Tandem Nursing and Extended Breastfeeding
Many moms opt to continue providing breast milk for their older baby into toddlerhood, through their next pregnancy, and after their new baby arrives - Here's what to know ahead of time!
Nursing More Than One Takes Commitment – But It Can Be Done!
Tandem nursing – known as the act of breastfeeding more than one baby – is most commonly seen with parents of multiples, such as twins or triplets, but is also very common amongst parents with little ones who are close in age. In fact, some moms opt to continue providing breast milk for their older baby into toddlerhood, through their next pregnancy, and then after the new baby arrives – meaning, these totally dedicated moms are now pulling double duty by breast milk feeding their older little one and their younger baby! Whether you recently found out you’re expecting another little one or you just had your younger baby and are wondering how to balance it all, it’s normal to have questions about tandem nursing so you can decide if this is right for you and your growing family.
- Is it safe to keep breastfeeding while I’m pregnant?
According to La Leche League International, there is no evidence that continuing to breastfeed while pregnant will harm your growing baby and there is also no reason to suspect the oxytocin released while breastfeeding could trigger early labor. A 2012 study compared rates of success in reaching full-term delivery and newborn birth weights between two groups – one with moms who breastfed during pregnancy and one with moms who did not. This study found no significant difference in either birth weights or full-term deliveries between the two groups. However, it is important to note that this study also excluded high-risk pregnancies – if your new pregnancy is considered high-risk, or if you are expecting multiples, chat with your healthcare provider first as they may recommend weaning for now or exploring other options to ensure the safest possible pregnancy.
- What changes to my breast milk might occur?
Some women who breastfeed while pregnant find that their milk supply decreases about midway through pregnancy and/or that the composition of their milk changes, both of which can usually be chalked up to normal hormonal shifts that occur when expecting. Keep a close eye on your milk supply to ensure your older baby is still getting enough to eat – this may be a good time to begin introducing more solids or dipping into a stored breast milk supply that you may have in the freezer to ensure he or she is still receiving plenty of your liquid gold!
- Will I be able to make enough milk to feed both babies?
You are practically a rock star, mama! Not only can your body do amazing things, but one of those things is adjusting your breast milk production and composition based on the needs of your little ones. Your milk is made on a supply and demand basis, and will adjust accordingly once there are two babies needing nourishment. If you’re providing breast milk to both a toddler and a newborn, it’s important to remember that toddlers generally nurse much less often than a new baby and are receiving most of their daily calories and nutrients from other foods now. So, don’t worry – there is plenty of mama’s milk to go around for everyone!
- How can I balance breastfeeding both my toddler (or older baby), along with my younger baby?
Tandem nursing takes commitment, but can be a great way to maintain a special connection with your older baby after your newborn arrives. Feeling stressed or frustrated while tandem nursing can happen, so it’s important to have certain boundaries in place with your toddler, such as only nursing him or her at certain times of the day or evening, nursing him or her for only short periods of time, requesting that they nurse separately from their younger sibling, and being firm and consistent when it comes to asking your toddler to be gentle and/or lay still while breastfeeding.
Once your new baby arrives, it is important to ensure he or she gets priority when it comes to nursing so you can establish a strong breastfeeding relationship right away. Many parents are conscious of jealousy that may arise from their toddler, particularly as their newborn brother or sister nurses much more often, and may opt to continue tandem nursing more so for the comfort and security that their toddler receives from this special bonding time than for the nourishment or wellness benefits. It is solely up to you whether you continue tandem nursing just through the transition period of introducing a new family member or if it’s something that works for everyone longer-term!
Your Breast Milk Feeding Journey is Unique and Should Continue for as Long as You Want!
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, breastfeeding during pregnancy is a personal decision that should be made by you – so long as your pregnancy does not have complications and you are healthy. Tandem nursing can be an incredibly fulfilling and special time as a mom, but puts you – and your body! – in great demand, so ensuring you have time prioritized for self-care is important too. However you choose to provide breast milk to your little ones – and whatever ways work best for your family – tandem nursing is your completely your decision. Medela is here to support your breastfeeding journey, in whatever forms it may take, as your proud partner in providing your little ones with breast milk for as long as you choose.