Breastfeeding tandem (or tandem nursing) is choosing to breastfeed two children of different ages during the same period of time. This does not necessarily mean that you are literally nursing both children at the same moment, but some women do.
Some people define tandem breastfeeding as feeding two or more babies simultaneously while others limit it to feeding children of different ages at the same time. We will discuss strategies for successfully feeding twins as well as feeding babies of different ages, hopefully covering all bases for every breastfeeding mother ready to take on this challenge.
Why Nurse in Tandem?
Most mothers who tandem breastfeed their children feel that natural weaning is extremely important. They see no reason to wean one child when they become pregnant or give birth to the next. Since there is really no reason to stop nursing to get pregnant, they simply keep breastfeeding as long as each child wants.
Do They Nurse at the Same Time?
Breastfeeding tandem for most mothers is actually done separately. They do not have both children at their breasts at the exact same time. The oldest usually nurses only after the younger child is finished.
Other breastfeeding mothers, however, actually enjoy the opportunity to nurse both children together. They claim this lessens sibling competition and fosters a special closeness between their children.
You don’t have to always feed your babies at the exact same time in order to qualify as a tandem breastfeeding mother. Your children may feed at different times throughout the day, or you may encourage them to feed together in order to save some time or to develop a daily routine. Whatever patterns you fall into, the information presented here will help you better understand how to feed in tandem successfully.
Tandem Breastfeeding Calories and Nutrition
It’s natural to think about what your eating and how many calories you’re consuming while feeding more than one baby. The more milk your body produces, the more calories you will need to sustain that process plus your own bodily functions.
For most women, the extra fat reserves from pregnancy are adequate to supply the extra calories needed without consuming more calories. Most women also feel hungrier while tandem feeding, and that naturally drives you to increase your caloric intake as needed. If you listen to your body, you may not need to count calories to ensure that you’re eating enough to produce healthy milk for your babies.
If you don’t have much extra fat on your body or you just want to make sure that you’re giving your body the nutrients needed to create nourishing milk, you may want to add an extra 500-600 calories to your daily diet.
It’s best to stick to lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy products to ensure that you take in quality nutrients. Junk food is mostly loaded with sugar and may have no nutritional value for your milk supply. If you’re concerned that you can’t eat enough to sustain tandem breastfeeding, talk to your doctor about adding supplemental drinks like Boost or Ensure to your diet. You can buy these over the counter, and they will increase your caloric intake without requiring you to consume extra food.
Tandem Breastfeeding Positions
How you hold your babies while breastfeeding will depend on the ages of your children and your personal preferences. You may find different positions more comfortable in different settings or circumstances, so it’s good to study and practice all of your options. As your children grow, you may find yourself adjusting to different positions to accommodate their changing sizes (or just breastfeed them at different times if that is easier for you!)
We’ll talk about positions that are suitable for different tandem feeding scenarios in a moment, but for now, let’s go over some basic tandem breastfeeding positions that may work for you:
- Cradle Position – This is the most common position for breastfeeding mothers with only one baby at the nipple. The baby’s head is positioned in the crook of your arm while his or her body extends along your arm and is cradled up close to your stomach.
- Double Cradle Position – This is specific to tandem breastfeeding. Both of the babies are held in a cradle position, but the older child’s legs must be positioned underneath the smaller baby’s legs. Make sure that you’re sitting in a comfortable position with a lot of support because you will need to hold the weight of both babies on your stomach.
- Football Hold – This refers to holding a small baby or child much as you would hold a football while running down the field. The baby’s body extends underneath your arm with the legs stretched out behind your body. Your hand cradles underneath the baby’s head and neck for support in front. This position places the baby’s mouth perfectly at nipple height.
- Double Football Holds – This is simply placing both babies in a football hold. This isn’t comfortable with toddlers, so it applies mostly to mothers breastfeeding multiples or babies very close in age and size.
- Upright Latch – Two small babies are held in front, but they don’t cross over your front as with the cradle position. Each baby rests from your breast down to your waist or lap, allowing each the room to nurse without feeling crowded by the other.
- Lying Flat – There isn’t an official name for this tandem breastfeeding position, but it allows you to rest flat on your back while your babies are both cradled at your side. Place a pillow behind each of their backs, holding them forward as they breastfeed.
- Side Feeding – Rest on one side with the smallest baby cradled in front of y2ppwu]ijkm. Your older baby can lean over to feed from the top while kneeling behind you or lie beside the smaller baby and lean up to reach the top breast.
You may find other positions that just come about naturally as you enjoy daily life with your breastfeeding babies. Regardless of what you choose, always keep pillows around so that you can support your arms, back, and abdomen while holding the position. The weight of two babies pushing against your body can become too much without this support, especially if one of your babies is a toddler.
Tandem Nursing Twins
This is perhaps the most challenging scenario for feeding two or more babies. Breastfeeding is a time of bonding with your baby, and you will have your attention split between two little ones. You will also serve double duty when making sure that each baby is properly latched and is feeding correctly. Making sure that they each receive enough milk to feel satisfied is another issue.
