What is Tandem Breastfeeding?

E. E. Hubbard

Tandem breastfeeding, or tandem nursing, occurs when a mother breastfeeds two children who are siblings of different ages, usually a newborn and a toddler. Although this doesn't mean nursing them at the same exact time, many mothers find that doing so works well. This often means continuing to breastfeed while pregnant for many women, but some do wean and then resume breastfeeding both siblings as her milk comes in. Most mothers feel that this creates a closer bond between the two siblings and helps with the natural jealousy issues that may arise when a new baby enters the scene.

Breast feeding provides a nutrient-rich diet for newborns and has many health benefits for the mother, as well.
Breast feeding provides a nutrient-rich diet for newborns and has many health benefits for the mother, as well.

Mothers say that there are many positives to tandem breastfeeding, the strongest being that it helps with bonding between the new siblings. Weaning a toddler after the newborn arrives may create jealousy issues and make accepting the new baby more difficult, but it is still possible. It is often helpful to designate one breast per child, but another benefit to tandem breastfeeding is that the toddler may be able to help with engorgement that the mother may experience as her milk comes in with the new baby.

Another concern that many women have is that her toddler will receive colostrum, specialized milk rich in nutrients and antibodies produced especially for the newborn. Colostrum can be considered like a "booster shot" for the toddler, who will receive all of the vitamins and nutrients that the newborn receives. A woman's breasts will be able to produce enough colostrum for both children, and it is a natural laxative which may cause the toddler's stool to become a bit looser. Colostrum may also cause the milk to taste different, but many mothers find that they can encourage their toddler back to the breast once her milk comes in.

Perhaps the biggest concern about tandem breastfeeding is nursing during pregnancy. Though all women should seek the advice of her doctor or healthcare provider, studies have indicated that a healthy woman should be able to continue nursing throughout pregnancy. There are, however, some issues that may arise.

Increased and fluctuating hormones levels may alter the flavor of the breast milk, but a toddler should be receiving many nutrients from other food at this point and may be ready to wean. The hormones may also lower the supply of the milk, but increasing feedings can remedy this problem, as the breasts will be stimulated to produce more milk. Some women also have sore nipples around the five month mark, but positioning can help to alleviate discomfort and some women even say that continued nursing helps to toughen up her nipples.

Tandem breastfeeding is an extremely personal decision. Each mother will need to make her own decision as to what is best for her children. Many women find it to be a natural way to feed both children and help to create a stronger bond between the siblings.

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