The Big Latch On 2012, Farnham

Today we had a lovely picnic as part of The Big Latch On in Farnham, Surrey.

The Big Latch On  sees groups of breastfeeding women come together at registered locations around the world, at a set time they all latch on their child for one minute while being counted by witnesses. The numbers are added up and see if we beat previous Big Latch On records or maybe even the world record! Last year there were a total of 5687 nursing mothers in 412 locations in 5 countries.

At the time of writing – half way through the two day event – there are already 3503 breastfeeding children (allowing for tandem nursing!) in 624 locations over a whopping 23 countries! What an incredible increase in participation!

At our first ever Farnham event we had 12 breastfeeding mums and 13 nursing babies.

(Click twice to enlarge)

The Big Latch On is originally from New Zealand. It was started by Women’s Health Action in 2005 as part of World Breastfeeding Week. Each year they have seen a growth in the numbers of breastfeeding women attending and an increase in the support for breastfeeding in public. The Big Latch On was introduced to Portland, Oregon in 2010 by Joanne Edwards as a celebration for World Breastfeeding Week. In 2011 Joanne worked with Annie Brown and members of La Leche League USA to grow the Big Latch On across the USA.

And so it spread to the UK. Someone asked me today where I heard about the event, and I honestly don’t remember! I’m just glad I did and glad I was able to organise it.

Sitting there today, feeding my Aviya with the other mothers, I felt such a bond with not just those in our meetup, but with mothers all over the UK feeding at exactly the same time, and with those across the world nursing their babies at 10.30 local time throughout the world.

I know it wasn’t just me, either. One of the mums who attended wrote on her feedback form that it had a “lovely community spirit” and another wrote that the event “felt special”. I was proud, today, to be among mothers who are changing perceptions and changing the future for breastfeeding mothers in the gentlest way.

Naomi Stadlen writes in her new book, “How Mothers Love” (US here) about how mothers can be a force for change.

The political role of mothers is also changing. Every society owes a great deal to the work of the mothers. We could exert an even stronger and more conscious social and political influence than we have recently started to do. I often wonder if people are afraid that we might.



Breastfeeding Beyond The First Two Years

The theme for this week’s Keep Britain Breastfeeding is ‘Feeding after the first month’. That’s great and I’m sure you’ll find a wealth of information by reading through some of the other blog posts, but I want to skip a few months – around 24, to be precise, – and talk about breastfeeding an older child, a toddler.Read more: Breastfeeding Beyond The First Two Years

Breastfeeding Awareness Week Celebratory Picnic Farnham 2012

Sometimes when something you love is threatened, it’s easy to stand up and fight for it. It’s easy to march for it, it’s easy to protest or demonstrate. But sometimes the hardest thing for many of us – especially mothers – to do, is simply sit back and enjoy.

I’ve joined marches, sat outside government buildings, and flash mobbed public places, all in the name of breastfeeding, but this year I didn’t want it to be a fight. I just wanted to relish in the gift that I am able to give my girls, and celebrate the beauty of our breastfeeding relationship.Read more: Breastfeeding Awareness Week Celebratory Picnic Farnham 2012

Why I Support Medela UK

I support Medela UK. I support them as a company, I buy their products, I use their products and I occasionally run competitions on this blog for Medela pumps.

I commit not to review or run competitions for Medela bottles without pumps, but I feel unwilling to not publicly support Medela. It would be incredibly hypocritical.

When I had my first child, I used a Medela breastpump to express daily due to massive over supply. Thanks to my breastpump I was able to quickly express and get back to caring for and breastfeeding my baby.

When I had a problem with my pump, the PR company behind Medela – Bump PR – quickly resolved it for me.

I lived in South Africa for six months where I donated breastmilk for HIV positive babies, something I was able to do successfully, quickly, and easily due to my Mini Electric pump. I donated so much milk the staff were shocked.

For me to pretend they don’t exist because they advertise their one very unique teat, in a market flooded with advertising, would just feel wrong. Medela advertise breastfeeding bottles and breastmilk storage. They do not even make or sell formula dispensers, and to my knowledge they are the only producer in the UK who do not. Does that make them blameless? No. Does it make them the best option I believe I have? Yes. (Run a search on different company names on and of the products available in the UK, Medela comes up the least number of times.) Least bad is still better than very bad!

