Se7en Tandem Nursing Questions… Asked and Answered…

It’s World BreastFeeding Week and while I guest posted on Joyful Mama’s Place and Se7en Tips for Nursing in Public I thought it was only right to have a post about nursing on our site as well. So I thought I would tackle one of the most common mothering topics I am asked  E.V.E.R…. Really. I have had so many mothers come up to me and ask: We are hoping to have our next child and I would like to know more about tandem nursing… I think a whole lot of moms do tandem nurse and I think people just don’t talk about it… one of those tricky topics. Like admitting your children sleep in your bed!!! Just this week the media world was shocked when Supermodel Gisele Bundchen announced that breastfeeding should be made law – can you imagine what the media would say about Tandem Nursing.

Tandem Nursing.jpg

For nursing mom’s that have their babies close together the question is not so much should they be nursing an older baby, they have already chosen the path of extended nursing for their baby. The question is more about the logistics of nursing a toddler and a newborn… and it is a bit of a juggle, believe me!!! This post is not meant to be the ultimate guide to Tandem Nursing, but rather my experience having nursed at least one baby, mostly two and sometimes three at a time over the last twelve years. I should also say that tandem nursing isn’t easy but for our family it was well worth it. I always intended my children to nurse as long as they needed to and I didn’t see why they should wean because a new sibling was on the way.

That all being said: Here are the questions I am most often asked:

  1. If I am still nursing can I fall pregnant? Of course you can fall pregnant while breastfeeding… if there is anyone who believes otherwise I can disprove that myth se7en times. According to LA Leche League there are certain factors that need to be in play for breastfeeding to be the “slightest  contraceptive”: Your baby has to be younger than six months old, you need to be amenorrheic, your baby should not have started any solids and your baby has to nurse two hourly (If your baby has a three, four or five hour core sleep… need I say more). When any one of those factors is not satisfied you can fall pregnant.
  2. Can I nurse while I am pregnant? Yes you can, but it is not all that comfortable. Just as your body is uncomfortable when you are pregnant the first time round – you will be uncomfortable during subsequent pregnancies… only now you will have an older baby, and at least for some of your pregnancy a toddler roaming around your body!!! Not easy!!! But that being said… I have managed to get a lot of rest while pregnant by nursing an older baby… and a good many afternoon naps when we would lie down together, nurse and nap. When I am pregnant I do set limits, I can only stand nursing for so long at a time before somebody on my skin starts to irritate me. So once I am pregnant there is no more nursing to sleep I tend to nurse until they are finished and then will lie with them while they learn to fall asleep on their own. Towards the end of your pregnancy you will have Braxton Hicks contractions and apparently they are worse if you are nursing, I can’t really say I have been tandem nursing for all except my first pregnancy and assume the Braxton-Hicks were all part of the pregnancy package.
  3. Will my baby get enough milk while I am pregnant? Your unborn baby will get all the nutrients it needs from your body. Your older baby will get the milk it needs but from about three months into the pregnancy your milk tends to dry up, it may feel completely… but actually all my nursing babies have received sufficient milk and continued to thrive… I do take good care though to ensure I am as healthy as I can be – lots of rest, heathy eating and so on to make sure that my body can nurture the unborn baby and make the milk my baby requires.
  4. When the baby is born will I still get colostrum? Yes you will and your newborn depends on it. When you tandem nurse your milk tends to “come in” a lot sooner than for a single nursling… so it is important that your newborn nurses as often as possible close to the birth, to make sure that your newborn gets the most benefit from the colostrum.
  5. Will I get engorged if I tandem nurse? You can get engorged, but there is nothing more efficient than an older baby to relieve engorgement. I find that my older nursling is so thrilled at the copious amounts of milk that they tend to overdo it the first day or two, especially as it gives them time to be close to their mama. After a couple of days, especially if it is freely available, they tend to lose interest and get on with their busy lives and return to their routine of nursing at nap time and bed time.
  6. Does Tandem nursing help to relieve Sibling Rivalry? I believe it does. Just because my older nursling has a new sibling doesn’t mean they are ready to lose their “baby status” and I have quite banned the whole “big brother, big sister” pedestal in our house. Frankly my babies are babies as long as they need to be and if we have another baby enter our home that doesn’t take away the older siblings need “to be babied.” I think the fact that they can continue to nurse provides a lot of security and comfort in a time which is often tumultuous. Let’s face it a new baby in the home is a big adjustment for us as adults and for an eighteen month old it must be right up there maximum “adjustment required.” Otherwise I have found all my older siblings to be very caring and aware of their nursing partner and eager to stop nursing and let the newborn have a chance – I do quite a bit of preparation for siblings and a lot of it has to do with the older child being “responsible” (not really but it is a job that they can achieve) for reminding me to nurse the baby… my kids have all loved this task and have taken it very seriously!!!
  7. Do you always nurse the younger baby first? No, as I have said before the toddler nurser is a much more efficient nurser than a newborn and quite often just needs a very quick nursing session (a minute or two) to be satisfied. We all know newborns can take ages – absolute ages. I have found that if my toddler wants to nurse desperately, especially at bedtime I will let them nurse first because they tend to be content and drop off to sleep and then nurse the newborn for as long as it needs. To try and cope with nursing a newborn for absolute ages while a desperate toddler waits is one of life’s worst experiences and could only have been decreed, in a lot of breastfeeding books by an author who has never tandem nursed. I have always found it hard to nurse both babies at once, it is awkward and I also find that they have different rhythms and styles of nursing and I find it difficult to focus!!! That being said desperate times call for desperate measures and I will nurse both at once if need be.

