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.

Share

Tandem breastfeeding: Strengthening family connections

Young girl wearing a big sis t-shirt.

Expecting a second child can raise many questions, including how to breastfeed both of them at the same time, an approach called “tandem breastfeeding.”

Baby news! Our family is growing, and soon, we’ll be welcoming our second baby. This special news has our preschooler very excited – this is the same little girl, Jovie, who helped me to learn about the many joys (and challenges) of breastfeeding.

With our new bundle on the way, I’ve been wondering about breastfeeding both children, at the same time. This approach is called “tandem breastfeeding.” As a mom and a nurse, this topic fascinates me. Until recently, I knew very little about the topic, and today I’m sharing what I’ve learned so far.

Making an informed decision

Choosing to breastfeed is a personal decision, and breastfeeding looks different for every family. Some families consider the option of breastfeeding an older child during pregnancy, as well as after the arrival of a new baby. Here’s some information that might be helpful.

Is it safe?

  • In most pregnancies, it’s safe for women to continue breastfeeding an older child. La Leche League explains more in Nursing Through Pregnancy.
  • In some situations, caution may be advised.
  • Women can share their questions and concerns with their health care team.

Bonding time

  • Some mothers feel that breastfeeding during pregnancy can promote bonding with the older child as they prepare to be a “big sister” or “big brother.”
  • This definitely resonates for me as Jovie loves to “nuggle” more often lately. She wants to keep close to me and even talks (and sings) to baby – so cute!

…and then there were two (or more)!

  • When the new baby finally arrives, continuing to breastfeed an older child can help them to feel connected as their parents tend to the newborn’s unique needs.
  • Tandem breastfeeding also supports bonding between siblings. How special is that!?
  • An experienced nursling can also help their mother to manage breastfeeding challenges after the new baby arrives, such as engorgement, a plugged duct, or a forceful letdown.

Helpful tips to consider

It surprised me to learn so many interesting tidbits about tandem breastfeeding. I’ve also discovered that:

  • Pregnancy hormones may decrease the supply of breast milk. Jovie noticed this and announced “there’s no more milk, mama.” I assured her it would return, especially when the new baby arrives!
  • Mothers can feed both children at the same time, or feed each of them in turn. Families can do what works best for them.
  • Newborns should generally be breastfed first. Breast milk is their only food source, while older children are already enjoying a more varied diet.
  • Sharing the breast can be an adjustment for the older child. Engaging them in age-appropriate activities can help, as can trying different breastfeeding positions that allow mom to have a free hand. This sounds like juggling at its best! (HealthyFamilies BC shares some general tips about how to prepare an older child for a sibling).

Tick tock…

As we prepare for our newborn, I find myself feeling giddy about the new experiences we’re going to have as a family. There’s so much to learn, and I plan to consult my support circle as the pregnancy progresses. La Leche League has mother-to-mother support groups, so this would be a helpful place for me to ask about others’ experiences with tandem breastfeeding.

Interested in learning more, too? There are other resources to explore:

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.

Share