Nine Benefits Of Tandem Breastfeeding

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When Ameli was a baby I wrote many articles on breastfeeding and its benefits. I wrote about things I wish I’d known about breastfeeding, and some relatively unknown things about breast milk, and how breast milk is made. I’ve shared my confessions of an extended breastfeeder and I’ve written about the highs and lows of breastfeeding during pregnancy. My last post about breastfeeding was on nursing a toddler during the final stage of pregnancy, so it’s only logical that my next series of posts will be on that thing that is the art of tandem nursing.

I’ve been asked a number of times by various people whether it is possible to nurse both babies at the same time, and the simple answer is yes! I know the concept is foreign to many people, so here are nine reasons why tandem breastfeeding is worth considering.

For the toddler: 

1. Bonding and reduced jealousy

This was one of the most beautiful and surprising parts of tandem breastfeeding, for me. The first time I lay my nursling on top of my toddler to allow them to feed together, and my beautiful big girl put her arm around her sister to keep her from ‘falling off’. I think my heart melted in that moment. We’ve had absolutely no jealousy since the birth of our second little girl twelve weeks ago and I am convinced that breastfeeding both children has something to do with it.  Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any studies on this subject yet, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence, and I’m happy to be adding to that.

Regardless of what you do to prepare a toddler for a new baby, the reality of the new addition is beyond anything they’d have expected, and having something that bonds them together from the beginning is very helpful. It’s also something they can do together.  The first question Ameli asked, while Aviya was still in the birthpool, was, “can it walk?”  She is very aware of the fact that Aviya can’t talk to us and can’t play with her. In fact, as Ameli’s book says, “it’s basically a lump of clay.” Having something they can do together definitely creates a bond from early on.

2. Valuable lesson in sharing and consideration

Sharing breastfeeding is an incredible lesson in sharing in general. This is another area my Ameli has surprised me: she understands that the baby, who cannot eat food yet, needs to have milk more than she does. It’s not always easy for her to have to stop feeding when it’s Aviya’s turn (tandem nursing can mean two simultaneously, or one after the other. We do both.) but she usually does. You can see sometimes that she doesn’t really want to, but she does. I think it’s a great lesson for life.

3. All the benefits of newborn milk

Newborn breastmilk is full of so many good things, and the mother’s body adjusts the milk to meet the newborn’s needs. That means the toddler is getting all the benefits of baby milk, all over again.

For the Newborn:

1. Milk on tap

Now, this is purely anecdotal, from my own experience, but in our case, my milk came in pretty much immediately after Aviya was born. There was still colostrum, as I could tell from Ameli’s nappies, but she had milk available on tap from the start. This meant that she didn’t have to work very hard to fill her tummy, which meant she fed for shorter periods of time than newborns normally do. It also meant that she slept for longer than newborns normally do. In fact, she fed so little and slept so much that she lost 11% of her body weight in the first week, but more than made up for it subsequently (she’s currently in 4-6 month clothes, and is only 2.5 months!) The fact is that she didn’t have to burn much energy in an attempt to consume.

2. Milk supply

Because I had milk and nursed all the way through the pregnancy, bar a few days here and there, milk was just ‘there’ from the start and I haven’t had any issues with supply at all, not even during the six week ‘drying up’ that most people experience as milk goes from reservoired to supply and demand

3. Familiarity with the older sibling

It’s easy to very quickly fall into the habit of saying ‘don’t touch the baby’, ‘leave the baby’, ‘be gentle with the baby’ and any one of a million variations on that theme. We’ve tried very consciously not to plant the idea that ‘sister’ isn’t to be engaged with in Ameli, and have instead decided to accept that babies aren’t actually as fragile as we tend to think they are when you have your first born. Tandem nursing is a way of introducing an older sibling into a baby’s space, so that the younger can become accustomed to the sound and smell of his or her older sibling too.

4. Gag-free drinking

Sometimes the flow of milk can be so strong and forceful that the new baby can gag and choke. Getting big sister or brother to take the edge off, can be really helpful. It’s worth remembering the difference between foremilk and hindmilk and making sure baby is getting enough of both, especially in hot weather.

For the Mother:

Tandem Nursing - a 2yr 6mo and a 1 day old

Believe it or not, tandem breastfeeding has a number of benefits for mama too.

1. Put your feet up

If you’ve had a toddler let loose on your house for any length of time, you’ll know what devastation can be wrought in the shortest of times. Nursing both together means you actually get to have a break without having to directively engage, occupy or entertain a toddler. This is where a hands free water bottle with a straw comes in though, because it can be hard to hold a cup while nursing two children!

