Tandem Nursing

December 14, 2007

Tandem Nursing is defined as breastfeeding two or more children of different ages at the same time. It generally occurs when a nursing mother continues breastfeeding through a subsequent pregnancy. Once the new baby is born, the mother finds herself nursing siblings.

But Why Tandem Nurses?

The most obvious reason that a mother tandem nurses is because her older child is not ready to wean. Especially if you have nursed him throughout the pregnancy, he will not think to wean just because a new baby has arrived. More likely, the appearance of his new rival in your arms and on your breast will make him want to nurse even more.

Often a child who has already weaned will watch her new sibling nurse and ask if she can try. Though many weaned children find that they have lost the ability to nurse, others latch on and never look back. Expect the first few weeks to be difficult. Many children who nursed a few times a day before the birth, suddenly want to nurse all the time after the birth. With time it will get easier.

Less Sibling Rivalry with Nursing?

Many mothers think that nursing both children helps curb jealousy and sibling rivalry. What better way to ensure your older child that there is still room for him on your lap and in your arms! But you should still expect him to react to the arrival of his new sibling.

Other Benefits of Breastfeeding

As long as your older child nurses she receives the health benefits of your milk. A woman having problems with her milk supply can encourage her older child to nurse in order to stimulate her breasts to make more milk. Older nurslings are great for relieving engorgement as well.

Personally, I used tandem nursing as a way to get some rest. With my baby on one breast and my active toddler safe and content on the other, I could put my head back and close my eyes.

The How Tos of Tandem Nursing

There are no hard and fast rules to tandem nursing. In the first few days after birth, nurse the newborn first, since colostrums is made in limited quantity. If you have your baby in the hospital, you will be alone with her anyways. Once your breasts begin to produce mature milk, around the third day, you can just let both children nurse and see what works for you. It may not be wise to let the older child nurse from both breasts immediately before the baby wakes to feed but besides that pretty much anything goes. You will need to play around with positions and pillows to find a way that you will all be comfortable. Positioning will become much easier as your infant grows and needs less assistance.

Hygiene and Breastfeeding

You do not need to assign each child a breast or to wash it between nursings even if a child is ill. By the time one of your children shows signs of illness, you and his sibling have already been exposed to the pathogen that caused it. Your body will make antibodies against your child's illness and both nurslings will receive them. If one of the three of you has oral thrush, all of you should be treated and it may help to assign each child to one breast. If your older child has a cold sore on his mouth or you have a herpetic lesion on your breast, every caution must be taken to protect your newborn. Herpes simplex is extremely dangerous for newborns. Contact your doctor.

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