I never intended to breastfeed two babies simultaneously, but learning how to manage to breastfeed a toddler and a newborn baby became one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Embracing this unexpected challenge brought surprising rewards and personal growth.
I never intended to engage in tandem breastfeeding, but I became pregnant with my third child shortly after my second. Like many lactating parents, I found it difficult to decide whether to continue breastfeeding my older kid or wean before the birth of my second child.
I wavered, but my pregnancy passed quickly. I continued to breastfeed my child, who showed no desire to wean, despite the change in taste, reduction in supply, and expanding stomach.
Before I knew it, my infant was nursing from one breast, my toddler was nursing from the other, and I was breastfeeding. Since then, I have tandem-nursed my third and fourth children and realized that the experience could be quite good and fulfilling for both me and my children.
If you have children of similar ages or are pregnant and not ready to wean your nursing child, you may wish to explore tandem nursing. Here is everything I’ve learned about simultaneously breastfeeding siblings.
What Is Tandem Nursing?
Tandem nursing involves breastfeeding or chestfeeding multiple children at the same time; in my instance, I breastfed a toddler and a newborn. This can be done simultaneously or sequentially. Select what serves you best!
There is a common fallacy that, once pregnant, you must cease breastfeeding/chestfeeding for your own health and/or the wellbeing of your unborn child. However, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) states, “If the pregnancy is normal and the patient is healthy, breastfeeding during pregnancy is the patient’s choice.” See your physician and proceed from there.
The Advantages of Tandem Nursing
There are numerous advantages of tandem nursing, including those listed below.
Increases milk production.
In general, the more milk that is withdrawn, the more milk is generated. Therefore, those who tandem-nurse can produce twice as much milk to nourish two children.
“Because both breasts are emptied simultaneously during tandem nursing, it is likely that tandem-feeding mothers will have an increased or oversupply of breastmilk,” explains Krystal Duhaney, R.N., an international board-certified lactation consultant and owner of Milky Mama, a product for lactating parents.
“It is also usual for the toddler and newborn to desire to nurse at different times throughout the day, presumably more often than if the mother were nursing only one child. This additional stimulus increases milk production,” she adds.
My milk came in within 12 hours of my baby’s birth, allowing him to gain weight rapidly and sleep for longer stretches.
Reduces congestion and blocked ducts.
My toddler helped alleviate engorgement, which made it simpler for my newborn to latch without experiencing a rapid letdown. Whenever I felt a clogged duct developing, I would ensure that my child nursed on the other side to prevent the chance of mastitis.
It may increase sibling bonding.
According to the AAFP, “breastfeeding the nursing kid during pregnancy and after delivery of the following child (tandem nursing) may help offer a psychologically seamless transition for the older child.”
What’s the reason? “It can be challenging for a toddler to adjust to the arrival of a new sibling. “Tandem breastfeeding can help smooth the transition and increase sibling bonding by providing them with a shared pastime,” explains Duhaney.
That was the situation with my toddler. Rather than trying to distract him through those first few weeks of marathon feedings, he was able to participate and feel included. Nothing compares to watching my older child massage the baby’s back or place his hand on my chest while I breastfeed.
It is also very uncommon for a previously weaned toddler to want to breastfeed again when they observe their parent nursing the new baby in the home. Duhaney adds, “if mom is comfortable with this, it can be a great bonding moment for the three of you.”
Guidelines on Tandem Nursing
Try these tips for tandem breastfeeding success.
Consume a great deal of water and calories.
Breastfeeding or chestfeeding during pregnancy, followed by tandem nursing, is physically difficult. On average, breastfeeding requires an extra 500 calories per day, whereas pregnancy requires an extra 300.
You must take prenatal vitamins and consume a diet rich in whole grains, healthy fats, colorful veggies, and protein. In order to satisfy the demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding, you will also need to consume at least 2.5 liters of fluid every day, suggests Christine Sterling, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN in San Diego.
Allow your infant to nurse first.
During the first week of pregnancy, your breasts and chest will produce colostrum, a fluid containing antibodies useful to the newborn. I always fed my infant from the breast with the most milk first, and then provided the same breast to my toddler. After the first week or so, when the milk begins to flow, this becomes less significant. But, since breast milk is the sole food supply for a growing infant, you must always ensure that he or she is eating enough.
Be ready for an increase in toddler nursing.
Even if your toddler is only nursed once or twice a day throughout your pregnancy, he or she may be interested in breastfeeding whenever the baby latches (hey, milk!) once the baby is born. This can be daunting, especially while adjusting to life with a newborn and dealing with sleep deprivation, hormone fluctuations, and postpartum recovery. Yet, I discovered that a toddler’s increased feedings are merely a temporary activity.
Even more so for a young child who may not completely comprehend what is happening, the adjustment to a new baby in the home is a highly emotional experience for everyone. During tandem nursing, your toddler must suddenly learn to wait until the baby latches, take turns with sides, and share what was once theirs alone. When I felt overwhelmed, I always attempted to empathize with my kid (and myself!).
Look after yourself.
Tandem nursing is not only physically but also emotionally demanding. Throughout the postpartum period, there were times when my hormones were rebalancing, and I felt “touched out” and irritable. Occasionally, tandem breastfeeding was a far cry from the serene ideal I had in mind.
“Tandem nursing can be a beautiful experience for a mother and her children,” notes Dr. Sterling. “But, it is important to recognize that this places a significant physical and emotional burden on the mother.” “Tandem-feeding is permitted, but you must also attend to your own requirements. This requires putting sleep, nourishment, and water first. A mother’s health is more vital to her children’s health than her breast milk.”
In times of frustration during my journey as a tandem nurse, I would first let my husband know how I was feeling (although he could usually tell without me saying anything) and then spend some time alone on the beach.
Even a five-minute hot shower may be extremely beneficial when time is in short supply. When my husband was not present to assist, I would take a break from my daily routine with the children to make myself a cup of coffee, listen to my favorite music, or read a brief blog article. Even those few minutes of solitude left me feeling refreshed and at ease.
Meaningful articles you might like: What Every Parent Should Know About Storing Their Breast Milk, How to Wean Your Infant from His or Her Pacifier, Is Covid-19 Safe For Breastfeeding Mothers?