Tandem Breastfeeding: Benefits, Challenges And Positions

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Tandem breastfeeding is the practice of nursing two babies of different ages simultaneously. This practice is a personal choice of the nursing mother. It is often required if a woman gives birth to a second child while breastfeeding the previous child (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.

The American Academy of Family Physicians states, “If pregnancy is normal and the mother is healthy, breastfeeding during pregnancy and tandem feeding is the woman’s personal decision.”

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 an option and may be 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 access 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. Breastfeeding takes up an additional 500 calories per day on average. If you are on some diet, you may need to take additional supplements.
  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.
  • It may also minimize the engorgement of breasts that may occur during the first week of childbirth.
  • 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. If you are nursing your newborn first, provide your toddler with a special basket filled with books and toys.
  • Tandem breastfeeding allows bonding with both your babies and satisfies 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 the cradle position while the newborn’s legs rest on the toddler’s.
  • Place the newborn in the cradle position, while the toddler can sit next to you with their knees away.
  • Place both your children along your sides under your arms. This is also called the rugby or American football hold. 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 may be new to some mothers. This unique technique offers both benefits and challenges. Tandem breastfeeding can enhance your breastmilk supply and also help your babies bond with each other. Although the method may be stressful and tiring at times, you can follow some effective tips to ease the process. If you are healthy, you may continue tandem breastfeeding for as long as you are comfortable. However, consult your doctor before contemplating tandem nursing to learn about its safety and how to do it.

Key Pointers

  • Tandem nursing or nursing two babies of different age groups may be challenging for the mother but is beneficial for the babies.
  • If your older toddler is not ready to wean or you get pregnant soon after delivering your first baby, you may consider tandem nursing.
  • It increases breast milk supply, allows bonding between the mother and child, and has other benefits, as discussed below.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. O’rourke et al.; Women’s Experiences with Tandem Breastfeeding; The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing (2019).
2. Breastfeeding During Pregnancy And Tandem Nursing; La Leche League International
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Regina Kincaid

(RM, IBCLC)
Regina qualified as a midwife in 2005 in Germany and has since worked in maternity care in England and Ireland. She achieved stage 1 of the UNICEF Baby Friendly accreditation as infant feeding lead midwife at Ealing Hospital in London and worked in the lactation team of the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. She did her Neonatal Examination Course... more

Rohit Garoo

Rohit Garoo is a zoologist-botanist turned writer with over 8 years of experience in content writing, content marketing, and copywriting. He has also done an MBA in marketing and human resources and worked in the domains of market research and e-commerce. Rohit writes topics related to health, wellness and development of babies. His articles featured on several notable websites, including... more