How to tandem breastfeed

How do I breastfeed my older child and my new baby?

Tandem breastfeeding refers to breastfeeding two children of different ages. This happens as a natural extension of breastfeeding while pregnant. There are many breastfeeding holds and positions when breastfeeding an older child and a baby. The baby should be the priority, so mothers may want to limit the child to the breast the baby has already fed on until they are sure the baby is growing well. Mothers need to make sure they are taking in enough calories and monitor their weight; it takes a lot to feed two little people. Their child may have given up breastfeeding while the mother was pregnant but want to resume it now. There is nothing wrong with letting the child try. If the child shows an interest and the mother ignores this request, it can lead to acting out, adding chaos to the mother’s already busy life.

A) Breastfeeding a new baby and an older child

Tandem breastfeeding

Tandem breastfeeding refers to breastfeeding two children of different ages. This happens as a natural extension of breastfeeding while pregnant. There are benefits for the mother, the older child, and the baby. Once the new baby is born, the older child may continue to breastfeed occasionally or may increase the number of breastfeeds each day.

Some children wean themselves during a mother’s pregnancy but want to resume breastfeeding once the baby is born. Watch for the child’s signs. If they are interested, there is nothing wrong with letting them try. Some children are just curious and will quickly lose interest while others are happy to resume the breastfeeding relationship.

Ignoring a child who wants to resume breastfeeding can cause the child to act out. This can add extra chaos to an already busy household.

B) How to tandem breastfeed

Tandem breastfeeding

1) Positions and holds

To tandem breastfeed, position the baby at the breast and allow the older child to snuggle in afterward. Older children are very creative with their positioning and families soon find what works best so that everyone is comfortable. Examples of holds that can be used include:

  • Both children in the laid-back hold
  • The baby in the cradle or under-arm hold and the child in a more creative position. 
  • Both children in the under-arm hold

2) Timing

At first, you may wish to limit the child to the breast that the baby has already fed on until you are sure your baby is getting enough milk. Most mothers have enough milk for two, but the baby should remain the priority while the child receives the leftovers. Once the baby is growing well and is strong enough to give clear hunger signs, you can be a little less strict about this.

3) Monitoring

Ensure you are not at risk of a low milk supply and if so, feeding the baby should be the priority and the older child may need to be limited at the breast or even weaned. Always ensure that both the child and the baby are growing well.

Breastfeeding a baby uses an average of 700 per day and breastfeeding an additional child will further increase this. Ensure that you are getting enough calories during this time and monitor your weight. Weight loss of more than 500 grams (1 pound) in one week is a sign that you may need to increase the amount of food you eat. Rapid weight loss can also be a sign of illness such as high thyroid hormone levels.