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.
- 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).
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:
- Breastfeeding your newborn and an older child
- Booklet: Breastfeeding during pregnancy and tandem breastfeeding (page 62)
- Breastfeeding during pregnancy and tandem nursing
- Book: Adventures in tandem nursing: Breastfeeding during pregnancy and beyond by Hilary Flower (ask your local library if they can bring in a copy)