Mom with her two babies.


What to Know About Tandem Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is an important part of early development, but what happens when you have more than one child who needs to nurse? Tandem breastfeeding is the act of breastfeeding two or more children at the same time. They may be different ages or the same age, in the case of multiples. Although this may sound difficult, especially if you have triplets, tandem breastfeeding doesn’t necessarily mean both children are at the breast at the same time. To help provide you with some clarification and important information, here’s what to know about tandem breastfeeding. 


Understanding Tandem Breastfeeding

As mentioned, tandem breastfeeding refers to the act of breastfeeding two or more children at the same time. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have one child on each breast. Instead, it refers to the general act of breastfeeding both children. This may mean feeding one first and the other after or nursing at different times throughout the day.

Tandem feedings aren’t often something that’s planned, but if you have two pregnancies close together it may be the best option to make sure both your children are receiving the benefits of breast milk. The decision to tandem breastfeed is a personal one, and some mothers may see a second pregnancy as the right time to ween their toddler off the breast. However, if your child is still quite young and you’re not ready to stop nursing, tandem breastfeeding is a great option. With that being said, the idea of tandem breastfeeding raises some questions.

Does the Order of Nursing Matter?

The most common question that mothers have is regarding the order of nursing. This is understandable, as newborns need to be breastfed much more frequently. During the first few days of birth, you should feed your newborn first with breastfeeding on demand. This ensures that they receive the colostrum that you’re producing, which is essential to kickstarting your newborn’s immune system and helping the digestive tract develop. However, once the colostrum period is over, the order you feed your children doesn’t tend to matter. You should prioritize your newborn’s feeding schedule if your older child is able to eat solids.

Breast milk works on a supply and demand basis, so if you’re feeding more often, you’ll make more milk. Tandem breastfeeding may also help you reduce feelings of engorgement or the risk of mastitis.

What are the Benefits of Tandem Breastfeeding?

There are several benefits of tandem breastfeeding, especially if your oldest is still under the age of two. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that children should be exclusively breastfed up until six months, and then breastfeed as a supplement to solids up until the age of two or beyond.

As your child ages, they tend to progress through a natural age of weaning, which usually occurs between the ages of two and four. If your older child isn’t at these milestones yet and doesn’t show signs of being ready to wean, tandem breastfeeding offers great benefits.

Breast milk is filled with nutrient dense calories, which can continue to help your child’s immune system and physical and emotional development well into their toddler years. Continuing to breastfeed as a supplement to nutrient-dense solids allows your children to receive these health benefits while simultaneously strengthening feelings of bonding.

Tandem breastfeeding may also help your older child feel less left out and adapt to a new sibling in the house. Since they’re partaking in the same activities as their new brother or sister, even if they are teething, they gain a feeling of reassurance of their place within the family dynamic. However, in some instances a regression may occur. This is when your eldest slowly stops eating solids and requests to breastfeed more frequently to match the baby’s feedings. We’ll cover more about this regression below.

All in all, if you’ve recently become pregnant and are still nursing, there’s nothing to worry about. Tandem breastfeeding has plenty of great benefits for everyone involved, so don’t assume that you need to begin weaning right away.start your order

Can You Breastfeed Throughout Pregnancy?

Although tandem breastfeeding is great, some women express hesitation about breastfeeding while pregnant. Depending on the course of your pregnancy, the idea of breastfeeding may seem impossible. If you experience a lot of morning sickness or nausea, this can lead to breastfeeding aversions, which may be negatively perceived by your child. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for pregnancy to increase nipple pain or sensitivity, which can make feedings painful. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that you have a breast milk stash available so that you can take breaks or bottle feed if you’re not feeling up to nursing.

It is important to keep in mind that if your toddler is older and in the window of natural weaning, taking a break due to nipple pain may be the end of their nursing behaviors altogether. However, that doesn’t mean you should push through discomfort. Instead, see it as a reassuring sign that your child has reached certain developmental milestones and made the decision on their own. There are still plenty of other ways you can continue to bond with your toddler as they age, so while it might be bittersweet, don’t force them to return to the breast.

Some women also notice that their breast milk supply seems to drop during a pregnancy. Unfortunately, this is usually due to the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy. If your child is under the age of one, you may need a supplemental source of nutrition to ensure they maintain a healthy development.

Additionally, colostrum production can begin to occur around the 16th week of pregnancy. While very dense in nutrients, it can change the taste of your breast milk, which may lead to a refusal to drink it. If the taste doesn’t act as an aversion, make sure you pay special attention to your child’s bathroom habits as colostrum has a laxative effect when consumed.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding tandem breastfeeding and your older child, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician.


Preparing for Tandem Breastfeeding

Before your new baby arrives, you may want to consider taking the time to help prepare your first born for their arrival. This can be done gently to help ease the transition, even if they’re not vocal yet. Read stories that have siblings, talk to them about their upcoming brother or sister, and help set the stage for success. This can create an easier transition and reduce any potential friction involved with tandem breastfeeding.

Some mothers find that when their newborn arrives, their first-born regresses to newborn nursing behaviors. This shouldn’t be a cause for concern, but it’s important that they still get the nutrition they need to support their developing bodies. If you don’t mind tandem breastfeeding more frequently with your older child, that’s great. However, if it gets too overwhelming, you may want to try negotiating or explaining the differences between them and the baby. Creating limits to breastfeeding for your older child can help set boundaries, but if it causes problems, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor or pediatrician for advice.


How to Eat for Tandem Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding burns a lot of calories, and you need to consume more during pregnancy, so you may need to make a few alterations to your diet. Increasing your caloric intake is a good way to ensure your body is supported during this time. However, you should always focus on nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. These are the best foods to help fuel your breast milk production and your pregnancy. If you’re not sure how to change your diet to best support your tandem breastfeeding journey, your doctor can help you with healthy meal planning based on your unique dietary needs.

In order to tandem breastfeed successfully, it’s important to find a comfortable position. If you notice that your newborn isn’t latching properly, consider working with a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant will be able to help you address everything from a weak latch to challenges you’re experiencing throughout tandem breastfeeding. Ask your doctor for a recommendation or find a specialist in your network online. To help, Byram Healthcare offers a wide selection of insurance covered breast pumps to new and expecting moms to help ensure your baby is getting the nutrients they need for a healthy development. Browse our breast pump comparison chart and get started with our easy, three-step ordering process today.