If you are pregnant, and breastfeeding your toddler or baby, and you are experiencing a healthy, normal pregnancy, then it is entirely possible to continue feeding the child you have now, alongside your newest baby, when they arrive.
Many women do this successfully, and it’s known as tandem feeding.
For many breastfeeding mothers, it is vital to prepare their toddler in advance of tandem feeding, normalizing the fact that there will be two people at the breast once the baby arrives!
One way you can prepare your toddler or small child for tandem feeding (dependent upon age and understanding) is to talk about the fact that the new baby will need to do lots of feeding, and that breastmilk will be the new baby’s only food, as opposed to your older child, who is all grown up and eats lots of other foods.
At this moment in time, you may be feeling positive about the idea of tandem feeding, but it’s entirely possible that once this process begins, and you reassess the situation, that you decide to wean your toddler from the breast.
You can begin this process after the birth.
Nothing is set in stone, and there is flexibility, but many mothers have carried on and were very happy with tandem feeding.
From around the 16th or 17th week of pregnancy, your body starts to make colostrum, low volume milk, packed with antibodies.
For the first couple of days after the birth, your body will produce this colostrum.
Your older child can be very useful in establishing your breast milk, in effect, helping out your new-born.
With your toddler breastfeeding as well as your new-born, this often helps prevent engorgement in the first week post-birth.
When you tandem feed, it’s very common to feel hungry and thirsty, so eat to hunger and drink to thirst to keep up the level of nutrients that will be needed to provide milk for both.
So how do you tandem feed?
The great thing is, there are lots of ways to do this. There is no set way for it to be done.
If you have a toddler and a new-born baby, your toddler is likely only to need very short breastfeeds intermittently, whereas your new-born will need frequent intensive feeding.
Toddlers are more flexible in the way they come to the breast, and some mothers prefer to feed their baby and toddler separately.
Others prefer to do it together. You can also experiment with lots of different types of positions.
It’s important in the first few weeks, particularly while you’re getting breastfeeding established with your baby, that you seek out help from friends and family who can offer practical support to you as well, e.g., offering to look after your older child.
It’s not uncommon for mothers who are tandem feeding to struggle with many different emotions and feelings, and sometimes feel ‘touched out’ because of the frequency of feeding both the toddler and the baby.
It can take some mothers time to adjust, but many find tandem nursing to be a positive experience.
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Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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