Tandem feeding: Your questions answered

August 23

  • New Mum

Tandem feeding: Your questions answered

It’s quite safe to breastfeed through a healthy pregnancy if you and your older child want to, find out more about the benefits of tandem feeding a...

5 min read By Emma Ashworth, Doula And Author Of The AIMS Guide To Your Rights In Pregnancy And Birth

Tandem feeding means that you have two babies or children who are breastfeeding at the same time, either the same age (e.g. twins or multiples) or a newborn and an older child.

It is quite common for young children to still be breastfeeding when there’s a new pregnancy and, yes, you can get pregnant when you are breastfeeding! When the new baby is born, the older child can continue to breastfeed if that is what the child and the mother or birth parent would like to do.

Is it safe to breastfeed while pregnant?

Yes! There is no evidence that breastfeeding through a healthy pregnancy can cause premature labour or harm your unborn baby in any way. Your older child will not be taking nutrients from the new baby.

Will my older child want to nurse through pregnancy?

Sometimes, our milk supply in pregnancy may slow down and even stop. Children who are old enough to talk may report that it starts to taste different which, if they don’t like it, may mean that they self-wean in pregnancy. Others continue regardless! A few stop breastfeeding during the pregnancy, then want to start again when the new baby is born. 

Nursing aversion in pregnancy

It is not uncommon to feel that you do not want to breastfeed your older child during pregnancy because it feels painful or gives you a sense of discomfort. This is called nursing aversion.

Remember, it’s your body, and you decide what to do with it! If you don’t want to keep breastfeeding, you don’t have to. It is also fine to just keep going if it is important to you, even if you feel uncomfortable. You may find that chatting to mums or parents who have also breastfed through pregnancy really helps. Just knowing that you are not alone can often help to lift any doubts about the right way forward for you.

If there are specific times when you feel most uncomfortable, try distracting your child instead, perhaps with a game or a drink of something different. Nursing aversion is often related to hormones which can wax and wane over the day, so it is common to feel like you don’t want to breastfeed sometimes and feel quite happy to at other times.

Will my newborn get their colostrum?

Colostrum is made by our bodies for around two weeks after birth, but after the first 3-5 days we start to make what we call mature milk, which is less thick, and there’s more of it than colostrum. When we talk about our milk ‘coming in’ it just means that it is starting to change to mature milk – our breasts have milk from before our baby is born. 

Our bodies work out when to start to make mature milk based on the time that has passed since birth, not the amount of milk that has been drunk. So, as long as your new baby has enough time feeding well at the breast, your older child will not drink all the colostrum and they will not make mature milk come more quickly.

However, it can take a couple of weeks for our bodies to work out that it needs to make enough milk for two. For this reason, it may be helpful to ensure that the new baby is fed first if possible, just so they have first dibs!

Benefits of tandem breastfeeding

Older children often accept their new sibling much more readily if they are still welcomed at the breast as well. It is a beautiful opportunity for the two of you to reconnect and be together, and keeps a sense of normality for your child, when so much has changed. If you are breastfeeding both children at the same time keep your phone camera close by to grab some shots of them together. You might be lucky and get a gorgeous pic of your older child reaching over to gently touch their new brother or sister – or even hold their hand!

Breast engorgement is very easily relieved by a nursing child. They can help by softening your breasts which makes it easier for your new baby to get a good latch. It is also a great way to release a blocked duct!

Practicalities of tandem nursing

You can breastfeed your children at the same time if you want to, but this can feel like doing a jigsaw with an octopus! With practice, though, it can be really lovely for you all. Having both children in the rugby ball hold can work quite well. Well-endowed ladies may be able to lie back and have one child each side of them. Try different positions and see what works but remember to ensure that your newborn’s latch is as good as possible every time, to reduce the chance of getting sore nipples.

Summary

It’s quite safe to breastfeed through a healthy pregnancy if you and your older child want to. After your new baby is born, tandem breastfeeding can help you to connect with your older child, and it’s the best way to reduce engorgement. It may take some practice but if tandem feeding is right for you it will leave you with delightful life-long memories.