Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Triandem Nursing: Three is a Happy Crowd

Number 2 and number 3 nursing together

Number 1 and number 3 nursing together

During my last pregnancy, I wrote about our journey of nursing during pregnancy and tandem nursing. (You can read it here.)

Now that the baby is here, I can share our journey of triandem nursing! 

So, first off, what's not so great about triandem nursing? The obvious. I only have two boobs, but now I have three kids. Sometimes it looks like a scene from a Discovery show, with three hungry little kids shouldering their way in for the grub. Thankfully, I haven't noticed any hurt feelings or outright fighting. What helps is to pay attention to each child's individual needs. I know to feed the baby while the kids are happily playing, for example, so when they are tired out, they aren't stuck standing in line. 

And now, what's great about triandem nursing? For me, the part I love the most is the bonding. Tandem nursing provided many moments of sibling love, and triandem nursing has only expanded on that! It brings tears to my eyes sometimes when we're all quietly nestled together and I'm nursing two with one cuddled up against my shoulder, patiently waiting. They have a hand on each other's shoulder, head or are holding hands at all times. It's just beautiful. It's very hard to get photos during times like these, since my hands and often my legs as well are all being used lol! So the few photos that I have so far I treasure. 

I know that having my toddlers with me at the baby's birth and nursing immediately afterwards was very reassuring to them. DS1 (Dear Son 1) was the first to nurse with the baby. I could see in his eyes that he was finally accepting what I had told him many times. He was not being replaced, kicked to the side or forgotten. His brother fit into our family, too, and all would be okay in the end. 

DD (Dear Daughter) is only 3 years old, but she dotes on her youngest brother so much that she seems wise beyond her years. She will often tell me things such as, "Mama, you give the baby boobahs first. I'll wait." And I sat in awe the first time DS1 reached over and latched the baby onto my breast. He acted nonchalant, as if it was totally normal to just latch his little brother on while he was nursing as well! Very cute.

Like during pregnancy, I can get very hungry and need to pay attention to my body. I eat frequent meals and carry a water bottle with me at all times. Triandem nursing has only increased my motivation to care for my body, too. I'm not in the habit of calorie counting, but for the purpose of giving a reference, I probably consume about 3,000 calories daily. I eat to my fill and try to make the choices count (whole foods, nourishing foods, organic and clean).

Nourishment for the baby. I frequently get asked how I make sure the littlest one gets the nourishment he needs. Did my colostrum arrive at all? Yes, definitely, it arrived and all three of my children benefited from it. There was plenty to go around and my body made colostrum for at least 2 days (on the third day I became engorged...toddlers are awesome for that issue as well!)

Having older nurslings is also helpful for foremilk/hindmilk issues and oversupply, both things that I experience. My older children were more than happy to drink up all the fore milk and they could handle the strong letdowns so that my newborn could nurse on the fattening hind milk without being choked. It was a great balance.

After all three children nursed, I quickly hand expressed this colostrum. 

Sleeping. Everyone wants to know how this works for bedsharing families. It works well, but it's a bit tricky due to my personal anatomy. My breasts are not large enough for me to easily nurse two babies on my back. So it's a constant balancing act to find out who is sleepy first, who needs mama first, and then nurse that child to sleep, slip away carefully, then roll over to nurse the next child. When I do this right, the bedtime routine is very peaceful and amazingly easy. In 15 minutes, I can have 3 children happily sleeping. 

But if I make a mistake in this calculation, things can get hairy and I become very grateful for my husband, who will try to rock or sing to one or two of them while I help the neediest of the bunch. At any rate, it's not harder. It's just...more. It's more of what I've already been doing.

Here we are all together when the baby was a week old.
Interestingly, my oldest child is to the point of sleeping through the night, or maybe waking one time and going back to sleep quickly. And my youngest will sleep in fairly good chunks most nights. It's my middle child who has started to sleep like a newborn, wanting to be on the breast permanently and crying if I unlatch him. I suspect it's his 2 year molars and I try to be as patient as possible. 

If I could do it all over again, would I change anything? NO WAY! Even during the trying times, even when my back aches or I feel overly needed, I still feel intense happiness and gratitude for the ability to nurse my three children. I've been able to stick with my convictions (such as child led weaning and responsive parenting). I've been able to promote sibling bonding and reduce sibling rivalry. I have a very handy trick when it comes to toddler tantrums. And being able to nurse 3 kids down for simultaneous naps? That's da bomb! 

I know that nursing can be difficult with one child, let alone 2 or 3. I congratulate mamas out there who found themselves on different journeys ending in different ways and who are still loving their babies in all the ways they can. But for those mamas who are wondering right now what choices to make and who are pregnant right now and feeling discouraged, thinking they have to restrict their love and attention or change their methods....please consider tandem/triandem nursing! It won't hurt to try!

