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Tandem Feeding

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

At least some of you just read that title and thought to yourself "no, it's tandem NURSING." Ha! Yourself would be wrong. It's tandem FEEDING.

At least it is in my house.

I've mentioned a few times in past posts that Elnora is on breast milk again, though I haven't really given an explanation. I wanted to experiment a bit before I wrote about it here, but today seems as good a day as any.

As you know, I have enough milk to feed a daycare center. Granted, I'm too lazy...err...busy these days to pump it all out, but I've got the supply. Back when I was pumping for a friend's baby I got in the habit of pumping every morning. (I usually get up before Emmitt, so the timing is good.) I can get about 10-13 ounces in about 15 minutes. Once my friend didn't need milk anymore, I had started freezing it for the milk bank.

Then I got to thinking. As you know, Elnora is VERY thin. She's in about the 2nd percentile and only climbed back onto the charts within the past few months. She's perfectly healthy, but I always worry about what might happen if she'd catch a bad stomach bug. It happened once before and we had to take her to the children's ER and put her on IV hydration. Her little body just has no reserves to pull her through a bad bug.

I know that the milk bank sometimes sends milk out to toddlers, older children and even adults that have severe weight issues. For some reason, breast milk seems to stimulate weight gain. I mentioned that to Greg and he pointed out that while she's always been small, she never got "skinny" until after I stopped pumping.

So I wondered...how weird would it be to put her back on breast milk? After all, lots of two year olds are still nursing. It certainly couldn't HURT her and there was a good chance that it would help her. There was a momentary "yuck" factor in my brain (after all, she's been on cow's milk for a year) before I snapped to my senses and got over it.

The next morning, that 10 ounces went into her Nuby cup. I put it in the fridge for a few hours so that it was cold, then swished it around and gave it to her.

She took a drink. Paused, looked at me with a quizzical look on her face ("Mom, this tastes different") and then proceeded to CHUG all 10 ounces. I could just hear Cousin Eddie's voice in her head going "it is gooooooooooood."

So for the past three weeks, Elnora has gotten 8-10 ounces of milk about 5 days a week and the milk bank has gotten about 5 ounces of milk each day.

Now here's where it gets interesting. On the days that she starts off with breast milk...she eats like a HORSE. It's uncanny. The first few times I thought it was coincidence, but it's the absolute truth. On a cow's milk day, she eats hardly anything, just like she did before, on a breast milk day, she eats everything in site. For example...

On a cow's milk day, she might eat this...
10 ounces of cow's milk
6 ounces of juice
6 ounces of water
a quarter of a waffle or an 1/8 cup of organic honey nut o's
half a banana or one clementine
a half a slice of bread with butter
5 or 6 green beans
a handful of goldfish crackers

On a breast milk day, she might eat this...
10 ounces of breast milk
6 ounces of juice
6 ounces of water
1.5 waffles
a whole banana
1/4 cup fresh pineapple
2 clementines
1/2 cup organic honey nut o's
1/2 cup green beans
1/2 CAN of canned pasta (or on one day, 3/4 of a personal pan pizza)
whole slice buttered bread
1/3 cup corn or broccoli
1/2 cup goldfish crackers

No joke, I'd estimate she takes in two to three times the amount of calories on the days that she has breast milk. I don't know if it triggers something in her digestive system or what the deal is, but it sure seems to be working. I told Greg that we'd weigh her in a month or so and see if she's gained some weight. In reality, as long as I'm nursing Emmitt, it's not a problem to pump and give her some expressed milk. I suppose she can have it for the next year or so if she wants. We'll just see how it goes.

So my question is...am I nuts? Has anyone else tried this? Again, I know lots of people tandem nurse, but does anyone know of a child who was weaned and then put back on breast milk a year later? Do you let your older children have expressed milk if they've weaned? Just curious to hear your thoughts on the subject.

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  1. Blogger Shelly | 9:36 AM |  

    When my two year old is sick, or when I want to try to prevent her from getting sick, I like to give her expressed milk in her sippy cup. I think what you are doing is a good idea.

  2. Blogger cooler*doula | 9:39 AM |  

    I think this is a GREAT idea. So good for her, not to mention it certainly seems to boost her appetite.

    If I was in your position, I would totally be doing this. And if we have another little person soon, and I manage to have success nursing, I will be doing this. I'm sold.

    Good on you mom!

  3. Blogger mamamilkers | 10:21 AM |  

    Wow, that really is interesting! I am still nursing my older DD, so I have no experience with this, but it's fascinating. I would love to hear what you find out!

  4. Blogger Darlene | 11:18 AM |  

    My guess is that the cow's milk takes so long to digest that she feels full (or at least, not hungry) and therefore eats less solids and, probably, less often. When infants are formula or milk-fed they go longer between feedings, right?

  5. Blogger Celticdragonfly | 12:09 PM |  

    I don't think you're nuts at all. I think it was a good idea and it sounds like it's working well for her. I think you should stick with it.

    I have something similar - my 4 1/2 year old is awfully small, her just now 3 year old brother outweighs her. I lost my milk when she was just under a year, when I was pregnant. She wasn't interested in nursing when he was born. I never thought to give her expressed milk. But hey, maybe I'll try it this summer when the next baby is born, see if it helps her.

