Panting through her labour, Alicia Dixon, who was having a home birth, heard her toddler MJ wake up.
‘He’d always been a difficult sleeper, and the only thing that would settle him was breastfeeding,’ she explains.
It meant that even as she was giving birth to baby Poppy, she was also feeding her little boy.
‘It ended up slowing my labour down,’ says Alicia, 35. ‘He went off to my mum’s in the morning, and Poppy was born quickly after that.’
From then on she had two hungry mouths to feed.
‘Before the birth, MJ hadn’t been feeding that much. But when Poppy fed, he wanted it too. At the beginning I was feeding them both about six times a day.’
Tandem feeding – breastfeeding multiple children together – was something she had researched and was keen to try.
‘When I fell pregnant with Poppy, MJ was only one,’ Alicia explains. ‘He cried for the first 12 months of his life. We know now he had an undiagnosed tongue tie, but it meant we were inseparable because feeding was the only time he was calm. I couldn’t imagine giving up breastfeeding him, even when I was pregnant.’
Having debunked the myth that you can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding, the Melbourne mum wondered if she could keep feeding MJ and her new baby.
Armed with lots of online information, Alicia also spoke with other mums on Facebook.
‘I realised MJ might wean himself... but there was a good chance [tandem breastfeeding] would work, too,’ Alicia says.
‘It actually really helped Poppy having MJ on the other side, as he made the milk flow faster.’
It also solved the problem of what to do with a toddler while breastfeeding a new baby!
The experience was so positive that when Alicia fell pregnant with Alex 12 months later, she decided she would try to feed all three children.
Alex is now eight weeks old and Alicia is successfully breastfeeding him 12 times a day, 22-month-old Poppy twice, and three-year-old MJ once or twice.
‘It means I’m sitting down a lot,’ she laughs. ‘I’m lucky my husband Michael is so supportive and helpful. We do manage to go out, too. I rarely need to feed the older ones then, but if I need to, I will. A few weeks ago, I needed to comfort MJ on the train and nobody batted an eyelid.’
The couple also have three older children – Shelby, 11, Charlotte, six, and Emily, five.
‘It’s been great to have the opportunity to educate them,’ Alicia says. ‘I had to bottle feed Emily from a month old, so I’ve had various experiences to share.’
For the full story, see this week’s New Idea – Out now.
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