Last Updated on 16 March 2023 by Rebecca
Making it Work for You and Your Children
Tandem breastfeeding may not be something you’re thinking of doing.
I wasn’t, but finding myself pregnant with my third child and breastfeeding my toddler, who’s showing no signs of weaning, it’s something I’m starting to consider.
According to research from the National Library of Medicine, tandem breastfeeding is not common in Europe or the US, where women often face criticism and social stigma. Despite this, many mums worldwide go on to tandem breastfeed successfully.
If you find yourself not quite ready to wean your toddler and you’re expecting a baby or are already on the road to a healthy recovery following a birth, here are some tips on how to tandem breastfeed a toddler and newborn.
What is Tandem Breastfeeding?
Tandem breastfeeding is nursing two children at the same time who may be relatively close in age, for instance, a newborn and a toddler.
There is often the misconception that once a woman finds out she’s pregnant, she needs to stop breastfeeding for the health of the mother and the unborn baby. However, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, “anthropological data suggest a wide range of normal self-weaning ages, from two-and-a-half to seven years of age.”
The AAFP goes on to state that:
If the pregnancy is normal and the patient is healthy, breastfeeding during pregnancy is their personal decision.American Academy of Family Physicians
Speaking with your doctor will help you get all the information you need on what’s right for you, your toddler, and your newborn.
3 Benefits of Tandem Breastfeeding
When it comes to tandem breastfeeding, there are a number of benefits for everyone involved. These include:
Increases Milk Supply
As milk is being taken out to feed your newborn and toddler, your body is going to produce more milk. The clever thing about the human body is that it knows how much milk to produce to feed two.
The human body is already amazing at being able to create another life, but when one baby is feeding from one breast and another is feeding from the other, the milk they receive will be tailored to their needs as breasts work independently from one another. Amazing!
Connects Baby and Toddler
Sometimes it can be difficult for an older child to welcome a new baby into the household. After all, it was just them and now they have to share mummy and daddy.
According to the AAFP, “breastfeeding the nursing child during pregnancy and after delivery of the next child (tandem nursing) may help provide a smooth transition psychologically for the older child.”
If the mother has weaned her toddler before the arrival of the baby, it’s not uncommon for the toddler to want to breastfeed again, which can be a wonderful way of bonding for all three.
Reduces the Risk of Mastitis
There’s nothing worse than experiencing mastitis when breastfeeding. I had this a few times with my first child and it wasn’t the most comfortable of feelings. Continuing to breastfeed during these moments is important.
If you do suffer from mastitis, try and get your toddler to feed on the side that feels a bit blocked to help reduce the risk.
6 Tips for Tandem Breastfeeding
If tandem breastfeeding is something you’re considering or are already doing, here are a few tips to make it successful.
Let Baby Feed First
During the first week following birth, your breasts are producing colostrum, or liquid gold, which is jam-packed full of antibodies that are beneficial to your newborn.
Make sure your newborn gets first dibs on the fullest breast and then offer this breast to your toddler after.
After the first week, when your milk comes in, this isn’t as important, but you still want your newborn to get the most milk as this is their only food source for the first six months of their life.
Drink Plenty of Water
Breastfeeding through pregnancy and tandem feeding takes a lot out of a woman’s body. When breastfeeding my firstborn, I remember feeling thirsty whenever I forgot to drink water. I imagine tandem feeding will be just the same, which is why it’s important to ensure you have plenty of fluids on hand when you are.
Eat Enough Calories
As with making sure you drink enough water, you also need to make some you consume plenty of calories when tandem breastfeeding.
Typically, mums burn around 500 extra calories a day when producing milk, so it’s important that mums eat a healthy diet such as whole grains, good fats, and vegetables so they can continue producing enough milk while maintaining their own health.
Look After Yourself
Once a baby arrives your attention is solely focused on them and their well-being and not on your own. Every new mum does it, but it’s also necessary to make sure that you look after yourself. Tandem breastfeeding is going to be an emotional and physical experience as it takes a lot of work.
Make sure you pay attention to your basic needs – sleep, nutrition, and hydration. By paying attention to your well-being, you can ensure the well-being of your children. Even if all you manage is to enjoy a hot cup of tea, take those five minutes to yourself to reconnect with who you are.
Prepare for a Toddler Who May Feed More
If you weaned before your newborn arrived or they only nursed once or twice during the day, don’t be surprised if your toddler suddenly expresses an interest in nursing again.
How you feel about this will vary for each woman as you’ll be going through plenty of emotions with the arrival of a newborn. The one thing to bear in mind for toddlers who have already weaned is that how your toddler reacts to nursing will be a temporary thing as they themselves learn to adapt to a newborn in their lives.
Talk to Your Older Child
During your pregnancy and before your newborn arrives, it’s a good idea to let your older child know that your newborn will be breastfed too.
It’s normal for them to feel jealous and to be unsure of changes coming up, but it’s better to talk to them beforehand so they know what to expect once your baby arrives.
Should I Tandem Breastfeed?
This is a personal question and one that only the woman can answer based on what’s best for her, her older child, and her newborn.
Before you embark on your tandem breastfeeding journey, you may be wondering how you can breastfeed two children of different ages at the same time. As mentioned above, a woman’s breasts work independently of each other, meaning the nutritional needs of both children are met.
This is further backed up by a 2021 study that found:
Higher fat content, energy value and total protein concentration was found in TBFM [tandem breastfeeding mothers] milk during tandem breastfeeding, than in milk after weaning the older child. The carbohydrate content remained stable.
The findings concluded:
These findings suggest an adaptive role of human milk to nutrient requirements of newborn and older children. The results may support the promotion of long breastfeeding, including tandem breastfeeding.
Deciding to tandem breastfeed can be a rewarding experience if this is something you are considering or are already embarking upon. Not only does it let you bond with your newborn while letting you stay connected with your older child, it also brings your newborn and older child together to connect in their own special way.
Whether you decide to do it or not is a personal choice and if you need more information, it’s best to talk to your doctor. Either way, I hope this blog has given you some useful pointers as to how you can make tandem breastfeeding a success for you and your children.