Float petals in a bowl of water for a beautiful swirling water play.
- Read stories or enjoy family meals outside.
- Make daisy chains or put buttercups under their chin.
- Play drums. Put a stick inside a large gumnut to make a drumstick and turn some pots upside down for drums.
- Lie on your back under a tree to look at its canopy.
- Lie on tummies to sniff the grass and look for creatures in the “grass jungle’’.
- Make a dinosaur garden: use plastic dinosaurs, grab a potting tray and make your dinosaurs a prehistoric garden with loose materials from the yard.
- Plant a vegetable garden and tend it together.
- Look at raindrops on nasturtium leaves, with tiny magnifying glasses, and roll the drop carefully around the leaf without letting it fall off.
- Make a bird’s breakfast. Grow sunflowers along the fence and then watch when the cockies and parrots come along to eat them.
- Grow sunflowers in a circle then tie their heads together to make a cubby.
- Collect leaves, feathers, seed pods and other natural items from the yard or while on a walk. Put them in a dish or bowl near the front door to create a nature plate to remind visitors of nature.
- Don’t toss your child’s first, or outgrown shoes, away. Instead, keep the memories alive by planting a succulent or other small plant in the shoe and using it as garden art.
- Using a stick, scratch your child’s name, a smiley face, noughts and crosses or other shapes in the soil.
- Let children collect and play with sticks to build an elf or fairy cubby or a home for their small toys.
- Create a collage on the ground (no glue), using leaves, twigs, flowers and other items from nature.
- Fly a kite.
- Find a place to lie under a tree or in a secret place to close your eyes and focus on sounds. Ask children to respond to sounds. For instance, how do they make you feel? This can lead to poetry or discussion on the effect of sounds in a city, why animals use sound and so on.
- Talk about smells as you walk together to raise awareness of the subtleties and effects on feelings.
- Grow herbs, make potpourri and explore why and how plants smell.
- Allow children to make their own mini-landscapes. Encourage them to consider terrain, vegetation, rivers, drainage and so on. The landscape could be modelled on an imaginary place, a place from a story or a real place and could include toys.
- Put on a coat, grab an umbrella and go outside in the rain. Explore how things change in the garden when they are wet and have fun with the puddles.
- Go outside at night and look at the stars and moon.
- Plant seeds or seedlings and, armed with childsized gardening tools, give children the responsibility to care for their garden.
- Read outdoor-themed stories outdoors.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your kids and head outside and you too will reap the benefits nature has to offer.
1. Martin, Karen, Dr (Feb 2011), The University of Western Australia, Putting Nature Back Into Nurture: The Benefits of Nature for Children.
About the Author: Laura Trotta (BEng (Environmental), MSc (Environmental Science)) is an eco mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She lives in regional South Australia with her husband Paul and son Matthew. Thank you to Narelle Debenham of NaturedKids for contributing to this article.
13 February 2012
By: Laura Trotta (BEng(Environmental, MSc (Environmental Chemistry))
Watch your toddler or pre-schooler delight in using their natural environment for inspiration and materials as they make their own nature collage.
Most pre-schoolers love craft activities, however there's no denying that they can make a huge mess! With just a few minutes of planning, it is possible to combine craft with the outdoors and set the stage for your child to create their own nature collage.
Nature collages have many benefits for both parent and child, which include:
- indulging children's love of craft without destroying the house,
- educating children about their natural environment,
- not costing you a fortune in craft materials
- having minimal environmental impact!
Requiring minimal effort to set up, nature collages are the perfect craft activity for children over two years, however are simple enough for toddlers to also enjoy. Simply follow the steps below and your child will be creating their own nature craft in no time:
- Set up a large sheet of paper and glue with paintbrush on a flat surface outside
- Explain to your child that they can collect any items in the garden to glue onto the paper (of course, if you don't want your prized pansies included you may need to say so)
- Take the opportunity while your child is collecting their "craft materials" to explain what they are, where they come from and/or why they are in your garden
- Watch your child enjoy both gathering the materials and constructing their own nature collage.
Last week my son Matthew made a nature collage using materials from our backyard. As you can see from the photos, he really got into the activity and enjoyed collecting (and pouring) the sand and gathering feathers from our chicken coup!
As we live in Outback Australia, our garden composition varies greatly to many other homes in Australia. I'd love to hear what items your child used in making their nature collage, or even better, see their collages! Feel free to post photos of your child's colourful creations on our Facebook page.
About the Author: Laura Trotta (BEng(Environmental), MSc (Environmental Chemistry)) is an eco mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She lives in regional South Australia with her husband Paul and son Matthew.