Milk + Honey

A Guide to Tandem Nursing

Maria MengelComment

Yep, that's me! When my second daughter was born, I found myself in a place I had never dreamed I would be!  First, breastfeeding while pregnant.  And then, nursing two babies at once!

Whether it's something you're planning for the future, or if you just happen to end up there like I did, I think my experience can help shed some light on tandem nursing so you're more prepared than I was.

  1. Let go of expectations.  I had this idea that tandem nursing would be a beautiful, relaxing bonding moment between me and my daughters, and that they would be forever connected by sharing the same milk at the same time.  BOY WAS I WRONG.  I am generally not a touchy-feely person, and having a squirming toddler and new baby attached to my breasts together many times a day made me want to rip my hair out.  BUT, I know that is not everyone's experience! I have met some amazing women who find it much easier to nurse both kids at the same time and for the most part, enjoyed tandem nursing.  For me, I had to accept that nursing them separately was the only way to preserve my sanity.
  2. Find some support.  Go ahead, tell someone in the general public that you breastfeed your toddler and your baby together.  See what happens.  Most people think you're nuts.  So, it's critical to find a community of people who understand you.  If you don't have friends or family who have tandem nursed before, there are some awesome Facebook groups specifically for discussion on tandem nursing. Join them!  Post your questions and get to know each other.  And in the meantime, keep the people who support you close--your partner, and your non-judgmental family and friends.
  3. Read! Some things really surprised me.  Like, around 17 weeks of pregnancy, due to hormones, my milk supply completely disappeared.  My daughter was over a year old at that point, and I was proud to have nursed her for so long, but I was so surprised at the guilt that I experienced by depriving her of milk that I believed she deserved.  It was a rough transition.  She ended up continuing to nurse for comfort throughout the pregnancy, and that was extremely hard too.  Without milk and lubrication, nursing became much more painful and my *very strong* desire to meet her needs is what kept me going.  I suppose what I'm getting at is that if you can anticipate some of these things, you likely won't be as surprised as me and can have time to prepare yourself.  A great book to read is Adventures in Tandem Nursing by Hilary Flower.  I would recommend reading it during pregnancy and then keeping it to refer back to when you have questions or encounter issues when the baby is here.  KellyMom also has a great FAQ section on their blog about tandem nursing.
  4. If you need to set boundaries, do it.  Breastfeeding one child is hard enough!  If you need to limit your toddler's time nursing, set clear boundaries.  Good phrases to use are "It's baby's turn for milk.  Let's play a game and then it can be your turn soon!", or "Babies need lots of milk to grow big and strong.  Did you know that you had lots of milk when you were a baby?  What else can you eat to make you happy and healthy now that you're a big kid?"  Of course, mom guilt will be a thing.  I'm not convinced that it ever goes away.
  5. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. EAT.  Frequently.  Lots of nutritious food.  Drink an actual ton of water or tea--every day.  Set limits and make boundaries.  Rest and sleep when you can.  Take responsibility for keeping your stress level low.  Give yourself permission to say no to opportunities sometimes.  Producing lots of milk for two babies takes an immense emotional and physical toll on your mind and body.  You cannot be a great mother if you're depleted.  Ask for help, hire help, or just simply order take out sometimes.
  6. Do something to reward yourself and commemorate this time.  I was finished with nursing before I even knew about breast milk jewelry.  But, I did participate in an amazing group photo shoot by Liz Hough Photography (below), so I'd have beautiful photos of me and my babies forever.  And if that just means taking a bath alone a couple times per week, DO IT.

Have you ever tandem breastfed?  Would you?  What was your biggest hurdle with tandem nursing? Or what would your biggest concern be?