Guide to tandem nursing By Lori J Isenstadt, IBCLC

Question: What is tandem nursing?

Tandem nursing is when two siblings of different ages breastfeed together. It generally happens when a sibling nurses throughout a pregnancy, and continues when the new baby is born.  Tandem nursing also happens when the sibling temporarily stop nursing, only to start again after the new baby is born. Question:  Is tandem nursing hard? Ahhh, this is a subject that has mothers responding with different sentiments at various times during their tandem nursing journey.  When all is said and done, most mothers will agree that it can be challenging at times.  They will also say that their are times when they wish they weren’t tandem nursing.  Some moms even like to add up how many years they have been nursing.  Most of all, moms usually end their response by saying that it is rewarding and they would not have it any other way.

Question:  Why would anyone want to tandem nurse?

For some mothers, they realize that their older baby still wants to nurse.  Mothers also realize that while they are happy the older one continues to get great nourishment nutrition wise, they also understand that breastfeeding a baby means a lot more than the milk they get.  It provides comfort, a safe haven and it is a great opportunity for quiet time together – perhaps everyone can take a nap together after a nursing

Question:  How do you make sure that your newborn gets enough milk and the older baby does not “take it all.

It is likely that with two nursling’s,  you will make enough for both.  You will know that your newborn is getting enough while tandem nursing, the same ways you know if you were only nursing your newborn.  Pay close attention to feeding frequency, appearance of hunger before feeds and satiation when done, nutritive sucking at breast during feeding times and not falling asleep shortly into the feeding, paying attention to output, as well as normal weight loss the first few days and watching the numbers go up after the first 4 days.  Your newborn should be back to birth weight by 2 weeks of age.  If you ever have any doubt, renting a good scale which measures intake in gms can take the guess work out of it.

 Question: How do I know who gets which breast when? and who goes first?  or both together?

If you are like most moms who have breastfed a baby already and perhaps even through a pregnancy, you realize that they are not latching on the same way a newborn needs to latch on. With your newborn, you want to be sure that you have the best latch possible and that your baby is able to transfer enough milk per feeding for satiation.  It will help if you were able to breastfeed just your newborn first,  until you feel you have really gotten the hang of it. Good milk transfer and comfortable feedings.  Most mothers have a good sense of which breast feels the most full.  This is the one you want to offer your newborn at the beginning of each feeding and let your older baby nurse from the one that is not as full. This is a good way to start.  With time and practice and keen evaluation, you will figure out what works best for you.

GOOD TO KNOW –  Your mature milk will turn into colostrum closer to delivery or right after.  Your toddler will continue to benefit from your milk.   I mention this to alert you to normal  stool changes with your older baby.  The stools many change to a more watery substance while the colostrum is in.  Colostrum is a natural laxative and this may result in looser more watery stools than you have become accustomed to.  This will change as the mature milk comes in.

LOTS more to learn about tandem nursing.   I recommend – Adventures in Tandem Nursing:  Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond”.  Hilary Flower Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond