When a mother nurses more than one child at a time, and the children are siblings but not twins, it’s known as tandem nursing.
It’s common in other countries and it has been done for centuries.
Expectant mothers sometimes worry about nursing their toddler when they’re pregnant, and they’ll ask me if the fetus is getting all the necessary nutrients if the toddler is nursing.
The answer is yes—the fetus is definitely getting enough nutrients. It’s recommended for the pregnant mama to continue to eat healthy and gain weight, as with any normal pregnancy.
Mothers of newborns also worry about the same thing, wondering if their new baby will receive enough nutrition if another child is nursing at the same time.
The answer to that is also yes. It’s recommended to feed the newborn first, then the older child, who obtains calories from other food he or she is already eating. Keep in mind that a toddler won’t nurse as often as a new baby.
To help us take a closer look at the experience of tandem nursing, I talked with Stacy Wolf, the mother of three children: one about 4 months old, one about 2 years old, and one about 4 years old.
Stacy, who tandem nursed her children, was excited to sit down for a Q&A about her experience.
Were you sure you were going to breastfeed with your son who is the oldest?
Yes. I prepared nothing to bottle feed and always planned on breastfeeding. I wanted to breastfeed because I knew it was best for my baby. I didn’t want to make bottles in the middle of the night; I wanted to save room in the diaper bag—it’s free and it saves time. My husband and I both took a breastfeeding class, too. It was very helpful! I also joined a support group on Facebook and went to one of their gatherings before Gage, our oldest, was born.
What made you think about tandem nursing?
When I found out I was pregnant, I wasn’t ready to stop nursing and neither was my son. I knew it was beneficial to let him decide. I went through a lot of pain and healing in the beginning with Gage, so I wanted to make it worth it.
Was it hard when you were pregnant?
Yes! I dried up around 17 weeks and it became painful. When my milk came back he wanted to nurse at night again.
How did tandem nursing work with a new baby?
He was very jealous at first, and it was difficult to get them both latched at the same time. I ended up having to designate the left for him and the right for his sister.
(Writer’s note: This worked the best for Stacy and her children, but tandem nursing can be done in many different ways—nursing the same time; new baby first; different times altogether; and more.)
What have you learned from tandem nursing?
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. I still got the cuddles from my son—it wasn’t taken from him for the new baby, like the crib was. If he was sick or hurt, I could still comfort him by nursing. I regret nothing. I ended up having to wean him on his third birthday. I was three months pregnant with another and still nursing his sister. I’m now tandem nursing both of my daughters.
Anything you would share to encourage others?
It’s so worth it. They’re not little forever and I’ll take all the snuggles I can get. Once you get a routine, it’s not hard at all.