Q&A: Tandem Breastfeeding

Little H has been with us for over ten weeks now (isn’t he lovely?) and during that time, I’ve gotten a lot of…erm, interesting questions regarding my breasts and what I do with them. Believe me when I say I don’t mind them at all – even when concerns are voiced, I am excited to share and hopefully educate others who may not understand why we chose this lifestyle.
Below I’ve written out answers to the most common questions I receive about tandem breastfeeding.

(Please remember that I am in no way a medical professional. I am simply answering these questions based on my own experiences.)

Why did you decide to breastfeed both of your children?
It’s not so much that I decided to tandem feed more than that it just happened. I didn’t really see a reason to wean Logan so I didn’t.

How does tandem feeding work? Do both children actually nurse at the same time?
Tandem feeding is a pretty broad term. MamaNatural has the best definition: Tandem nursing is the practice of nursing two babies at the same time. This can take two forms: nursing twins, or nursing a toddler and an older child. It can entail a few different scenarios: nursing the toddler first, perhaps to alleviate engorgement, then nursing the baby, or nursing the baby first, to make sure he gets the most milk. 
There’s also the possibility of nursing two at the same time, with one baby on each breast.
We’ve done all of the above, and I can go ahead and tell you that it isn’t uncommon to walk into the house and see both babies on top of me grabbing a snack. It’s such a sweet bonding time and I love to watch them hold on to each other while they eat!

Did Logan experience any jealousy issues at first? How can I best prepare my child for the transition? 
The first week with Henry at home was chaos, but I expect that to be true of any family who brings another child home. I wouldn’t say he was jealous, though. Mainly confused and wanting to be involved.

I feel we did do a good job in preparing him for baby as we talked about “Your Baby Henry” all the time. When the big day finally arrived, he didn’t seem too shocked by everything that had occurred.

How do you keep your milk supply up? Is the baby getting enough to eat despite sharing his milk?

FOOD! Food and lots of fluids. Since breastmilk is 88% water (per Rehydrate.org), it’s important to stay hydrated. A good idea is to drink one or two cups during every feeding. (The personal trainer side of me would like to remind you that you should drink one cup of water for every cup of fluids you take that isn’t water.)

As for making sure Henry is getting enough to eat, I usually make sure he gets first dibs, and Logan gets the leftovers. Since Logan eats mostly solids, he doesn’t need anywhere near as much milk as Henry does and nurses mainly for comfort.

Do you have a feeding schedule?
No. I’ve always been a firm believer in babies knowing when and how much they should eat. (The exception: both boys were preemies and were too tired to eat during the first few weeks. Because of that, we did have to supplement with bottles to ensure they were gaining weight for the first little while.) Trust me, the kids let me know when they’re hungry now!

How long do you plan to tandem feed?
I don’t really have a plan going forward. I trust that Logan will wean when he’s ready, but I’m in no rush. These are the only children I’ve got, and I’m not speeding their babyhood any faster than it’s already going.

Does the body still produce colostrum for the newborn if the mother is still breastfeeding an older sibling?
If you’re breastfeeding during pregnancy, your body will make a mix between colostrum and regular breastmilk, which is pretty cool because your toddler gets the antibodies! Once you deliver, your milk becomes mostly colostrum to give your baby what he needs.

Is the milk still nutritious for the toddler?
Absolutely! Breastmilk contains extra fat that is crucial to keeping up with the needs of your energetic toddler. It also provides extra antibodies as stated in the answer above. I can vouch for that, as Logan has only been sick a handful of times in the past year. That’s saying A LOT for a toddler who doesn’t know the meaning of personal space and rubs his hands all over everything he sees.

Is it possible to start breastfeeding an older child once the baby is born? How can that affect supply? Due to complications in the pregnancy, I was hospitalized for three weeks before being induced. Because of that, I wasn’t able to breastfeed Logan as regularly as he was used to, so my supply did dry up to almost nothing. He went days on only solid food, but as soon as we were all together again he started back to the breast no problem.

Empty breasts cause your body to produce more milk, which is why they recommend you pump after each feeding for the first few weeks. With tandem feeding, that isn’t a worry, as your breasts will be emptied almost every time. The first days will be rocky and undependable, but you’ll catch the hang of it in no time.

Are breastfed babies smaller than formula-fed ones?
According to BabyCenter, most breastfed babies tend to weigh less at age 1 than formula fed babies. While this seems to be the case, it isn’t a large enough gap to worry about, as it is common for formula fed babies to gain weight too quickly.

We fondly call Henry our “chunk-monster” due to all of his sweet baby rolls – he definitely doesn’t fit into the statement above!

How have your friends and family reacted to your choice to tandem feed? Have they been supportive?
The ones who care enough to comment definitely have their doubts, but I just remind myself that they don’t have a say in how we parent our children. They don’t have the bond that we do, they don’t have the experiences and research that we do, so how can I expect them to “get it”?

I will say that my mother has been an incredible support as she’s been breastfeeding for the past 20+ years! Yay, mom!!

I hope this article has given you some insight into why we do what we do…perhaps even encourages you to try your own hand at tandem feeding!

A lot of people have asked how I breastfeed both babies without being exhausted all the time. I really believe that the gear you use plays a role in how successful your breastfeeding journey ends up being.
That said, I’ve compiled a small list of products that have helped me pull through the VERY tough stages of breastfeeding.
(Please know that I only recommend products that I absolutely love.)
Ho-fish Nursing Bras
These are the comfiest, hard-working nursing bras I’ve ever had, and I’ve tried PLENTY of them! These are also affordable at less than $30 for a set of three. 
The Hakaa  
I hate pumping and everything to do with it. It’s time-consuming, it’s uncomfortable and it’s boring. The Hakaa is a ONE piece suction cup that catches your milk for you while you’re nursing. No cleaning out tubes and pieces. It’s just the one cup and it’s dishwasher safe!

Do you have a question that wasn’t answered in this post?
What are your breastfeeding go-to’s? 
Feel free to leave them in the comments below! 

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