What is Tandem Nursing? Benefits And Challenges

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Tandem breastfeeding or tandem nursing refers to the practice of nursing two babies of different ages simultaneously. Although tandem breastfeeding may sound unusual to some, the practice becomes necessary if you have given birth to the second child while still breastfeeding the first one (1).

Whether or not you wish to breastfeed two babies simultaneously is a matter of choice. While it may not be easy to breastfeed a toddler and a baby simultaneously, you can choose to do it if you are healthy and your doctor gives you the green signal.

If you have decided to tandem breastfeed, this post is for you, as we tell you all about tandem breastfeeding, including its pros and cons.

Tandem Breastfeeding Vs. Nursing Twins

In nursing twins, you breastfeed two babies who are twins, whereas in tandem breastfeeding, you nurse two babies of different ages. The similarity between tandem breastfeeding and nursing twins is that you will be breastfeeding or nursing two babies at one time.

However, in tandem breastfeeding, one child would be less dependent on breast milk as they would have already started on solids. 

When To Consider Tandem Breastfeeding?

Tandem breastfeeding becomes necessary in any of the following cases.

  • You become pregnant quickly just after your older baby is born.
  • You believe in weaning your older child when they are ready.
  • You want to continue to provide emotional bonding through breastfeeding to your older child.
  • You feel it is not yet time to wean your older toddler. 

How To Start Tandem Breastfeeding?

Once you decide to tandem breastfeed, you need to consider certain situations and take certain steps to make sure you fulfill both your children’s needs, both physically and emotionally. Here are some things to consider when you start tandem breastfeeding.

  1. Talk to your toddler before your baby arrives. Explain that they may soon have a little brother or sister who cannot eat or drink other types of foods and that the baby needs to be nursed more often.
  1. Slowly introduce your older baby to the new baby. Take up a position that suits you and your babies.
  1. Keep in mind that your newborn needs to be nursed round the clock as it is crucial for them to get all the goodness of your breastmilk. Once you have nursed your newborn, go on and feed your toddler.
  1. Breastmilk tends to change as your pregnancy progresses. Once your baby is born, your body will produce colostrum (in small amounts), which is crucial for your newborn. However, your older baby may not show interest in nursing due to a change in the taste of the milk.
  1. You might be worried about the colostrum level declining due to tandem feeding. Remember that no matter how many times your toddler feeds, colostrum will still be available for your baby (2).
  1. Talk to your pediatrician about tandem breastfeeding. This will help them assess your newborn’s growth process so that you can adjust your feeding schedules and give your newborn the needed nourishment.
  1. Your choice to tandem breastfeed may not be supported by your family or friends. However, if you are ok with tandem breastfeeding both your babies and they are healthy and thriving, you can continue breastfeeding them.
  1. Nursing two babies at the same time can be stressful. Do not ignore your body’s needs. Eat a healthy and nutritious diet, and drink enough water to stay hydrated.
  1. If things do not work out as planned, and you feel overwhelmed to tandem breastfeed, do not overdo it just because you have made a decision. Start weaning your toddler without feeling guilty, as they can get the required nourishment from other food.

Benefits Of Tandem Breastfeeding

The following are a few benefits of tandem breastfeeding for you and your babies. 

  • Tandem breastfeeding helps in increasing the breast milk supply. The more you breastfeed, the more your body produces milk.
  • If you have an overactive letdown (forceful ejection of milk), you can nurse your toddler to regulate the flow and then latch on your baby.
  • You can reduce the jealousy and friction between your babies by sharing the breastfeeding activity with both.
  • Tandem breastfeeding allows to bond with both your babies and satisfy their emotional and physical needs.
  • If you believe in child-led weaning, tandem breastfeeding can help you ensure your toddler continues getting the benefits of breastfeeding.

Challenges Of Tandem Breastfeeding

Tandem breastfeeding comes with its own set of challenges.

  • Tandem breastfeeding can be demanding, both physically and emotionally, on the mother.
  • Positioning your newborn and your toddler for breastfeeding can be quite challenging until you find the optimal position.
  • Dealing with breastfeeding aversion and agitation (BAA) while tandem breastfeeding can take a toll on the mother emotionally.
  • Meeting the nursing needs of both the babies may leave you with very little leisure time, which can cause frustration.

Suitable Positions For Tandem Breastfeeding

You might have to experiment a bit to find the ideal position suitable for both your babies. You can try a variety of pillows that might help. Here are a few positions you could try.

  • Have both the children in cradle position while the newborn’s legs rest on the toddler’s.
  • Place the newborn in cradle position, while the toddler can sit next to you with their knees away.
  • Place both your children along your sides under your arms. Cradle their heads with your hands, and their bodies should be held right up next to your hips. You may place pillows along your sides and under your arms.

Tandem breastfeeding is a unique and special opportunity. Although it may be tiring and overwhelming, it is a rewarding experience. As long as you and both your babies are happy and healthy, you can continue to breastfeed them. However, it is important to talk to your pediatrician before making any decision. 

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