There is no question that tandem breastfeeding can be a challenge. But is it worth it? Many mothers are unsure if they should even attempt to breastfeed two children at the same time.
In this blog post, we will discuss the pros and cons of tandem breastfeeding and help you decide if it is right for you.
What is Tandem Breastfeeding?
Tandem nursing is the process of breastfeeding more than one child at a time- Tandem nursing may involve literally breastfeeding two in one session, but some tandem nursing mothers breastfeed their nurslings in separate sessions.
A mother may be tandem nursing two children or more, she may have a newborn baby and toddler, or perhaps twins or triplets. Every family is different! Tandem breastfeeding toddlers can be hard work, but has amazing benefits too.
Why Tandem Nurse?
It may be that you’ve just had multiples! Nursing twins can be tricky, but there are a number of tandem nursing positions you can use to comfortably manage.
Tandem nursing your older child as they adjust to your new family dynamic can help ease stress for all of you. Many mothers find that they completely avoid any jealousy when baby arrives, because their toddler can enjoy mom’s love attention nursing right next to the younger baby.
The nutritional value and immunological properties of breastmilk are important for helping children overcome illness. Your nursing toddler will reap the emotional benefits as well as health benefits if you choose to feed both your toddler and newborn.
Is My Milk Enough?
Many parents worry that when they’re breastfeeding in tandem, that the milk may not cater to both the younger and older child, or that breastfeeding mothers can’t possibly be able to produce enough milk for both. It’s not worth worrying about!
As mentioned above, breast milk is changes constantly, from colostrum when pregnant to mature milk to nourish your toddler nurse.
Milk even changes throughout the nursing session! Your milk will adapt to meet the nutritional demands of your new baby first and formost, but is still beneficial to your older child.
Think about it like milk “resetting,” so the production of milk now follows your youngest children’s developmental needs (but still supports your toddler too!).
Will I Make Enough Breast Milk?
Yes! Remember that Breastfeeding works by supply and demand- in tandem feeding, your body is ordered to produce more!
If anything, nursing two or more children can help- your older child will be an efficient feeder. Remind yourself of all the breastfeeding basics by reading our top tips for breastfeeding.
You will find that tandem nursing increases your milk supply drastically. You might like to let newborn nurse first, offering one breast and then the next, before you offer the breast to your older child.
Your older child should be established on solid foods by now, so it’s okay to let the weaning toddler wait until you feel that the baby has had enough milk.
Breastfeeding During Pregnancy
The breastfeeding relationship can be tricky in pregnancy; your pregnancy hormones and make your nipples feel sensitive, may temporarily reduce your milk supply or may generally make you irritable.
Nursing aversion is common amongst older children, as pregnancy hormones affect the taste of mother’s milk. If you suffer from nursing agitation, you may find that this eases if you night wean your older child
Many mothers stick out breastfeeding during pregnancy because they wish to continue breastfeeding their older child even after the birth of the unborn baby. Many mothers report that tandem nursing can help the older sibling adjust to a new baby.
Is It Safe to Breastfeed During Pregnancy?
Some family physicians worry that nursing while pregnant may pose a risk to the growing baby.
The theory behind this concern is that the suckling of the older child might stimulate uterine contractions, leading to preterm labour.
In reality, most mothers can safely continue their breastfeeding journey throughout pregnancy, provided she and the unborn baby have no risk factors, for example, a previous baby being born premature.
A lactation consultant or la leche league international advisor can help support you in assessing the risks and benefits if you choose to continue nursing- for both you and your babies. In the end, the woman’s personal decision should be respected and supported.
Benefits of Tandem Nursing Two Children (Or More!)
Tandem nursing has measurable health advantages, both emotional and physical. Nursing your older child will help them adjust to your subsequent pregnancy and their new baby sibling, as well as providing them with important nutritional value and immunological benefits.
Cons to Tandem Nursing
Although tandem breastfeeding is very beneficial for babies, it can cause some problems. By the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy, mom often will often feel tired and irritable, and nursing an older child adds additional physical burden.
Hormones may also reduce milk supply, leading to dry nursing. This can cause frustration for both mom and child.
Is It Healthy To Tandem Breastfeed?
For a healthy mom, there’s no reason it wouldn’t be! Mom should surely take extra care to ensure she is well fed, rested and hydrated.
When breastfeeding a toddler and newborn, it’s also wise to keep an eye on the development of the younger nursing child in particular, to ensure that he is receiving enough milk to support his growth and that one baby (the older one!) isn’t having more than her share.
Let your new baby nurse first when you are tandem nursing two children of different ages.
There are many family physicians supporting tandem nursing out there, so find a doctor who will support you in your journey!
The Early Days – What To Expect
In pregnancyand in the days after your baby’s birth your body produces Colostrum, and milk becomes abundant within three weeks. You should be nursing your new baby a little more than 8-12 times daily for milk production.
