Tandem breastfeeding is no joke. It can be very taxing and isn't all rainbows and unicorns like so many sites seem to portray it. But...it's worth it.
I tandem breastfeed by two little ones and while it was definitely challenging, I wouldn't go back and change anything. The positives outweighed the negatives.
In this article, I'm sharing my tips and experience with tandem nursing.
Yesterday I wrote about my experience and tips for breastfeeding through pregnancy, so today I thought I'd follow that up with what my experience has been for the last eight months of nursing two kiddos.
First of all, I'd like to clear something up. I was under the impression that tandem nursers usually, if not always, nurse both of their children at the same time since I always saw photos like that on Facebook (and apparently everyone else is also under that impression because I get asked a lot if I do that).
Well the answer is no, I don't do that. I've done that once and not only did I not like it, but the boys were annoyed that they didn't have room and were kicking each other. I had read that siblings look into each other's eyes and bond and hold hands...mine looked into each other's eyes but more of like a "this is mine" and "I'll cut you if you trespass" kind of look.
What is tandem feeding?
Tandem nursing actually begins when a breastfeeding mom becomes pregnant and continues to breastfeed. But most of us consider it tandem nursing when a woman is breastfeeding more than one child.
Besides the nursing aversions that I wrote about yesterday, I've had pretty much all positive experiences with tandem nursing.
The positives of tandem breastfeeding
My milk came in super fast: this might've been because it was my second baby, but my milk came in the day after my son was born. I definitely think the skilled and strong suckling power of a toddler helps bring the milk in faster.
I had enough milk for a village: a lot of moms worry that they won't have enough milk for two. For the first month or more, you will have a lot of milk. Usually, mothers who are tandem nursing have oversupply rather than undersupply.
It makes sense since the amount of milk you produce is based on supply & demand. You have two suckling at the breast, so enough milk for two will definitely come in! Later on, after my supply regulated, I found that I rarely had totally full breasts like I did the first time around. In fact, I feel "empty" quite often, but there is always milk. Always enough. I've never had supply issues while tandem nursing, even though I feel less full.
Toddler helped with engorgement: Piggie was like my little bottom feeder! Always waiting patiently in the wings for the chance to lap up whatever Dacky didn't finish. And Dacky could barely keep up with all that milk, so Piggie was there to save the day (and my engorged breasts)! I may or may not have pulled Piggie from activities that he was happily doing elsewhere to come and relieve me of engorgement.
Toddler was kept healthy during newborn period: all of that newborn milk, that's filled with all the good stuff, helped keep Piggie healthy during a time that I really needed him to be healthy! No one wants a sick child around a newborn, and I was provided some comfort in knowing that his immunity was getting an extra boost during that vulnerable period with Dacky.
I was able to stay emotionally close to my toddler: those first few weeks after the baby is born are so turbulent and emotions are all over the place for everyone in the family.
Being able to nurse Piggie was a godsend. It helped keep us close during a time that I felt like he didn't get very much attention from me because I was having to give so much of it to the baby. I could tell he missed me and I missed him too, so those nursing sessions were extra special for the both of us.
Some Tips on Tandem Nursing & Things to Expect
Your toddler may revert back to exclusive breastfeeding for a few weeks. Piggie lived off of milk for six weeks. His dinner plates went cold and uneaten. His fruit bowls remained untouched. He lived, breathed, and slept milkies. It's okay and it's normal, they will eventually start eating again. Just keep offering!
Offer baby the breast first. In the first week or so when you're still producing colostrum, offer the fullest breast to the baby first and let the toddler nurse from the same breast afterwards.
Once your mature milk comes in, it doesn't really matter. In fact, I usually have one breast that is for the toddler and one that is for the baby. I found out in my support group that a lot of the moms do this too!
And if you're worried that this method would be harmful for the baby cause he or she would be getting less milk, you haven't seen Dacky. He's a fatty.
Green poop is normal. Since tandem nursers can have oversupply for a while, their babies have more chance of getting a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance. Baby gets too much of the watery foremilk and doesn't get to the hindmilk. This can cause gassiness or green stools.
Dacky had green stools for several weeks, but it was okay because he was gaining weight and he wasn't gassy. You can try to put your baby to the breast after nursing your toddler so they can get more of the hindmilk. But really, don't worry too much as long as your baby is gaining weight. Your supply will regulate and their poops will go back to normal.
Take care of yourself. Tandem nursing is a lot of work, physically and emotionally. Your body is producing milk for two and you might feel like all you do is breastfeed.
You will likely feel touched out and worn down some days. Take a long bath, go to a bookstore or shopping for a couple of hours; do something for yourself where no one is needing you. It helps me to do these things to avoid burnout and feeling overwhelmed.
I am by no means an expert at any of this, I'm just speaking from my own personal experience and sharing things that I found out along the way. If you've tandem nursed, please leave any tips or advice that you have! I'm also posting a link to the Facebook support group for tandem nursers, which I LOVE.
Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/Pregnant.Tandem.BFers/
If you are experiencing nursing aversions, here is another Facebook group (with mostly the same moms from the first group!) - https://www.facebook.com/groups/407193142696633/
Recommended Reading: Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond