Whether you're new to breastfeeding or nursing your fifth child, the act of sustaining another human being with your body isn't easy. So imagine the unique challenges women face when breastfeeding more than one baby. Whether it's because you've welcomed a newborn while still nursing a toddler, or you've just given birth to multiples, nursing more than one child at once can be nothing short of tricky. And while it's not for every mom, having some handy tandem breastfeeding tips may help you navigate this incredible task a little easier.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends moms breastfeed their children until they're 2, and even beyond if they're willing and/or able. So if you have welcomed a new child and their older sibling is still nursing, using the tandem approach may be the best option. Even if you've weaned your previously nursing child, Breastfeeding USA points out that even slightly older children who were previously weaned or uninterested in breastfeeding might want to join in when their new sibling nurses. And while the whole "feeding multiple children with your body" thing can be difficult, with the right nursing positions, and a slew of support, it is far from impossible. Because breasts respond by producing as much milk as your babies demand, there's no need to stress about whether or not your body is producing enough to sustain more than one child, either. However, if you notice a lack of wet or soiled diapers, or that either one of your breastfeeding babies appear to be hungrier than normal, you might reduce feedings to just one child at a time until the needs are met. And, of course, do not hesitate to contact your health care provider.
While tandem breastfeeding isn't for everyone, and can feel overwhelming at times, only you can decide what works for you and your children. If you do decide to give it a try, here are some potentially helpful tips and tricks that could aid in your overall nursing experience:
The first step to tandem breastfeeding is ensuring you have a comfortable space and any "helpers" you might need to make the feeding as painless as possible. Everything from locating the right chair, finding the right support pillows, and gathering anything you'll need while stuck in the breastfeeding position can help you reach your tandem breastfeeding goal. While these are all things you'd typically do breastfeeding one child anyway, think of it as being twice as prepared to feed twice the number of babies.
KellyMom also suggests you prepare your toddler to tandem nurse as well. Everything for talking to your child about how you're going to nurse after the baby is born, to looking at pictures of tandem nursing together, will help your older child prepare for the change.
There are a lot of positions for tandem breastfeeding, so it's important to experiment until you find what works for you. Fit Pregnancy offers a step-by-step guide, describing the basics of breastfeeding properly, along with different positions such as the cradle, the football and side-lying positions. Once you've mastered one child's positioning, and you're confident and comfortable, you can try adding the second.
Fit Pregnancy suggests mothers who plan on tandem breastfeeding start by feeding the infant first, so their immediate nutritional needs are met, at least until your colostrum is gone. If you're feeding twins, take turns so both babies are given the opportunity to feed first, and continue to breastfeed them separately so you can assess if either one of your newborns are having difficulties feeding.
It may not seem like a lot to add another child to your feeding routine, but be sure you're consuming enough calories to meet the needs of your breastfeeding children,. It's also vital that you drink plenty of water and giving yourself plenty of breaks. Tandem breastfeeding is exhausting, but your toddler won't nurse every two to three hours like your newborn will.
If you have twins, be extra vigilant about taking care of yourself. Give yourself permission to ask for help if you need it.
Finding positions that work, and getting both kids to latch properly, can and probably will take practice. It's easy to become frustrated when you're not nailing it right away, and especially when your children are hungry. Practicing early and often bumps up your best chance for success. But again, go easy on yourself if it takes time to get right.
Even if you don't have La Leche League groups to join in person, they offer an abundance of breastfeeding support online. Utilize all the help you can get from your hospital and doctors, friends and family, and never be afraid to speak up when you need the support or encouragement. Fit Pregnancy reminds nursing mothers that not even all midwives or OB-GYNS are up-to-date on the benefits and safety of tandem breastfeeding, so it's important you find a provider who can give you the adequate information and support you need.
Again, it takes time to get tandem breastfeeding down. Set realistic expectations with yourself, and be flexible about timing and schedules. The key is to allow your children however much time they need to nurse. Things come up and plans change, so be willing to adapt.
It's common for your older child to be somewhat "concerned" about the frequency in which their younger sibling is nursing. It may help to set time limits for your toddler and/or only facilitating a tandem feeding at specific times, like during bed and nap times, so you can manage your older child's expectations.
If you try tandem breastfeeding and it's too overwhelming, or causes you more stress than you need, know that there are alternative methods that will give you the breathing space you deserve. Yes, your children will still be well-fed. Yes, you're allowed to prioritize your needs, especially concerning your mental health. There's no "right" or "wrong" way to feed your children, as long as they are being fed.
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