I never imagined breastfeeding two children. I never imagined breastfeeding children; but, then again, I never considered what life, as a mother would actually look like. And so, here I am breastfeeding my toddler (he just turned two at the end of July) and my newest addition (she was born at the end of February) in a tandem nursing relationship.
Tandem breastfeeding or tandem nursing means breastfeeding more than one child at a time. There are many different types of tandem breastfeeding relationships from nursing multiples, siblings, wet-nurse relationships, and more.
For me, breastfeeding has been a relatively easy journey. My breastfeeding story is not a collection of horror tales and indescribable pain. Instead, we got along quite well without enduring many of the scary struggles some mama’s face. I struggled with oversupply, but succeeded in managing it, and continued on to nurse my toddler well into toddlerhood. Breastfeeding during my pregnancy was the most challenging experience. Nursing aversion made me… I’m not sure how to finish that sentence.
What does tandem nursing look like?
I only breastfeed one baby at a time.
If you have ever breastfed or raised a child you might be familiar with the amazing powers they have to overtake your personal space. One child nursing on your breast is plenty of personal space invasions. Two children nursing on your breast is overwhelming.
I have breastfed both babies at the same time. This was more frequent in the early days when Little Miss nursed much more frequently, and Little Man struggled with adapting to being an only child (Hello Jealous Big Brother). However, since then occasion arises maybe once a week.
Sometimes, they breastfeed together when Little Man is nursing and Little Miss throws a fit. However, if Little Miss is nursing and Little Man throws a fit, we can usually subdue him in other ways.
The biggest challenge of tandem nursing…
My biggest challenge with tandem breastfeeding is regulating supply. This is mostly due to an irregular nursing pattern from the enthusiastic toddler. Hello Mastitis.
I make enough milk. My body does not struggle with a lack of milk supply but rather abundance.
Any time you bring a child to your breast they stimulate the breast to make milk. In the now, my toddler only nurses twice a day. However, last week he was sick for 3 days with tonsillitis and I breastfed him much more frequently than usual. As suspected, my milk came rushing in to meet a need that was being requested! Managing the ebb and flow of milk supply is my biggest struggle because on days that he nurses longer and more often, I respond quickly the next day with engorgement, leaks, and lumpy discomfort.
The biggest perk to tandem nursing…
Besides still meeting my toddlers growing needs emotionally and physically with the powers of breast milk, to me the biggest perk of tandem breastfeeding is the upside of my biggest challenge. Little Man brings in breast milk with such vengeance that his sister has not needed to cluster feed.
Unlike peers our age, or my experience nursing my toddler, Little Miss nurses ever 2-4 hours, and rarely finds the need to hang out on my boob all day (unlike other children I know).
So, while managing supply feels like a never-ending battle, there is an upside in that I find myself less constrained to a nursing child. The milk she needs is always there and always ready to go.
Would I tandem breastfeed again?
I believe in the immense benefits associated with breastfeeding and a child-led weaning approach (beneficial to all parties). The short answer is yes. The long answer is “it’s more complicated than that.”
Tandem breastfeeding is draining and exhausting. It takes a lot out of you to breastfeed one child, let alone two. It takes a lot out of you to parent one child, let alone two. I don’t regret it for a day, but sometimes mama just wants a break.
Have you considered tandem nursing? Did you tandem breastfeed? And what did that relationship look like?