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Considering Tandem Nursing?

For centuries, it was common for mothers to nurse two siblings who were not twins. For many families this may mean nursing a newborn and an older baby or toddler who did not wean during mother’s pregnancy. Some children will temporarily wean during the middle of your pregnancy when your milk supply is low then resume nursing after the new baby is born. You may wonder why anyone would need to tandem nurse! Tandem nursing is very common outside of the United States. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for a minimum two years for optimum growth and nutrition. Traditionally, the natural weaning age is between 2-6 years old. For many women, who plan to practice natural or child lead weaning, there will be an overlap in your children’s nursing periods before one child weans.

There are many advantages to tandem nursing. Children who nurse together are often closer than those who do not, continuing to nurse your older baby or toddler helps to diffuse feeling of jealous about the new baby. Older nurslings will often tell you to feed the baby if they cry or gently pat the baby’s head while they are nursing. A lot of mothers who tandem nurse have lots of sweet and funny stories to tell about their children nursing together. They feel it has only enriches the bond between siblings and helps everyone adjust to a bigger family quickly.

I know it helped my first born with the transition to big sister, it’s such a sweet bonding time for the three of us~ Stephanie

In the beginning you may feel a little overwhelmed. Older children will sometimes want to nurse more frequently again. Some will even want to nurse every time the new baby feeds. Try to be patient and understand, they are a little jealous and they also want to recapture the feelings of love and security they experienced when they were little. Mother who have tandem nursed before will suggest giving it 2-3 weeks. Then tell your older nursing, that you would like to nurse them separately. So you two can have a special time for just the two of you. Reading a book during breastfeeding with your older child can help make them feel extra special and facilitate a natural alternative to nursing when they are starting to wean or if you are just feeling “touched out”. If you are feeling run down and like you can’t do this one more day, know that it is totally normal for mothers to sometimes wish they weren't so tied down to two babies or to want to breastfeed only one baby at a time. Don’t beat yourself up for being human.

Stay healthy by eating right, and sleeping when you can. Some mothers who have tandem nursed in the past feels it gives them more time to sleep or catch up on other things because frequently both children will fall asleep together at least two or more times a day. If you older child is asking to nurse often and you do not want to. Try to set up alternative actives you can do together after you nurse the baby or during a feeding. Reading can be easily done during a feeding or watch a favorite children’s show together. Try fixing your child a snack before you breastfeed the new baby and place the snack close to the place you'll be nursing the new baby, so everyone can share a quick meal 'together'. Sing songs together or place games like I SPY with objects around the room with your older child.

Common positions for Tandem nursing:

  • both children in the cradle hold

  • both children in a football hold

  • one child in the football hold and one in the cradle hold

  • side-lying with the newborn next to you and your older child leaning over your side

  • laying on your back, semi-reclined with both children next to your sides.

Is tandem nursing for everyone? NO, everyone is different and what works for one family may be a difficult and frustrating for another. Whether you chose to nurse both children is a private and personal one. Whatever you do, it will be right for your family.


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