2. Health benefits of extended breastfeeding

All those things that hit the headlines from time to time? Those. Reduced risk of breast cancer being the biggest one.  And some people put weight loss in this category. Breastfeeding gives me a sweet tooth, so no, I don’t lose any weight!

3. Relieves engorgement

Despite popular belief, when your milk comes in proper, you can still get really engorged, even if you’ve been breastfeeding through pregnancy. I haven’ t had to express once this time round, nor have I had any problems, such as mastitis or clogged ducts, because when I’ve needed to, I’ve been able to call on Ameli – even in the middle of the night, since Aviya sleeps through – to quickly and effortlessly drain an engorged, painful, leaking breast.

So there you have nine reasons to at least consider tandem nursing. It’s not always easy, and there are days where I wish more than anything that Ameli would wean, but looking at the list above, the benefits are fantastic, and this is a phase in our mother and daughter(s) journey that I will always look back on with a distinct sense of pride in all of us.

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21 thoughts on “Nine Benefits Of Tandem Breastfeeding

  1. Claire Willmer

    I think its an amazing idea my little girl had just finished breast feeding when i fell pregnant with our second daughter who is now on her way as i allowed her to stop when she wanted to too. I think the main benefit of breastfeeding that i loved and i am soo looking forward to when our next “decides” to arrive lol is definately the closeness and bond you get from it as me and my little girl who is now almost three still have a beautiful closeness and she is so very affectionate :) Its such a beautiful experience and i cant wait to have it again!

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  2. esther james

    love the photos, I have never seen a mum tandem breastfeeding which is a real shame! Not having to make formula in the middle of the night is definitely a benefit

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  3. Hannah Moody

    I don’t think anyone can argue with the health benefits for baby AND Mum!… But I have to admit that I also love the fact that I don’t have to sterilise all the time :)
    @hannahmdy

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  4. Kathryn MacKinnon

    For me, certainly the feeling of calm it gives me. My little boy stopped breastfeeding at 18months and will be nearly 3 when the next one comes along in August. I’m hoping that breastfeeding will help me to chill out again and cope with dealing with 2 kids. I’d certainly say it’s one of the main things that got me through my mums death.

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  5. Laura

    Time for a sit down with baby, and no sterilising to do :)

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  6. Thanks for a great post.
    We aren’t nearly at the stage to think about tandem feeding but it’s lovely to here positive honest experience of it.

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  7. This is such a good post! I’m going to be sharing this all around. I’ve got a couple of friends getting ready to tandem feed who would love to read this. You’ve made me feel more open to it as well if we end up getting pregnant again.

    Breastfeeding benefit: I love that my milk is tailor-made for my baby’s body, every step of the way.
    Circus Queen’s last blog post ..And then the cows danced

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  8. I am 36.5 weeks pregnant and nusring my two-year old daughter! Great post on tandem nursing!
    Hannah’s last blog post ..How to Tuesday: TableTime

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  9. Donna McP

    My daughter finished nursing just as I got pregnant, she had been winding down for a while, but had she wanted to carry on I think I would have tandem fed. She has shown an interest in her brother feeding and has been seen to tandem feed her dolls. A great read thank you for sharing L)

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  10. Kristal

    Lovely post, I’m tandem nursing my 4 year old and my 10 month old…with only one working boob! It gets a bit tiring at times but so worth it for all the reasons you’ve mentioned.

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  11. If I’m allowed another one there will be a 4 year plus break so I hope not to tandem feed.
    I do love the time out you get during a feed though

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  12. Interesting post. I’m currently 19 weeks pregnant and my 16-month old son is still keen to nurse. The problem for me is I know that I’m likely to have supply issues with the newborn. I had very low supply with my son and had to supplement when he was a baby – probably due partly to his tongue tie that wasn’t spotted til 10 weeks, but also my breast hypoplasia, which means I’m unlikely to physically produce enough milk. It’s fine now for my toddler, but I don’t think I’ll have enough for 2. So I’m hoping he will self-wean (not looking likely right now…) or I’ll have to help him wean. I don’t want to but it’s the best option in our case. I wish I could tandem nurse, and all these things you’ve talked about look great, but I don’t think it’s for us unfortunately. So nice to hear from someone else who’s done it though!

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    Luschka Reply:

    Hi Ruth, thanks for your comment. Of course there are always exceptional circumstances, and I 100% agree it’s not for everyone – trust me, sometimes it’s not even for me! ;) – but it’s worth keeping an open mind, if it’s something you’re willing to do. The biggest lesson for me in having a second child has been that everything’s different. Just because you had issues first time round isn’t a guarantee that you will second time round. It may be that having a nursing child keeps your supply steady – unfortunately only time will tell! Good luck though, and many congratulations! :)

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