Wednesday, January 18, 2012

And Then There Were Two: Tandem Nursing

Without any goal posts, without any set number in mind, I set out to provide for two babies. It's not the easiest thing in the world. Just like learning how to breastfeed one child can come with challenges and sore muscles, I had a learning curve with two children.

What is tandem nursing? It's where you nurse more than one child at the same time. It's also called tandeming and "sibling sharing." Some say if you nurse 3 or more, it's "triandem nursing."

Parents of multiples might take this for granted, of course. But what about parents of different-aged siblings? Many are realizing they do not need to bump the first sibling out of the way for the new arrival. Tandem nursing can make the transition easier on mama and the children. It can also strengthen the sibling bond.

I conceived soon after my daughter's 1st birthday. As with most health-focused parents, I did not think one year was old enough to be weaned from human milk. In fact, I did not want to wean my daughter at all. (This is called Child Led Weaning).

So I kept doing what we had been doing up to that point: nursing on cue, day and night. By the 3rd trimester, my supply had visibly dropped and it was a little sensitive to nurse. She moved onto more solid foods in her diet and began to sleep mostly through the night, but continued to nurse several times daily.

After my son was born, she was absolutely amazed at the new milk. And I was grateful for an experienced, efficient toddler during the engorgement period! But the most precious part of it all was watching my two children love and accept each other while nursing.

Here is one of the earliest tandem nursing photos I have saved, when my son was about a week old:

Is it hard?

Tandem nursing has had its bumps along the way, definitely! DD developed a "lazy latch" which seems common among toddlers for a variety of reasons from the teeth changing to becoming more efficient at extracting milk. We worked through it for several months before it faded away. In the beginning, I also struggled to find a position that worked for everyone and often had to sit cross legged on my bed, using a pillow:

But as time went on, we found our groove and it became normal to nurse anywhere, anytime.

Then I was given quite a surprise. I was pregnant again! Two children nursing and one on the way? What do we do? What we've been doing, of course! And so without hesitation, we ended up tandem nursing through pregnancy. At first it wasn't too hard, especially once I found some cute tops that allowed for nursing with a growing belly:

As the pregnancy progressed, it became harder physically to hold two growing toddlers around a growing belly. I found myself encouraging single nursing sessions more often. But there's just something more joyful about tandem nursing and so we haven't stopped entirely. Here we are at 39 weeks:

Now I'm due any day with baby #3 and DD says she will share her side with the new baby. They have both been watching some peaceful birth videos and love to talk about their new baby being born. I hope they are able to be present at the birth, all things working out (timing, will they be asleep??)

One thing this tandem nursing experience has showed me is that love isn't thinned out or reduced. It multiplies, compounds and grows beyond what the heart originally gave. I know whatever happens in the future, we will have plenty of love to go around.

Have you considered tandem nursing? Do you want to keep nursing during pregnancy? Here are some articles on the topic. Links open in a new window. on nursing during pregnancy and tandem nursing

This PDF answers some of the top questions about tandem nursing

The LLL on tandem nursing on tandem nursing

A popular book on tandem nursing

One of my favorite bloggers, Dulce, shares her pregnancy, tandem, triandem and CLW journey

A blogger shares her journey

A private group on Facebook for those wanting to nurse during pregnancy and tandem nurse


  1. Beautiful Gugg! Amazing little family you have. <3

  2. I'm about 12 weeks pregnant with my second child and my first just turned 18 months. I hope and pray that my daughter stays interested in nursing throughout my pregnancy, as my goal was a MINIMUM of two years breastfeeding with her, and I'd love to tandem nurse beyond that. There's no reason to stop now! Your family is gorgeous and your kids are blessed!

    PS-I love, love, love, Dulce and her post on breastfeeding an older child and I was hooked! :) I also hope to join that FB group!

  3. Great story Guggie. I love the pictures of you all, so peaceful.

  4. I love this post. Such a great story and pictures.

  5. Thank you so much for this beautiful post! This helps give me the encouragement I need to tandem nurse my children.