Some tandem nursing moms worry that their baby may not get enough milk if they choose to tandem nurse a toddler and newborn, and for this reason many mothers prefer to reduce nursing sessions in the toddler in the beginning.
When baby arrives, you’ll find that he will want to nurse constantly and you may need to teach your older nursing child some patience- but there is no need to stop feeding! You’ll find that tandem nursing can massively help reduce jealousy in the older child in these early intense days.
Simply watch your baby for signs of satiation and provide him with full access to the breasts to make sure he is taking what he needs.
What About Colostrum?
Colostrum is a special product designed especially for babies in their early days of life. It probably makes sense to give your newborn baby first dibs when it comes to this liquid gold, but it’s still okay to tandem nurse. One child won’t take up your whole supply!
Does Tandem Nursing Increase Milk Supply?
Yes! Remember that breastfeeding works by supply and demand, so the more you nurse, the more your body is signalled to produce. Tandem nursing will mean that plenty of milk orders are being placed by your babies! Rest plenty, keep hydrated and let your breasts do the hard work.
The early weeks may be tiring, but your milk supply should be well established within 6 weeks.
Take Care Of Yourself
As beautiful and beneficial as tandem nursing is, it can also be exhausting, so make sure that you take plenty of rest, and are eating and drinking enough. You might find meditation and other relaxation techniques to be extremely helpful- stress can inhibit milk supply.
Do accept help and support from friends and family. Self-care is crucial to motherhood especially when you experience huge body transformations and constant stresses.
What Should I do If I Feel Irritated With My Child?
Just as breastfeeding a child during pregnancy is an individual choice, as is tandem nursing. It is completely normal to feel a bit agitated while nursing the older child in particular. Believe it or not, even toddlers can sense our emotions.
You may find it helpful to read or watch television while nursing,or any other distraction that you might enjoy.
If you are dreading nursing or tandem nursing, it’s time to consider whether weaning is the better choice for both of you- your feelings are natural and valid.
Toddler Nursing Like a Newborn?
If you have an older child, you may be frustrated to find that he begins to nurse as frequently as the newborn!
Remember that toddlers go through developmental leaps too, or they may simply think of breastfeeding more when their baby sibling is breastfeeding frequently.
It’s perfectly normal for toddlers to go through short phases of wanting more milk, but, relax, it normally isn’t long before they start to lose interest and enjoy solid food again!
Having the opportunity to nurse the child is a good bonding experience and chance to reconnect, but if it’s becoming too much, consider introducing some boundaries.
Benefits of Extended Breast-Feeding
Truth be told, breast milk helps a child grow even when they’ve reached toddlerhood. Breastmilk is filled with essential nutrients and antibodies that promote healthy immunity at a young age.
Breastfed children are less susceptible to immune conditions as a consequence. Additionally, there are well documented benefits to the emotional health of the child.
Due to this, the WHO has recommended breastfeeding children as young as two years old, and for as long as mutually desired by both mother and child. There is no perfect time to stop breastfeeding. Not sure if it’s for you? Read our blog about all the pros and cons of extended breastfeeding.
A Time for Weaning
While some moms believe in child-led weaning, others take steps to actively reduce and stop breastfeeding. Ideally, weaning should be gradual and done at a pace that suits both mom and baby.
Many moms like to begin with night weaning so that they can start sleeping better, others find it easier to wean during the day first, while their child can easily be distracted with other activities.
Tips on Weaning Toddlers
Tandem nursing can be exhausting, so don’t feel bad if you feel it’s time to wean one or both of your children. There are a number of strategies you can use to wean gently.
Do NOT feel pressured. You have to know your baby more than anyone else. Our top tip is to follow their lead.
Many moms like to begin with night weaning so that they can start sleeping better, other’s find it easier to wean during the day first, while their child can easily be distracted with other activities. We’ve created a helpful guide to help you if you’re wondering how to wean your toddler.
The Bottom Line On Tandem Nursing
Tandem nursing can carry huge benefits for mom and her nurslings. Tandem nursing can help soothe sibling rivalry for older children when a new baby comes along, plus children who are tandem nursed in early childhood very often share a closer bond as they grow.
Tandem feeding also stimulates more milk production, and allows your older child to reap all the well known emotional and physical benefits of extended breastfeeding.
That said, when you tandem feed two or more children, you are undoubtedly placing extra physical demands on your body. Always ensure to take good care of yourself! And don’t forget, the choice is a personal one, so do not let yourself ever feel pressured, either to tandem nurse, or to stop breastfeeding your older child.
This article was written by Sandra Baker – full time writer and the mother of four amazing kids (including twins!)
She’s also a breastfeeding counselor and has spent years helping new parents learn how to care for their children. When she’s not writing or caring for her children, Sandra likes to spend time reading and taking walks with her husband.