  6. Blogger Lindsey | 12:12 PM |  


    I think it's awesome that Nora is taking breastmilk again! If it's good for a newborn, it's good for a 2 year old.

    I would assume she's eating more on breastmilk days b/c she's digesting it much faster than cow's milk.

    I think it's wonderful...and no, I don't think you're nuts. :-)

  7. Blogger Carrie Lauth | 2:26 PM |  

    There were many times I wanted to offer my older kids breastmilk, but I was too busy or lazy to pump.

  8. Blogger tanya@motherwearblog | 7:48 PM |  

    That's so great! I wonder if Darlene is right - it makes sense to me.

  9. Anonymous Sinead@BreastFeedingMums | 4:10 AM |  

    That is so cool! I wish I'd thought to try it last week when all my kids were so ill with a severe tummy bug. I felt so guilty that I was breastfeeding one and giving him so much protection, whilst my other two were being urged to drink cola (under medical advice!) to keep their fluid levels up!

    I also agree it's probably because cows' milk is so heavy it leaves your little girl full up. For a while in our house we had to ban cows' milk until after the children had eaten solids, otherwise they ate very little all day and also got terribly constipated - again, probably due to the high fat content in cows' milk!

  10. Blogger Judy | 8:41 AM |  

    I think it's great this is working for you, and don't think it's weird at all.

    I tandem nursed for 4 months, and weaned my older son when he was 2 1/2. Since then, when I've pumped milk and my younger son hasn't finished it, or I've had no need for the pumped milk, I've given it to my older son. I also pumped milk specifically for him when he was sick last month. I don't know that it helped, but it certainly couldn't hurt.

    He's been weaned for 5 months now, but he still sometimes asks to nurse, and I think this partly helps me with my guilt too!

  11. Anonymous Anonymous | 6:43 AM |  

    Dare I ask why there's no meat on that eating list? *sigh*

  12. Blogger beth | 8:33 PM |  

    This really has nothing to do with your Tandem Feeding, but rather Tandem Nursing. This is the first blog I've seen that mentions it. I'm 8 months pregnant with my second and my 19 month old is still nursing. I dried up when I got pregnant, but she still insists, so we still nurse. I've given serious thought to tandem nursing and was wondering if you knew of any sites that would give information on this subject? My husband is worried there won't be enough milk for the new baby because of how often my toddler nurses. You can leave a comment on my blog or email me (pretty sure my email address is on my blog profile somewhere...). :-) Thanks!

  13. Anonymous amygeekgrl | 7:58 PM |  

    i don't think it's weird at all. i have several friends whose first child weaned before the second one was born, but they occasionally pumped some extra breastmilk for their first born. and these kids seem to gobble it right up too like they know it's a special treat. :)

    i think it's great for elnora, not only for the added calories and helping her appetite, but for all the wonderful antibodies.

    for the record, i'm still nursing my 2 1/2 yr old once a day, as well as nursing my 11 wk old. i don't really consider it tandem nursing since she only nurses 1/day, but i think if she had weaned before he was born, i'd probably express some milk for her just as you are doing. :)

  14. Blogger Ethel | 5:33 PM |  

    My sister and her DH used her extra expressed milk on breakfast cereal when out of cow's milk.

    I really hope some research on breastmilk and appetite comes out at some point - this story is fascinating!

  15. Anonymous erica@alumni.reed.edu | 1:30 PM |  

    I gave one of my daughters some breast milk in a sippy cup when she was 2, about a year after I weaned her (because I was pregnant with her sister and pretty much stopped making milk). She gave me a strange look and said, "It's mommy milk!" and then drank it all. I couldn't believe she still remembered!

  16. Blogger Natalie | 8:18 AM |  

    yes bm is an appetite stimulant in that it digests quickly and efficiently so they are hungry again sooner.
    DD gained no weight while I was pregnant w/ DS (she nursed through the pregnancy) but when DS was born (DD was 31 months) they both gained 1 pound a week for those first 8 weeks. Basically she was getting skim milk while I was pregnant but once the whole milk came back she gained weight again.
    I keep expressed milk in the freezer for when they get the stomach flu after they are both weaned.

  17. Anonymous s | 7:10 AM |  

    How old is too old for breast milk? I've a six year old daughter and I wish I could nurse her because She lost a lot of weight when I stopped her from breast milk when she was about 6 months old. I couldnt help much at that time but now I have the possibility and i have been really puzzled if I could do this. I was searching for the information online and found this page. Would be thankful for any good suggestions.

  18. Blogger The Lactivist | 9:30 AM |  

    Sure! You can feed your six year old breastmilk.

    There is no age limit where it becomes not good for you, they're usually just a limit for when mom and child want to continue the nursing relationship.

    I think you'd be hard pressed to nurse a six year old that hadn't nursed since they were six months, but hey, that's your call.

    An easier option, if you are currently lactating, is to simply express milk with a breast pump and give it to her in a cup.

  19. Anonymous s | 5:21 AM |  

    many thanks for the reply. i can express milk and give her in cup.

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