Tandem Breastfeeding: The First Weeks

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Currently, two members of the Daily Mom team are in the midst of tandem breastfeeding.  After a lot of trial and error, a few tears, and many snuggles with our little ones, we realized that everyone should know about the products and resources that helped us during our first few weeks of tandem breastfeeding.

Compared to the nearly endless books and resources on breastfeeding in general, there really isn’t that much information out there concerning tandem breastfeeding. This can leave mothers hoping to tandem breastfeed at a bit of a loss.  Nursing two children of different ages has great positive aspects, but as you may suspect, its own set of challenges. We found it helpful to have others to talk to and share experiences with.

For Mom:


Tandem breastfeeding is like the making of a diamond–it takes time and effort, but the results are worth it!  Breastfeeding two children takes patience and endurance, so to help you along, here are some ideas.

Water, Water and more Water!

Yes, we know you get tired of the taste, but mix it up by infusing it with some mint or fruit. You can also make some iced (or hot) lactation tea or other herbal teas which do not interfere with breastfeeding. 

Lactation Supplements

Oats, Fenugreek, Goats Rue, and Brewer’s Yeast are a few of the many lactation supplements that can increase the quality and volume of your milk supply.  Implementing these into your diet can help sustain a thirsty toddler alongside a newborn.

Check out our post on Unconventional Supplements to boost your milk supply as well as these posts for a Lactation Cookie Recipe and Homemade Postpartum Essentials.

Nursing Pillows Galore!

Chances are if you decide to nurse both children at the same time, or even just sequentially, your arms are going to get tired. Nursing pillows, such as this one by My Breast Friend, can really help tired arms and will help keep your back straight. 

Nursing Aversion

You may be dealing with a nursing aversion when it feels unpleasant to nurse your older child.  These feelings can wax and wane, and they may not ever completely subside.  In these cases, it is helpful to nurse one child at a time, as well as to think about something else or focus on how beneficial nursing is from your toddler’s point of view.

Prepare Yourself for the Possibility of More Plugged Ducts 

Drinking lots of water will help with this, but with all of the milk you are producing plugged ducts are more likely to occur (and as we have noticed, particularly at night).

If you struggle with clogged ducts, a trick for the night time is to be sure to nurse your toddler on both sides.  Your toddler can relieve engorgement faster than your newborn.  Even if it may be tempting to ask a toddler to wait until the morning, it may help you in the long run to have them nurse.

The “What am I doing?” Moment

Don’t worry, you are not the first person to feel overwhelmed!  With both children up at night, you may feel like you are constantly topless and smell like milk.  You may plan for an hour just to get to eat your own lunch and find that small tasks suddenly feel insurmountable. You may even cry. We did. But remember you are not alone. Try to find out about a Le Leche League (LLL) group or other Mothers group in your area.  Talk to a lactation consultant for more positioning tips and overall guidance, if necessary. 

Cut Yourself Some Slack 

We are not going to sugarcoat it: the first few weeks (or months) of tandem nursing can be hard! Don’t put pressure on yourself to get a lot of other things done around the house. Breastfeeding two children can also be exhausting, so try to take a nap when possible, or at least lie down. 

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Relaxed Breastfeeding

If you decide to nurse both children at once, try breastfeeding in the “relaxed” position. Lean back on a few pillows and support your arms with pillows, too. 

Enjoy the Snuggles

Even if your toddler becomes more clingy, try to see the positives: you are allowing your older child to reconnect with you in a way that is ultra comforting to them. So even if you are “touched out” by the end of the day, still try to enjoy the snuggles. Remember the bonds you are building: not only the bond between you and each of them, but their bond with each other, too. 

Listen to Your Heart

As with breastfeeding in public or extended breastfeeding, you may receive unsolicited advice and comments. Just remember that you really are a super mom just by choosing to undertake breastfeeding two.  Some of the best advice we can give is to follow your own instincts. You know your children and you know yourself. 

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For Your Infant:


Skin to Skin

Be sure to remember the importance of skin to skin.  Include your toddler and Daddy, too, while you are at it! This not only helps your baby but can boost your oxytocin and your milk supply as well! Ask your toddler to count the baby’s  little fingers and toes, hold hands, and give little kisses.  These things will give them warm and gentle memories of being together.

Who Nurses First? 

Discover a nursing groove that helps both children.  Nurse one child on each side or alternating sides. A helpful hint is to allow your older child to nurse first at night, or if it has been a while since the last feeding. That cuts down on the “fire hose” effect, which can frustrate your newborn so much. 

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For Your Toddler:


Let Them Help You

Ask your toddler to help you by nursing to curb your engorgement.  Your toddler will be more than happy to help you and to help the baby, too.

You can also ask them to do other small tasks which involves them such as getting your water or helping you with a pillow. 

Encourage Positive Older Sibling Behavior: 

Let your toddler discover all of the characteristics and needs of their new sibling. If you choose to only nurse one child at a time, then ask you toddler to point out the baby’s features while the baby is nursing.  Ask him or her to sing for the baby or to put a blanket over the baby.  The key is to involve them even when it is not their turn to nurse. 

Another option is to have activities lined up for your toddler while you nurse your newborn.  Consider Motessori activities, puzzles, or a few books to read–something to keep your toddler engaged while you make time for just you and your infant.

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Support Systems and Resources:


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Overall, we cannot say tandem nursing is an easy endeavor–especially in the first weeks–but there are some amazing benefits and we encourage any mom who is thinking about or starting to tandem nurse to not give up! You will be so surprised how many beautiful memories you will be left with.  

For more information on extended breastfeeding, read our post on the surprising benefits!! For more posts on breastfeeding, check out our Nurture category.

 Photo Credits: Rockie Road, Kirsten

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Kirsten

Kirsten is a military wife by day, an artist by night, and an around-the-clock-mommy to her (almost) two year old daughter and a son due in the Fall. She loves to travel and is always dreaming of her next adventure. Her interests include everything from extreme sports like skydiving and rock climbing to languages and studying philosophy. As a Californian now living in South Dakota, there is no taking that golden sunshine out of this California Girl.

Comments (3)

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    Carrie

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    Very nicely written article! I am on my second round of tandem nursing. My first two tandemed for 19 months, and now my second and third have been at it for 8 months. There are definitely challenges to it, but I wouldn’t give it up or trade it for anything. Thanks for a great article.

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      Kirsten

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      That is so encouraging, Carrie! Thank you for your comment! I agree that there definitely are challenges, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything either. So many sweet moments!

      Reply

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    Christina

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    Thta’s the best answer of all time! JMHO

    Reply

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