It Takes Two to Tandem
Tandem breastfeeding is when you nurse two or more children of different ages at the same time. Typically, this happens when you have an older child you are still nursing, and you add a new baby to the family. During the early months of pregnancy, your milk supply will probably decrease and the taste of your breast milk may change, which may lead to your older child weaning from breastfeeding. Some mothers experience more discomfort or exhaustion while pregnant and choose to wean, or in certain higher risk pregnancies your healthcare provider may recommend stopping breastfeeding while pregnant. However, if your older child is still nursing once the new baby is born, it is healthy and safe to continue to nurse both children.
Tandem Nursing vs. Nursing Twins
Tandem nursing is different from nursing twins because you are nursing children of different ages, and your older child will most likely not breastfeed as often as your newborn. When nursing twins, you can breastfeed them at the same time, or separately. For twins, it is often easier to breastfeed together when they are older because they will be able to help position themselves.
For nursing twins or tandem nursing, there are 2 positions that often work best.
- “Football hold” – your newborn comes to your breast from the side of your body and your toddler can then sit in your lap
- “Laid back” position – both your newborn and your toddler lay on you while you nurse
Will there be enough?
Since breastmilk production is based on supply and demand (when more milk is removed, your body increases production), your body will make enough milk to feed both of your children. However, remember that the new baby’s breastfeeding needs are the most important, especially in the first few days after birth when you are making colostrum. If you are worried about not having enough milk, feed your newborn before your older child. Once your milk supply becomes more established, you can breastfeed both children at the same time – it is all based on preference. Some moms choose to always feed the baby from one side and the toddler from the other, but again, this depends on your preference. There are no specific guidelines on how your feeding routine should go.
Benefits of Tandem Nursing
Tandem nursing can help your toddler better adjust to the addition of a new baby, keeping the comfort and familiarity of breastfeeding and also providing time to be close to mom. Nursing your older child can also help with engorgement or unclogging any blockages you may experience. Additionally, your older child can help quickly drive up your milk supply if you ever need a boost.
Challenges of Tandem Nursing
Adding a new baby to the family is tough no matter what, but sometimes tandem nursing can feel like more than you can take, leaving you overwhelmed and as if you never get a break.
If at any stage it feels wrong or not enjoyable, you could try feeding your toddler less by limiting their feeds to a certain number of times a day or limiting the amount of time they can stay on the breast. You can also try having a few days where you take a break from breastfeeding your toddler and seeing how you feel then. Tandem nursing is not for everyone, and it is important that you do what is best for both you and your children!
Blog Writer: Carly Goodroe
Expert Reviewer: Charlotte Houchins and Sheila LaFortune