The double football hold is usually the preferred position for breastfeeding twins. Their legs are securely held off to the side and behind you, and you can easily look down at each of their angelic faces for bonding and assessment of their feeding behaviors. The upright latch is also a popular option, but you may also hold one baby in the football hold while the other is cradled in the front.
To make sure that you can produce enough milk for both of your babies to nurse to satisfaction at each feeding, keep a pump on hand. The more you pump and breastfeed, the more milk your body should naturally create. Pumping allows you to build a freezer stash if you ever start supplementing with bottles, or you can donate your extra milk to a breast milk bank.
If left to their own schedules, it’s possible for twins to start feeding at different times. This can result in exhaustion for you because it’s difficult to sleep when the baby sleeps if you have two babies on different schedules. This is why many mothers of twins stress the importance of getting the babies on one schedule right from the beginning. This may mean waking one baby up to keep on the schedule, but it’s worth the effort if it saves you time and allows you to get the rest that you need between feedings.
Tandem Feeding a Baby & Older Child
There is only one rule when tandem breastfeeding a newborn baby and a toddler: The newborn goes first. You want the baby to get his or her share of your colostrum, which is the early milk dropped for a newborn. You will start to produce colostrum toward the end of your pregnancy, but it won’t hurt your older child. There is no need to stop breastfeeding just because you’re producing colostrum.
Once the baby is born, just make sure that the little one gets to breastfeed first. Eventually, you will produce milk that is suitable for them both and tandem feeding gets easier.
One popular position is a football hold for the smallest baby and a front position for the older child. Removing the baby’s body from your frontside leaves more room for a toddler to snuggle up to your breasts. Toddlers will generally select a position that is most comfortable to them, and they may rest in different positions at different times of the day or when sitting in different places.
This tandem breastfeeding arrangement is also suitable for positions that allow you to rest on your back or your side. This is a great option at times when you’re exhausted and just don’t want to support the weight of both babies while sitting up right.
Here’s one thing to keep in mind: Your toddler is the perfect tool to alleviate engorgement. This is something that many mothers don’t think about because they rarely get engorged with two or more babies demanding milk, but it can happen at times. Your growing baby may go through periods where he or she just isn’t eating as much as usual. As your toddler starts to eat more solid foods, they may demand less milk at feeding times.
If you start to feel engorged and it’s not a good time for dual feeding, offer a breast to the toddler. They’re likely to go for the comfort of spending time alone with mom, and they may need the extra milk for growth.
Breastfeeding While Pregnant
Some women assume that they need to wean one baby from the breast when they get pregnant with the next child, but this is unnecessary. It’s true that breastfeeding can cause mild contractions, but it doesn’t put most healthy women into premature labor. If you have complications or your pregnancy is high risk, make sure to discuss your breastfeeding options with your doctor. You may still want to discuss it with your doctor if you’re not at risk and your pregnancy is healthy, but for most women breastfeeding while pregnant is safe.
There are a few things that you should keep in mind when preparing to breastfeed through pregnancy:
- The taste of your breast milk may change as your body prepares for the unborn baby’s entrance into the world. Your older child may or may not notice this change.
- It’s common for women to notice a decrease in milk supply in late pregnancy. If your older child isn’t receiving enough milk sustain comfort and growth, they may wean themselves naturally. Don’t insist on breastfeeding if this happens. You might try supplementing with a bottle filled with pumped milk, or you may move your child to solid foods to ensure that he or she receives the nourishment that they need. They may or may not want to continue breastfeeding once the new baby is born.
- You may feel more exhausted and may have more nipple discomfort while pregnant, which can make breastfeeding more difficult. Take advantage of creams and other products designed to protect and heal your nipples.
Keep in mind that carrying a developing baby and breastfeeding while maintaining your own health is demanding on your body. Give yourself permission to enjoy feedings in a relaxed position, which also allows you to bond more with your older child before the new baby arrives. Spend more time in bed or resting on the couch, and try to think about where you will place the baby once he or she is born. Familiarity with the tandem feeding positions listed above will help you do this.
You also need to consume more calories because you’re supporting three people. When you feel hungry, allow yourself to health nutrient-dense foods without guilt. This isn’t the time to worry about weight gain.
If your older child starts to breastfeed less in preference of solid foods, don’t take it personally. It may have nothing to do with changes in your milk supply or the taste of your milk. Perhaps it’s just the natural time for your older child to progress.
Is Breastfeeding Tandem Right for You?
We won’t lie to you and say that breastfeeding multiple children simultaneously is easy. It requires a more complicated process and demands more of your time, but it’s something that you can do with the right information and effort. The biggest indicator that you’re a good match for tandem feeding is the fact that you have multiple babies in need of nourishment and you want to give each of them the health benefits of breast milk and bonding with mom.
Choosing to tandem breastfeed two children is a very personal decision that only you can make. Many women are happiest simply deciding not to decide. They simply continue nursing to see when the older child seems willing to wean…sometimes it happens during the pregnancy and sometimes it doesn’t. Until the child decides it is time, she will continue to enjoy nursing them both.
- Breastfeeding While Pregnant: Symptoms, Safety & Tips
- Getting Pregnant While Breastfeeding
- Benefits of Nursing Older Children