As “extended nursing” becomes more popular (the World Health Organization recommends nursing until a minimum of age two), more mothers are finding their nursing goals and pregnancies overlapping. While tandem nursing is common among circles of moms, it is not a topic that is brought up often outside of those circles and can garner a lot of questions, misconceptions, and curiosity.
Is it even possible? Yes, it is possible to nurse two babies at once. Our bodies produce milk based on supply and demand. Moms of twins have successfully nursed for centuries.
Can you nurse while pregnant? Yes, many women safely nurse throughout their entire pregnancies. Nursing while pregnant is the beginning of the tandem journey and has its own challenges (nursing aversion, dips in supply, etc.) that can be successfully navigated with support and education. It is helpful to go through this stage with guidance from other tandem moms and/or support groups.
Is the older child drinking all the milk? The short answer is: no. Women’s bodies are incredible. They don’t make a predetermined amount of colostrum or milk, but constantly adjust to the needs of each child they are nourishing. As a real life example, my colostrum came in around 32 weeks during my second pregnancy and stayed until 3 days postpartum. My 19 month old did not “take” any colostrum from the newborn, but rather my body produced what each child needed during that time. That newborn is now two months old and continues to gain weight at an appropriate rate. If my older nursling were “taking” all the milk, this would not be the case.
How does it work? Two at the same time? One at a time? For a lot of tandem moms, nursing mostly involves children taking turns rather than latching on at the same time. There are helpful charts online for moms who are just starting their tandem journey and need help with positioning logistics.
Does it encourage jealousy? Jealousy can present itself no matter what parents do to prepare older children for the new baby’s arrival. I prefer to look at it as learning to ‘share mom’ and a great opportunity to start establishing boundaries with the older child, which carry over into non-nursing scenarios as well. The bonding rewards far outweigh any temporary (and normal) moments of jealousy.
Tandem nursing requires determination and support. The mental and physical commitments are huge and doable. It can truly be a rewarding journey.
Image Credit: Lori Beth Auldridge