'Badass Breastfeeder' Nurses Toddler & Newborn: You Got a Problem With That?

badass breastfeederWhen Abby Theuring first named her blog The Badass Breastfeeder, it was a bit of a joke. But the name certainly fits a woman who has become the center of a national debate over breastfeeding your toddler and your baby both -- at the same time.

Abby's son Exley is 5 weeks old. Her son Jack will be 3 this month. And the former social worker from Chicago is not ready to wean either one. But when she said so on her blog, in an article boldly titled "I Will Not Wean My 3-Year-Old," the Internet debate began.

The Stir asked this badass mama to share how she plans to tandem nurse a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old, and why she's glad her story is spreading:

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Where did the name The Badass Breastfeeder come from?

Before the blog and Facebook page, I was a part of a mommy Facebook group. I shared a breastfeeding photo of Jack and me in there one day and got a crash course in breastfeeding politics. Some people said it was gross to share that pic, that it is a private moment and I shouldn't share pics like that. Others came to my defense and it was a whole dramatic scene. This motivated me to start my own page dedicated to sharing breastfeeding photos.

When I shared this idea with my friend, she said, "You should call it The Badass Breastfeeder." It sort of suits my personality.

How did you become such an advocate for breastfeeding and moms in general?

By total accident! At the same time as the idea came to create the Facebook page, I became interested in blogging. I had just decided not to return to work and began to write about my experiences as a new mother.

I had a difficult time getting started with breastfeeding. I was told to supplement with formula to help build my supply, which is terrible advice, and I spent about two months trying to save my breastfeeding relationship. The amount of research I did and the amount of dedication that I showed during that time were a total surprise to me. I fought so hard. I didn't know I had that in me.

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Also through that research, I learned about Attachment Parenting and felt a deep connection to it. I felt like all of my struggles as a new mom were being validated. I just kept writing and writing about this transformation that my family was going through and people identified with it.

After a while, so many people were following that I sort of naturally adjusted to this "advocate" role. The job that I had left was as a social worker. I think it's something that just finds me.

Let's get personal -- when did it hit you that you were going to be nursing Jack and Exley at the same time? Was it a conscious plan or just something that happened?

It was totally planned. Even before getting pregnant, I had seen pictures of women doing it and it just seemed so beautiful and intimate. I thought that it seemed like a great way to help adjust to a new sibling. I got my mind on it and really wanted to succeed at it.

Jack had always nursed frequently, and I was fairly sure that he would nurse through my pregnancy and still be nursing once a new baby came. It seemed like a great way to continue to meet his needs, to remain close and form a new bond as our family grew.

Was there ever a moment when you said, "Hey, what the heck am I doing?"

ALL. THE. TIME.

About halfway through my pregnancy, I began to experience nursing aversion. A very intense feeling of irritation and creepy-crawly while Jack was latched on. It's physical, emotional, psychological. It's quite difficult to deal with. Some days were good, some bad. I stuck it out in hopes that it would subside when the baby was born. It's still here. I still have good days and bad.

Jack has increased his nursing since the birth of Exley. I think it's a natural reaction to the adjustment to our new family member. I feel strongly that continuing my breastfeeding relationship with Jack is the right thing for my family, but it's a really big struggle right now. We are working hard on creating some boundaries so that my body can relax and rest. If it were up to Jack, he would nurse all day!

So why are you doing it anyway?!

It's something that has always been a big part of Jack's life. I don't feel it is the right time to wean him. We are all going through such a huge adjustment, I think it would do more harm than good to switch it up so drastically right now. We are making progress together, and I can tell that Jack and Exley are drawn to it.

They are the most settled and relaxed when they are both latched on. It really is helping them bond.

Abby Theuring tandem nursingI love how you said it's "not pretty" when you're feeding both boys. So real! What's the biggest challenge to nursing a toddler and a newborn?

For me the nursing aversion is the biggest struggle. I have to be careful to monitor my own emotions so that I don't get too touched-out or overwhelmed. After that just finding a comfortable position. It's not nothing having three humans stuffed into a chair!

It's definitely real life doing all this. There is no way to fake it for the camera when there is a bouncing toddler nearly crushing the newborn who has no control over his own body. One day I was nursing them both when my husband walked up to me and handed me a plate of food. You have no hands free when you are tandem nursing. I looked up at him and said, "You're f--king kidding me, right?"

What's the biggest joy?

Seeing Jack and Exley getting to know each other, watching them explore each other. Jack likes to do the Itsy Bitsy Spider finger walk up Exley's leg to his arm over his head onto my head and down his own body. It's really adorable.

Or Exley will get his fingers all tangled into his mouth and break the latch. Jack will watch him and pull his hand away so he stays latched on.

Now for the nitty gritty ... how are you making it work? Any good tips for other moms?

Just know that sometimes you are going to feel that you aren't capable of making it all work. It's OK to feel that way. It's no reflection on the quality of work you are doing. It's just crazy madness some days.

We've decided it's OK to totally give up on a day. We'll just stay in our pajamas, watch TV all day, eat ice cream before dinner, have dinner on paper plates, and call it a day.

I can't chase this imaginary perfect mother ideal. It makes me crazy. I have no idea how I am making it work. Oftentimes, I feel like nothing works. I guess you can only take it one moment at a time, and when that falls completely apart, just know there is another one and try again.

Some things I have been trying are creating boundaries with Jack. I make sure to have food and drinks available to him all the time. I am trying to create more of a schedule for him so that he is not just hanging on my boob endlessly. Also getting out of the house. This is only helpful if you have a frequently nursing toddler. Otherwise, I might suggest lots of pillows to try to find a comfortable position!

What is the reaction like when you're out with both boys? Any bad?

I have only had two boys for a month, but I have tandem breastfed in public several times and no one bats an eye. I have never had any negative feedback nursing in public. It's so unlikely that will happen.

How about good?

I've had lots of "good job mama!" "way to go!" "you rock!" type comments. It's really online where the negativity prevails. In real life, humans often treat each other like, well, humans!

Why do you think people have responded to your story of breastfeeding both boys?

I think it's because it involves so many controversial aspects all wrapped into one. Nursing a toddler, tandem nursing, nursing in public are all things that everyone seems to have a strong opinion about.

Also, there are so many moms doing this, but it's not something that you see very often and some even hide it. I think people get excited when they see someone doing things similar to them. It's validation.

If another mom asks you if she should do what you're doing ... what do you say?

I say "hell no." The only way anyone is going to be happy and at peace is by figuring out what is right for them and doing that. I want to help women explore all of the options since we are generally only presented with a couple of ways to do things. I want women to have all of the information. And then they can make the decision for their family about what is best.

Empowering women is not about telling them what to do. It's about helping them figure out what is best for them and giving them the confidence to do exactly that.

Are you a badass breastfeeder? Share your story below!

 

Images via Abby Theuring

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