Healthy Living in the North

A realistic look at tandem breastfeeding: one family’s experience

Randi tandem breastfeeds her infant son and young daughter.

“Breastfeeding has been a special way for me to understand and satisfy the needs of my two children.”

Breastfeeding has been a special way for me to understand and satisfy the needs of my two children. When I was pregnant with my second child, I wondered what it would be like to breastfeed both children at the same time. As it turns out, there was a lot to learn! I hope that sharing our family’s experience with tandem breastfeeding (or “tandem nursing”) will be helpful for other families.

Breastfeeding during pregnancy

  • My daughter continued to breastfeed during my recent pregnancy. Although she was surprised by my reduced milk supply, it was a wonderful way to strengthen our bond while we prepared for her sibling’s arrival.
  • Part way through the pregnancy, hormonal changes caused me to have sensitive nipples. This is normal. Yet, it made things extra sensitive when she latched on to breastfeed, and I developed an aversion to her latch.
  • I learned that, while breastfeeding during pregnancy can be a beautiful experience, it’s unlikely that mothers will enjoy every single moment. Deep breathing and other coping strategies helped me work through this.

Juggling a new baby and an older child

  • When my son was born, I was excited to breastfeed both children together. I quickly learned the importance of a comfortable position, for all of us, such as in a rocking chair or laying down in bed.
  • My daughter, being an experienced nursling, helped to establish my milk supply and to alleviate breast discomfort – hooray for no engorgement!
  • She was also able to tell me her feelings about the new situation, and expressed her frustration with needing to share “mama’s milk” (she also said my milk tasted like coconut!).
  • Over time, I’ve learned about setting boundaries with my daughter. Since my aversion to her latch continued, we needed to adjust how often she would breastfeed.
Randi sits on the floor, holding her infant son while her daughter hugs her. The image is black and white.

“Tandem nursing has been a great way to strengthen my connections with each child and even between both siblings.”

Things that helped us

  • A strong support system – I’ve recognized my need for ongoing support. Friends and family are just a text message or phone call away. Sometimes though, I’ve needed unbiased guidance and have found peer-to-peer support really helpful, such as through attending mom and baby groups.
  • Meeting each child’s needs – Tandem nursing has been a great way to strengthen my connections with each child and even between both siblings. I’ve also found it helpful to spend some undivided time with each child.
  • Acceptance and gratitude – Nourishing and comforting two small children, each with their own unique needs, is no small feat. I’ve learned that breastfeeding is not always a blissful experience – it can be overwhelming at times. By practicing gratitude and accepting what is going well, this has helped me to overcome some stressful moments.
  • Prioritizing self-care – As a parent, learning to care for myself has been one of my greatest challenges. Tandem nursing is not just about the kids; it also includes the mother! I need to be cared for too – getting rest, staying well hydrated and nourished, getting some time for myself, and addressing my own needs. This is a work-in-progress for me!

Need some additional resources?

  • If you’re considering tandem nursing too, don’t hesitate to reach out for support:
    • Connect with family and friends who have experience with tandem nursing
    • Contact a La Leche League (LLL) leader in your area
    • Visit local mom and baby groups (check your community’s resource list)
  • Read the Adventures of Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding during Pregnancy and Beyond, by Hilary Flower – consider asking your local public library to bring in a copy of this book

Ask your health care provider for professional breastfeeding support, especially if you’re experiencing ongoing issues and frustrations.

Randi Parsons

About Randi Parsons

Randi has lived in northern BC since 2010 after graduating from the University of Alberta with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Since her graduation, Randi has held different nursing positions with a focus in maternal-child health. Her career as a nurse started on Pediatrics in Prince George before transitioning into Public Health Nursing in the Omineca area. For 5 years, Randi worked as a generalist Public Health Nurse, finding her passion in perinatal wellness, early child development and community collaboration. With her husband, daughter and two Chihuahuas, Randi lives in Fraser Lake, currently working as the Regional Nursing Lead for Maternal, Infant, Child, Youth with Public Health Practice. When she is not nursing, Randi enjoys crafting, practicing yoga, learning to garden and being a mom! She is passionate about raising awareness for mental health and advocating for women, children and families.

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Human milk banking: Getting breast milk to the babies that need it most

(Co-authored with Katherine Schemenauer, Clinical Practice Lead at the University Hospital of Northern BC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit)

A poster promoting the donation of breast milk.Did you know that there are four human milk banks in Canada? We are lucky to have one in BC: the BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank, in Vancouver. This milk bank provides screened, pasteurized donor breast milk to hundreds of tiny, sick, or at-risk babies every year. Babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) in Prince George are amongst these recipients.

Why is donor human milk important?

The gift of donor milk is life-changing for the smallest, sickest, and most vulnerable babies. When mothers are unwell, deliver their babies prematurely, or their babies are born sick, they may not have enough of their own milk in the first few days to provide for their own babies. The processed donor milk provides a safe, easy to digest first milk for their babies until they can grow stronger, and their mothers can provide enough of their own milk for their babies.

Human milk has been shown to reduce the incidence of Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) in newborns. NEC can be life threatening to an already at-risk baby. Human milk is easy to digest, making it the best option for premature digestive systems.

What is a donor milk collection depot?

A milk depot is a place where eligible donors can drop off their breast milk donations, once they have gone through a screening process. These depots then send the milk to the provincial milk bank in Vancouver for processing. Currently, there are 24 donor milk collection depots in BC, based out of hospitals and health units. Northern Health has one depot in Prince George, at UHNBC, in the NICU.

Northern Health uses donor milk in the NICU

The NICU at UHNBC uses up to 3 litres of human donor milk for up to 15 babies a month. Most babies in the NICU need between 12ml (less than a tablespoon) to 500ml (2 cups) of donor milk a day.

Got milk?

Women who are interested in donating their milk are welcome to contact the BC Provincial Milk Bank to learn more.

Additional resources:

Jeanne Hagreen

About Jeanne Hagreen

Jeanne has been a Lactation Consultant since 1993. She worked for Northern Health for 38 years, first as a nurse on the Maternal-Child Units, then 20.5 years as a Lactation Consultant. During this time, she also returned to school and earned her BSN from UNBC. Following her retirement at the end of September 2015, Jeanne has remained an active member of local, regional & provincial perinatal committees. She is also co-president of the BC Lactation Consultant Association. Jeanne was born in Whitehorse, Yukon and also lived in Campbell River, Victoria, Toronto and Vancouver. In 1975, she moved to Prince George with her husband and two small sons. In addition to her volunteer work, she is an avid knitter and reader. She enjoys living in the rural community of Salmon Valley with a small menagerie of animals, along with the wildlife that passes through her yard.

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