    And the se7en + 1th thing:


  9. Where can I find more information about Tandem Nursing? Probably not your “medical person,” whoever that may be. I have never had a medical person discourage me from tandem nursing, that being said I have never had one ask if I was tandem nursing.The assumption was always that I wasn’t and I wasn’t actually going to go there… I was fighting hard enough for a number of home births and I am sure some bright spark would have suggested I could have a home birth only if I wasn’t nursing an older baby!!! Most books on pregnancy, parenting and even breastfeeding have at most half a page on the topic… I just wrote more and I haven’t really said much!!! Here is what the La Leche League has to say about Tandem Nursing, lots of brilliant articles. And my favorite resource is of course Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond. This book by Hilary FLower is packed with well researched information and heaps of information from the real experts: mother’s who have been there and done that!!! If you want a brief summary then have a look at this Official FAQ. Really Tandem Nursing in a nutshell.

There you go… an honest nitty gritty post on tandem nursing. Is it easy? – not always, but neither are a number of parenting tasks. Is it worth persevering when it gets tough? Absolutely. Would I do it again? In a blink!!!

20 Replies to “Se7en Tandem Nursing Questions… Asked and Answered…”

  1. Wonderful post 🙂 My tandem nursing days are behind me (for now, at least … one never knows, right?) but I am so glad that I made that choice – even on the tough days.

    Best Wishes,

  2. It is interesting to read your thoughts. My little one seemed to stop needing to nurse at 13 months, so I won’t be tandem feeding (although I was willing to). I know others who may be tandem nursing so this may be of use to them.

    I was interested in what the La Leche League says about breastfeeding and ovulation . . . lots of friends of mine don’t ovulate even when their baby sleeps through the night. Many have a year’s break from ovulation. I am not one of them (obviously!) but I wonder if genetics has a lot to do with how long breastfeeding prevents pregnancy? E.g. some people can’t fall pregnant while breastfeeding while others can?

  3. Hi Kara, Thanks for stopping by!!! When I started tandem nursing there really was no information out there – a paragraph here and a paragraph there… I am so glad there is a whole lot more information out there now!!! Have fun weekend!!!

