Tandem Breastfeeding; What it means to tandem nurse and your decision to do it.
What is “tandem breastfeeding”? And why would you do it?
You may have heard or seen a tandem bicycle. You know, one that has two seats and two sets of pedals? Well, tandem breastfeeding, or tandem nursing, is breastfeeding two or more children of different ages simultaneously.
Maybe you’ve found out you’re pregnant (congratulations!) but you’re still currently nursing. You know the benefits of nursing and you love it. You’re not ready to give that up yet, but you don’t want to not offer it to your newborn. That’s OKAY! As long as your doctor says you’re clear, you don’t have to quit nursing. Nursing your toddler and newborn at the same time is an option. The decision to tandem nurse or not is a difficult decision for many mothers. It’s your choice, mama! Deciding whether to continue nursing or to start weaning is a decision only you can make.
The first step is learning more about tandem nursing. Next, find support and confidence in making your decision. You can find support in the Official Milky Mama Lactation Support Facebook Group to answer questions or lift you up. Finally, you make your decision and love whatever you choose.
Step One: Learning More about Tandem Nursing
Tandem nursing can help your older child ease into the transition of becoming a big brother or sister. The experience of gaining a new sibling can be overwhelming for your older child, and it may cause jealousy. Tandem nursing can help because they are still able to nurse with mom and their new sibling. Adding a new baby to your family is a big change. Whether this is baby number 2 or baby number 7, your family is growing and it’s best to help prepare young ones for the transition. Talking with your toddler and any other children about the new baby, reading books about growing families, and even showing pictures of babies nursing can help prepare them for their new sibling. After you feel established, you can nurse both children at the same time, some mothers even say their children bond during their nursing sessions. As always, trust your body and do what feels best for you and your family.
Nursing while Pregnant
First, consult your doctor. You want to make sure you are staying healthy by eating healthy and enough and drinking plenty of water. Breastfeeding can be tough, and being pregnant can be tough. Combine the two and you know you will have some tough times, but remember they will pass. Set goals and remember your “why”. Remember to eat nutritious meals to support your growing breastfed child as well as your growing baby in your womb.
You may experience a dip in milk production during your second trimester. This is because your hormones are changing. Your milk composition will change as well. This might be a time where your older child may start to wean. But, some children return to the breast later, either when the baby comes or even before. Depending on your child’s age, they may need added table foods or supplements.
While you continue to nurse, you are still meeting their emotional needs, even when your supply drops and you might not be meeting their nutritional needs anymore. Which is still hard work and determination, but oh so worth it. Be aware that your pregnancy hormones may cause increased nipple soreness, nausea, and heighten your emotions causing you to feel more irritable.
Try not to set too high of expectations of nursing while pregnant. Because of your hormonal changes you will experience a difference in your supply while pregnant and increasing your demand while pregnant will not increase your supply like it will when you are not pregnant. Expect a dip in supply and know that your milk supply will return again.
Research says mothers are usually able to breastfeed while pregnant, but to always consult your doctor as you want them to be aware. Be aware the oxytocin that is released while breastfeeding can hurry labor to progression, but not always enough to open the cervix.
Benefits of Tandem Nursing
As you know, your milk continues to be an incredible substance for your little one. Your body will create enough milk for both children. Your body will keep up with or supply the demand. The composition and ingredients in your milk will constantly change - even from one hour to the next! And the benefits continue for as long as you nurse your little one! They don’t stop at some arbitrary age (you may have heard the myth that the benefits of breastfeeding end when baby turns one year of age). Your breast milk is always perfectly tailored to meet the nutritional needs of your baby at every moment of the day.
For toddlers between the ages of 12 months and 23 months, 448 mL (about 15 oz) of breast milk will provide the following nutritional requirements:
43% of Protein
36% of Calcium
75% of Vitamin A
94% of Vitamin B12
60% of Vitamin C
76% of Folate
But wait, how exactly does that work when you’re feeding TWO babies of different ages?
Breast milk composition will adjust to what the new baby needs. Your older child just gets these benefits, too! Colostrum, the first type of milk produced right after birth, has a salty flavor that your older child may not like. It also has a laxative effect to aide your newborn pass their first meconium bowel movement. Be aware of this effect on your toddler, as well. Breastfeed your newborn first. This way you can ensure that your newborn is getting all of the colostrum and milk he/she needs, as breast milk is their only source of food. Your older child is getting nutrients from table foods now, so they don’t need your milk for nutrients like your newborn does. The older child is nursing for comfort, bonding, and for emotional support.
Health Benefits for you, Mama
As you know, it’s not all about baby. Breastfeeding provides many benefits for mama, too. Tandem nursing helps maintain a steady supply. Because as demand increases, so does supply, there will be enough breast milk for both of your babies. Nursing your older child will also help bring in your milk quicker, and ease engorgement that often occurs. With more milk being removed, there is less chance of potential clogged milk ducts. The nutritional benefits of breastmilk continue to help your toddler through illness or tantrums, which helps relieve some stress. The hormones that your body releases during a nursing session help you to relax physically; they also lower your blood pressure.
Step Two: Finding Support
Come join us in the Official Milky Mama Lactation Support Facebook Group! Follow us on instagram at milkymamallc.
Finding a lactation or breastfeeding support group near you will also help. Speaking with like minded moms and getting tips and tricks from professionals and other nursing mothers will do wonders!
Step Three: Making your Decision
Only you know what is best for you, your babies, your health, and your family. After researching and learning about your options, hearing from other moms and their experience, and knowing what your support system is like, you can make your decision. Your decision to wean or stop breastfeeding is only one you and your child can make. Whether you decide to continue on to tandem breastfeed, or to stop breastfeeding your older child, it’s a personal decision only you can make. Always know you can reach out to us at Milky Mama anytime! And remember, you’ve got this, mama!
Breastfeeding is an amazing process. There are a variety of benefits for both baby and mom - physically and emotionally. And the best part is, these benefits occur for the duration of your breastfeeding journey. Our bodies are amazing and produce this perfect substance to feed and nourish our babies. We would love to hear about your breastfeeding journey. Come join us in the Official Milky Mama Lactation Support Facebook Group to let us know what you thought!