Tandem feeding

Understandably the thought of feeding two babies will feel daunting in any circumstance. When you're already feeding a toddler, it can be difficult to get your head around how it will work when your newborn comes along. Tandem feeding is when you feed two babies who are not twins.

A common worry is, will I have enough milk for my baby? The simple answer is yes. Breasts make milk according to demand so there will always be enough milk. The milk has changed in pregnancy already to milk which meet your newborns needs. You basically have newborn milk in toddler quantity (after a few days of birth).

For the first few days, when you have a limited supply of colostrum (because it comes out in drops), you have to make sure your newborn gets to feed first. You will also experience the cluster feeding again, even though you don't need that stimulation to produce more milk. Your newborn is hardwired to cluster feed and will do so. Not allowing him to suckle all evening would probably mean you have a very unhappy baby so you may only have a short time to feed your toddler before bed, unless your toddler is happy to feed at the same time (depending on your existing bed time routine, if you have one). Same goes for growth spurts when you baby will feed all the time. Again it's hardwired behaviour and it may mean your toddler will have to be happy with feeding at the same time and not bed share. On the subject of bed sharing I'd recommend you speak to the lullaby trust on 0808 802 6869 and get their advice on safer sleep.

Having a toddler helping with the feeds can be hugely beneficial. You will have more milk readily available, which will make it easier for the baby to feed efficiently. He can also help with any engorgement but also allow the baby to get more fat if he has a quick feed first. You can experience more bonding with your toddler, but also they together will bond over feeding.

Some of the problems which may arise could be that the toddler starts to feed a lot more after the baby is born and sort of hog the breasts essentially. He may have a full feed from both breasts just before the baby needs a feed. Although there is always milk in the breasts, it will make it harder for the baby, which may make your baby fussier. In this case, you have a few options. You can make sure that your toddler only feeds after the baby has had a feed, you can stop your toddler mid feed or you can restrict your toddler to one breast only and make sure you switch at every feed. You can also have both baby and toddler feed at the same time, which might give you some more when you're not feeding. All of those options go against the "feeding on demand principle" to some extent (with regards to the toddler) and ultimately it's a choice only you can make. Don't make any choices unless you feel like you have to. As long as your bay is putting on weight and doesn't have reflux like symptoms, you can feed any way you like, as often as you like.

There are many mums who don't experience any problems whatsoever. They only get the benefits, however there is an obvious time element to feeding two babies and toddlers are all different too. Some will happily stay in with mum and new baby, whereas others won't. How does your chosen way of feeding work when you're out and about?

Mental preparation that that is the most likely reality is very important. You might think you'll feed them both at the same time for example, but then your toddler has other ideas and only want to feed when your baby is asleep. Having gone through a few scenarios in your head, not just your ideal situation can be helpful and make is easier to deal with. If you're a "take it as it comes" kind of person, you might not feel any scenario is a problem. It all depends on the kind of person you are, and we're all different. There is no "one size fits all" approach to anything relating to breastfeeding. When you talk to health care professionals I think it's ok to very forceful when you're putting across what you want to do. It doesn't actually matter what other women do, but can be useful to know, if it's not what you want to do.

On the emotional side of things, you might feel overwhelmed with their needs. How you feel can be very dependant on how your birth was. You may be very sore, find it difficult to sit and feed comfortably or perhaps very tired. If your toddler decides to feed more, he may also increase his night feeds which can be exhausting. It's important to realise that if you decide not to feed your toddler, because it becomes too much, it is not something which you have to feel guilty about. You have fed your toddler for a very long time, even if it doesn't end with self weaning, which you may have decided on. You been amazing to your toddler and he has had his time. We can only do so much as mothers, even though we often want to do it all.

For me, and I understand this is a personal viewpoint, I think an aspect we don't emphasise enough on is the emotional commitment we make when we choose breastfeed. If we are totally committed to feeding our babies, we can overcome most hurdles. Determination should not be underestimated, because many women feel very passionate about breastfeeding, or become very determined to carry on once they have started. Therefore when it doesn't work out, it can be devastating. It is simply how we feel and no one can tell us we should feel differently. Allow yourself to feel it and talk about it so you can let it go. I think it's like a break-up. We need some time to get over it and we probably need to go on about it. The breastfeeding helpline can help as well as groups such as mine. There will always be someone to talk to, so don't keep it inside. I kept both my first birth and breastfeeding experience to myself, as in how it made me feel, for a very long time and I can see how that was very unhealthy and that I hadn't actually moved on from either until I fully explored it. I will always listen and let you debrief your story any time you need to.

To find out more about tandem feeding, it's a very good idea to read about what other mothers ended up doing in this situation and as always I direct mums to read about it on the La Leche Leagues website. It's a far more accurate way of describing the very different ways mums feel about it then I could ever put across in a post like this. https://www.laleche.org.uk/mothers-tandem-nursing

I hope this is helpful for you mothers who may worry about tandem feeding. You can always contact me for more information.

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