My oldest child, nursing at 3.25 years

My second child, nursing at 18 months

My youngest child, nursing at 2 months


  1. This is just beautiful. I truly hope to have this experience some day. Even if I have to have three more children, lol.

  2. This was really interesting and informative....I've never known anyone who nursed 3 at once!

    That last picture is cute :-)

  3. Guggie, you always go forward and with an enormously kind, loving and spot on direction with your family. I wish it were a morning adventure all women had to partake in to read your thinking, it is a better way. Thank you Guggie.

  4. This brought tears to my eyes and encouragement in my heart. Being 16 weeks along and still nursing my 14 month old, I know neither of us are ready to stop. Sometimes I doubt my ability to handle nursing her through this pregnancy and even after, but have no desire to wean her before she is ready. Thank you for the encouragement and seeing the sibling bond is worth it all to me!

  5. You just answered a bunch of questions I had! Thank you! I have a baby due in just about 3 weeks and my 2 year old is still nursing, so I've been thinking a lot about how it's going to work out, especially at night :)

  6. Yay, I love this! I'm triandem nursing too, my twins and their older sister, so HI, great to see other mums who secretely wish for an extra boob on their back (or is that just me? Yeah probably just me.) I think it has been absolutely wonderful for their sibling bonding. I've tandemed with all my kids (I have seven) and I've never had an issue of jealousy or sibling rivalry when the new baby came along...I put that down to them nursing together. When they're both cuddled up against you, and each other, getting filled with the love hormones that breastfeeding stimulates, well...they can't help but fall in love with each other too.

    I so hear you on the small breasts, can't lay on back and feed two easily issue. We tried all sorts of different positions. I even stacked one of the babies on top of their older sister a few times and side nursed them both! She lay on her back with her head turned towards me nursing the lower boob, cuddling her brother who nursed the top one. That was pretty cool.

    Anyway, cheers Guggie, I was really looking forward to this post ever since you talked about triandem nursing in one of your pregnancy posts, thank you so much for writing it.

    1. err, secretely should read secretly...that's a freudian slip if ever I saw one ahahah lol @ me

  7. Oh my goodness, this was so touching and just wonderful to read. What a blessed mother and family. Most moving was how your children share one of their biggest treasures, their momma's milk, with each other. I loved this post. It was an inspiring and emotional read. ~Jenny

  8. I'm triandem nursing too and have been for over 9 months. They normally take turns because they climb on me enough that I don't really want two latched at once. While I was pregnant, at least in the early months (before nursing became irritating to me temporarily), I would lay down in bed and nurse both the older two at the same time. There has been very little jealousy among the kids. Only a little between my middle and youngest once the baby could crawl around and get into things. It's definitely a unique parenting experience. Mine don't all sleep with me, just the youngest. So we snuggle in their beds and nurse and sing before bed. My middle son can't wait until the baby is big enough to sleep in his room! And my oldest is a bit jealous and hopes I have a baby girl next so she can have a "friend" in her room too!

    1. I'm triandem nursing my 3 littles. One just turned 5, one will be 3 in a couple months and our youngest is going on 4 months. So far, like you, the only downside has been wishing I had a third breast ;) but overall its been really smooth and my kids also have no jealousy or rivalry issues. Its been wonderful!

  9. This is amazing! You go girl! Grow those beautiful babes!

  10. WOW! Very inspiring...I've breastfed for over 8 years of my life with my 5 children (and still feeding my youngest at 16 months) but never more than one at once...I have no regrets but it does make me kinda wonder if I could have fed my middle 3 for a bit longer :D

  11. this is such a wonderful post!! thank you so much for sharing this- it is so heartwarming to see and read about!! my son is an only child at 21 months and will get the baby doll to 'nurse' with him sometimes, so i am looking forward to another child that he can bond with while nursing!! so sweet!

  12. This is so precious. :) I tandem nurse (a 5 month and 27 month old) and have been having pregnancy symptoms. Before taking a test I decided to look up if it's even possible to nurse three children at once. This is exactly what I imagine it would be. :) I shared the link with Respect the Breast page on Facebook. They are nonjudgmental support group for women.

  13. This blog just keeps on giving...I am pg with 17 mo twins. Reading this gives me more ideas. Thank you! Jenny

  14. Thank you so much for sharing this! I was feeling frazzled as to what I would do when the time came... My oldest is 8 and not nursing but my second (5) still does a few times a day and my youngest (2) is about the same but we just found out I'm expecting again! and I had one of those weird moments of "I must be the only one in the world who would be trying to tritandem lol *silly me* This is beautiful and amazing and thank you again for sharing!