The reasons women choose to tandem nurse vary from mother to
mother, but they tend to focus on three overlapping ideals.
An easier transition
a baby into a family makes changes for everyone," says a
mother of three, "and it can be especially difficult for
older siblings, who may feel jealous or insecure. By continuing to
nurse my toddler," she adds, "I could help her feel
close and loved." Another mother of four who tandem nursed
for two years agrees: "By nursing my 18-month-old son, I felt
connected to him and his new sister. There was no feeling of
pushing him out of the nest." Young children can find a new
baby threatening, and typically will struggle with sharing mama,
her love, and her time. By maintaining the close nursing
relationship, the toddler will likely feel more nurtured and
comforted as he adapts to his new sibling.
Closeness of siblings
chose to tandem nurse," explains one mother, "because of
the bond I knew it would create between my children. I would watch
their eyes looking at each other and their fingers touching. It
was beautiful." A mother who nursed her newborn and her
two-and-a-half-year-old daughter remembers, "I was
overwhelmed by the beauty of those two faces gazing up at me with
such peace and pleasure. My toddler would reach out and stroke my
son, and it brought tears to my eyes. How could sharing something
like this not bond them together?"
No abrupt or premature weaning
the most compelling reason women choose to tandem nurse is to
avoid having to wean a child before he/she is ready. Any mother
who has nursed past one year has already learned to recognize the
need in her child to keep breastfeeding and probably is aware of
the psychological damages an unwanted, premature weaning can
cause. Ending an active nursing relationship just before the
arrival of a new baby can be particularly stressful or upsetting
to a child. As one mother explains, "I felt I just had not
given my son a good enough start when his sister came along. He
still needed that special time with me." Another echoes her
feelings. "My daughter had a hard time accepting her new
brother. I just couldn't imagine adding to her struggle by taking
away one of the things that brought her the most comfort and
security. It seemed heartless."
Making Tandem Nursing Work
Always position the baby first, and then let your (more flexible)
toddler arrange him - or herself around the baby.
Make sure the baby gets the chance to nurse on the fuller side
first. Your toddler needs this special time of closeness, but
unlike your infant, is not depending solely on breastmilk for
Use pillows under your arms and/or behind your back to make it
more comfortable as you nurse and cuddle two.
Don't attempt to tandem nurse without strongly considering a
family bed arrangement. Leaving your warm bed to feed one is hard
enough; two would be exhausting. Utilizing co-sleeping will
greatly increase your opportunity to rest and sleep - not to
mention all its other benefits!
Attend La Leche League meetings for empathy and ideas.
Find a friend who has either tandem nursed or appreciates the
reasons you have chosen to do it. You need her voice on the phone
on the rough days!
Enlist you spouse's or partner's support as much as possible. You
need someone close to you to both love and support you, plus
lessen the other demands on you so you are free to nurse. Be sure
to communicate clearly how you are feeling and specifically what
Get as much rest as possible to help renew body and spirit. Doze
while you are nursing, and cat nap whenever you can. Drink lots of
fluids and eat healthy foods. You are providing calories and
nutrition for three!
If simultaneous nursings are stressful for you, look for other
things to do with your toddler while the baby is being fed. Try
reading a book, watching a movie, coloring, sharing a snack, or
any other activity that keeps you close without involving nursing.
Most important, hang in there! "It can be hard,"
acknowledges one mom, "but you will never regret your
decision." Another admits, "Some days were really tough
for me, and I got tired of having a child at my breast every five
minutes. Just when I thought I had had it, though, I would take a
deep breath and gaze into two pairs of gentle eyes and be reminded
of why I have made all of my parenting decisions - because these
are the most precious creatures in the world to me, and I want
them to have the best possible start they can have in life. Tandem
nursing is one step in that journey, one I would never have wanted
nursing is indeed much like many other aspects of parenting -
harder, more stressful, and more tiring than you could ever have
expected. But like the others, it is part of providing your
children with the best you are capable of giving them.
Breastfeeding siblings brings closeness and joy to both you and
your children, and it's worth every moment - the difficult and the
blissful. They will pass down the nurturing legacy for generations