I know some companies are completely WHO compliant, and that is great, but unfortunately, many of them are not even found in the UK.

Hygeia for example, while being a fantastic company and committed to WHO compliance, is not commonly found in the UK.

Ameda are now available in the UK, from the Ameda website – so again, not commonly available – but go in and out of WHO Compliance.

I don’t even know  of others on the market, largely because we don’t get them here.

YOU KNOW HOW SMARTIES is Nestle owned in the UK, but not in the US? Well, if I were in the US and felt that we had the options available to us that the US do, or if I had ever seen a single Medela advert on TV (or even in a magazine?) I might feel differently about it.  Either way, if you want to list ‘sins’ of bottle manufacturers, Medela in the UK are about as compliant as those of us who pump can get right now.

Finding Supportive Breastfeeding Supporters

Breastfeeding is one of the most enriching, amazing things I’ve ever done. It’s also one of the hardest at times and often requires a dedication and commitment I didn’t know I had. I’ve often said that support is absolutely essential to a successful breastfeeding relationship, and where you find that support can make or break where you get in your breastfeeding goals.

(This post is not about formula feeding or formula feeding mothers. If a woman chooses to formula feed, that is her prerogative. If she has no choice due to misinformation, or booby traps, that’s another story.)

Where you find your support is essential to your success.

I sat in a class earlier this week listening to mothers talk about advice they’d been given by their doctors on a specific health issue. Every single one of them had received different advice, and some of it was flat out contradictory.Read more: Finding Supportive Breastfeeding Supporters

Six 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.

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.

Jessika from Job Description: Mommy

  • 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 think this will have to be part one and a part two will have to follow down the line, because there’s a lot more I can add, but would like to read up more about first.

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.


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Nine Benefits Of 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.

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.

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.

For the Mother:

Tandem Nursing - a 2yr 6mo and a 1 day old

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.

Breastfeeding A Toddler During The Third Trimester Of Pregnancy

Breastfeeding during pregnancy is an interesting experience.  More so with a child that’s able to talk to you. Really, if scientists want to fully understand breastfeeding, the production of milk during pregnancy and the changes in milk during that time, they need a core group of mothers breastfeeding children with communication skills. I don’t think there’s any more reliable evidence.

At around 20 weeks – I don’t remember exactly when, Ameli was nursing away happily one day, when she unlatched, looked at me with an obvious question mark on her face and said ‘that’s not milk, it’s something else’. Then threw herself at my nipple and guzzled away before pulling off again and saying, “what is it?”Read more: Breastfeeding A Toddler During The Third Trimester Of Pregnancy

Must Haves And Baby Essentials

Alternatively titled: What’s My Wishlist? 

I love seeing pictures of my baby and how he or she is growing in there, deep beyond my line of sight. When I found out I was pregnant, I signed up for a whole bunch of those ’your baby is x weeks along’ emails, so that I could get a general idea, more or less, of what’s going on in there.  Slowly but surely, with just over a month to go, if that, the ‘must have’ lists and ‘essentials for your new baby’ emails have been filtering steadily in.

I wrote a while back on PlayPennies about how new parents are spending on average £10,500 on their first child, and that mothers are wasting £158m each year, and I can tell you that we spent less than 10% of the average on Ameli before she was born, yet she came into this world lacking for nothing.Read more: Must Haves And Baby Essentials

Breastfeeding During Pregnancy

Every woman’s experience of both breastfeeding and pregnancy differs. As a result, it’s impossible to predict what it would be like for you. There is a very common thread, however, in the experiences of other mothers ‘pain’. *see the end of this post for links to some other experiences.

While I felt a certain amount of sensitivity around my nipples in the first trimester, it was never so bad that I even considered giving up (although due to Hyperemesis Gravidarum, I considered forced weaning). However, as we’ve approached and passed 16 weeks of pregnancy, the pain associated with latching on and off has become relatively excruciating, and I’ve found myself grimacing like never before during nursing.

Another problem I experienced in the first trimester was that nausea increased during breastfeeding, and I’d sometimes have to unlatch my daughter to vomit.
Read more: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy