The term 'tandem feeding' is used to describe breastfeeding siblings who are not twins. The children may feed together or at separate times.
You may have read or been told that 'mothers only feed older children for their own sake'. Of course, this isn't true. It can be a wonderful experience tandem feeding or feeding an older child. There are few things more satisfying than watching your children holding hands while breastfeeding together.
Why tandem feed?
There are advantages of tandem feeding:
You have a ready supply of milk for your newborn and an easy way to increase that supply.
There is less chance of blocked ducts because your toddler can suck more vigorously and keep your breasts well-drained.
It provides a continued connection and special time with your toddler, who may be feeling a little jealous of the new family addition.
It connects your toddler with the new baby.
Managing tandem feeds
You may be wondering how you will feed your new baby and your toddler. Here are some tips:
You could feed both your children at the same time, or one after the other, or at completely different times.
You may find that your toddler wants to feed all the time, especially once your milk comes in, and you have a large supply. You may be happy to go along with this, at least at first, or you may find that you want to limit your toddler's feeds. Only you can decide what works for you
You could try sitting up to feed, perhaps with cushions to help prop you, or maybe laying down to feed will work better. There are many ways to tandem feed.
Because you are making more milk than a mother feeding one child, you may find your newborn has difficulty coping with your let down reflex. Changing your feeding routine may help. You could offer one side to your toddler, then, after they have stimulated your let down reflex, you could attach your newborn.
Will I need to eat more?
As you are feeding two children, you are likely to feel hungrier, so you may find yourself wanting more. There isn’t much research on the food needs of a tandem breastfeeding mum, but we know that our bodies are able to adjust metabolism. Therefore we don't need to take in extra large quantities of vitamins and minerals etc.
Your baby inside you will always get ‘first pick’ of nutrients, then your breastfeeding child, and then you. Therefore, eating well, with a wide range of healthy foods will help you to provide for all three of you as well as keep your energy up.
Dealing with feelings
While you may be feeling positive about feeding two children - meeting their nutritional and emotional needs - how might your older child feel?
Many older siblings feel a special bond with the baby, as they are both sharing something very special and important. This can help lessen any feelings of jealousy and resentment, as they aren't being left out. More importantly, they are still able to have the one thing that may be most important to them - a breastfeed with mummy.
© Australian Breastfeeding Association April 2022
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Breastfeeding: as your family grows
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