Here are the answers to some of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked about tandem nursing. If you have any other questions about tandem nursing, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to answer! I’d love to hear about others’ experiences with tandem nursing too!
Is it possible to keep nursing while I’m pregnant? And is it safe?
Nursing through pregnancy is definitely possible – I did it anyway! In most cases, it is safe. Nursing can cause mild contractions, but no more than sex would cause. So, the general rule of thumb is that if you are safe to have sex, then you are safe to keep breastfeeding. If you are put on pelvic bed-rest, you might consider that good cause for weaning. You can continue to nurse all the way through your pregnancy if both you and your baby want to, but something like 70% of babes will wean during pregnancy, either by mother’s or baby’s choice. If your older baby is still nursing when your new baby is born, that is called tandem nursing.
How do I decide if I even want to tandem nurse?
Read Adventures In Tandem Nursing, It has a lot of information on nursing during pregnancy and making the decision about tandem nursing, as well as tips on actually tandeming.
When I was pregnant, I hoped that Munchkin would wean on her own just so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the decision of whether to wean her or tandem nurse. But in the end, I decided that I wanted it to be her choice when to finally wean, not mine. During my pregnancy, I imposed limits on how often and how long she nursed at a time, but I did not cut her off. She went down to nursing only about once per week for the last 6 months of my pregnancy. I kept thinking she was about to wean, but she just didn’t. If I had wanted to, I think I could have weaned her then, but I because I wanted it to be child-led, I decided to leave that final call up to her. She didn’t wean, so we ended up tandem nursing.
What changes can I expect when nursing during pregnancy? Does my milk change when I’m pregnant? What about colostrum?
You will probably experience nipple pain while nursing during pregnancy. Many women choose to wean or at least decrease nursing because of this. I chose to night-wean largely because of it.
During early pregnancy, your milk may start to taste different to your baby because the proportion of salt to sugar changes. The saltier taste may make baby feel thirstier, and thus make her want to nurse even more! This can create a problem for mom if she is already experiencing nipple pain associated with pregnancy. Munchkin was old enough to be comfortable drinking water when I got pregnant, and she would chug water after nursing during my first trimester! Other babies may wean abruptly because they don’t like the changed taste of the milk.
Your supply will probably decrease at some time during your pregnancy. Your baby may want to nurse more in response to the low supply, or she may lose interest instead. At some point in your pregnancy, your milk will turn to colostrum. If your baby is still getting most of her nutrition from nursing, you may have to supplement at this point. Your baby might also decide she doesn’t like the taste of the colostrum and wean at this time. If your baby drinks a lot of the colostrum, her poops may become softer again, like a younger baby. The colostrum will remain until after the birth (so don’t worry, the new baby will still get her fair share of colostrum!), and then your milk will come in as normal after a few days.
Many babies wean during pregnancy due to the loss of milk and/or the changes of taste. Because I knew that I wanted to nurse Munchkin for at least two years, I waited until she was two to try to get pregnant. I would have been okay with it at that point if she had decided to wean during my pregnancy, but I wasn’t willing to risk it sooner.
How can I prepare my toddler for tandem nursing?
Munchkin was never one to nurse her “babies” herself much, but she always liked for me to nurse them. When I was pregnant, one way that I helped her acclimate to the idea of tandem nursing and “sharing the na-nas” was to tandem nurse Munchkin and a doll. Sometimes I would end up tandem nursing two dolls and Munchkin just watched!
We also talked about how Munchkin could drink Mommy’s Milk or cow’s milk or chocolate milk or juice or water and eat lots of foods, but the new baby would ONLY have Mommy’s Milk, so it was important for the new baby to get hers first. I think Munchkin understood that by the time Sweets was born, but we still kept talking about it after the birth too.
Will my toddler wean if I have to be away from her for the birth?
I didn’t worry about Munchkin weaning during the time when I would be in the hospital birthing Sweets. Munchkin was going days and days without nursing at that point – often 7-14 days – so I didn’t think that 2-3 nights would make a difference in that regard. It didn’t phase her at all.
What can I expect after the new baby comes?
I’ve heard of toddlers who nurse all the way through pregnancy and then decide that nursing is for babies once they see the new baby and just wean suddenly. I’ve heard of others who are so happy that their new sibling brought back the milk and nurse almost as much as the new baby does!
Munchkin went from nursing once a week during my pregnancy to about once or twice a day after Sweets came home. Then, one day when Sweets was about a week old, Munchkin came right off and said she didn’t like Mommy’s Milk anymore, and she didn’t nurse for several days. I thought she had suddenly decided to really wean. I kept offering, partly because I was engorged and would have liked her to nurse just then, but she refused. Then a few days later, she really wanted to nurse again, so went back to it. It was all very unpredictable.
How do you make sure the baby gets enough?
I let Munchkin nurse on the side that Sweets is done with. So, I would nurse Sweets on the left as long as she wanted, then when she switched to the right side, I’d let Munchkin nurse on the left. This way I felt that Sweets was getting everything she wanted.
Do you nurse them both at the exact same time? Doesn’t the toddler push the baby away?
Sometimes I nurse them together – one on each side – and sometimes I make Munchkin wait. We say “sometimes we share and sometimes we take turns”. When I nurse them together, Munchkin is very affectionate toward Sweets, and strokes her head and holds her hand, which is very sweet. They have a very close relationship already, and I think nursing together contributes to that. Now that Munchkin is older, she seems to have forgotten how to get milk when she nurses. If she nurses together with Sweets though, she can get milk because Sweets brings the let-down. She says that Sweets brings her the milk and is very appreciative.
How do you nurse two together, logistically speaking?
There are lots of options, but I tend to like a position where I am leaning back with each child lying long-ways down my body supported on the outside by my arms. Basically, just find any position that’s comfortable and go for it!
Does the toddler get jealous?
I don’t think that tandem nursing has caused friction or jealousy at all. Actually, the opposite. I think it was something that they could share in common. They would hold hands or Munchkin would stroke Sweets’ head. As long as Munchkin could get hers too, she didn’t feel like Sweets was taking anything from her. I think that if Sweets got to nurse and Munchkin couldn’t, that THAT would be more likely to cause friction.
Isn’t it exhausing to nurse two?
Munchkin kept up nursing about once a week throughout my pregnancy and once Sweets was born she went back up to about once a day, and later twice a day before dropping sessions again. Honestly, tandem nursing hasn’t been very difficult for us because she doesn’t nurse all that much. It’s not like having twins where they are both nursing all the time. Once the newness of the baby was past, I limited Munchkin to nursing only first thing in the morning or last thing before bed, and the rest of the time the milk was for Sweets. I usually let Munchkin nurse for the time it takes me to read her a book (and then choose the book I want accordingly!). Setting limits like this helps me not feel burnt out.
What do others think when they see you tandem nursing?
Since Munchkin only nurse at certain times, it cuts way down on the times when anyone else would ever see me tandem nursing them, unless they are at our house at bedtime. There have been a few occasions when people have seen it, and if they are surprised, I just say “hey, two boobs, two babies!”