  4. Hi Sherrin, It’s one of those things – you can’t predict your child’s needs can you!!! I have no idea if it is genetic or not since my mom’s friends mostly bottle fed… one generation makes it hard to say its genetic. It might have a lot to do with lifestyle as well – I don’t know!!! The point is that once one of the “conditions” for suppressed ovulation fall away you may be able to fall pregnant… not that you will, but there is now that chance. Hope you have a fun weekend!!!

  5. I would have loved to tandem feed but all my older children self weaned when I was about 7 or 8 months pregnant – simply had too many other things to do! I think a contributing factor to this is that they didn’t nurse before sleeping and our early morning feed was the last to go, usually going because they wanted to get on with the day. I tried offering a feed to my 18 month old after our newest addition and she looked at me like I was crazy and laughed then told me that was “for the baby” *sigh*, ah well, maybe next time

  6. I think it may well be genetic how soon you are fertile even while exclusively nursing. My mom, sister and I all nursed exclusively and returned to menstruating within 6-8 weeks of delivery. My sister even attended her post-partum appointments newly pregnant two years in a row! Having that knowledge under my belt helped me try a bit harder to space our kids out a bit more… I’m considered the one in the family with “big spaces” between my kids at 18 months, 22 months and 30 months between the four, respectively… the more we had, the longer we waited. 🙂

    I love reading your blog! Hubby and I are stopping at four, but a small part of me does wish we could keep going! I love to hear about the controlled chaos that reins in your household.

  7. Hay C, I always wanted my babies really close together but initially it would take my body a while to get back into gear!!! Eventually we got up to speed and they became closer and closer!!! The closer the easier for us… you don’t remember a time when you slept!!! Have a fun weekend!!!

  8. This is a good post! Overhere in the Netherlands the moms normaly give a few months breastmilk and than they are quiting. I found out that most husbands want their wifes back on the pil again..isn’t is a sad world?! Even those few moms that feed babies more than 3 months, stop at 6 months. So, after almost 17 years of constant feeding (one , two and even three kids at one), I sometimes feel that more information is needet. But people think I am lunatiks, crazy.. Feeding a child for 5 or 6 years is abuse they think. But a child should sleep in his own bed, own room and the whole night trough. If I tell them about the benefits of sleeping together with your baby and breastfeeding, they look at me as I am from another planet! You can inmagine that I don’t even tell them about my tandem feeding. The would call the police! Any way this blog post is very needet in this world..I hope that many man ánd woman will read it! Thank you!

  9. Hay Mama L., I am so glad you liked this post!!! I know it is very easy to go against the norm!!! Well done for standing firm and going with your heart – Have a lovely weekend!!!

  10. I am tandem nursing for the second time, and I am so grateful I persevered with nursing through pregnancy (not my favourite thing). The reward is a two year old little boy that visibly goes sweet and loving after he has nursed with his little sister – I can’t think of anything better to grow love between them. And he wakes up in the morning for a snuggly nurse with me under the duvet and I can’t think of any more powerful way to reassure him that I am still in love with him. As for colostrum, I had oodles and oodles and oodles all 3 times I nursed through pregnancy. Could it be all the nursing? Just a great post – enjoyed it so much.

  11. Oh I did so enjoy this post! My son (our second child) just turned one, and my fertility also just returned, so I am hoping that we will be pregnant again soon. I weaned my daughter when I was 5 months pregnant with her brother because I just really struggled physically to keep up my energy levels. (She hardly even noticed, though, and I was grateful that it was such a non-event in her little life!) Should God choose to increase our family again soon, though, I am glad to say that this time around I am much better educated about nutrition etc, and will be encouraging my son to nurse as long as he wants to. So, hopefully I will also one day have some tandem nursing stories to share! Thank you for the very insightful post and for so generously sharing your knowledge on the subject.

  12. Hay J, It is well worth the effort isn’t it!!! Your sweet little nurslings have such a loving mama!!! Have a great weekend all of you!!!

  13. Hay Joyful Mama, Thanks for stopping by… I am so glad you enjoyed this post, I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *