Tandem breastfeeding

What to Know

  • How to set yourself up for success when tandem feeding
  • Best positions and props to keep everyone comfortable

For many new moms, the idea of breastfeeding one child can feel daunting, let alone two children at the same time, known as tandem feeding. Whether you’re interested in nursing twins or two children of different ages, with some planning and practice tandem feeding can be a real time saver as well as a great opportunity to nourish and bond with your little ones.

Breastfeeding twin babies

With twins, tandem nursing means both babies nurse simultaneously, one on each breast. It solves the problem of who to feed first if both babies are hungry and saves a lot of time. Many moms even wake one baby to nurse both at the same time to keep twins on the same feeding schedule. Make sure to keep track of which baby is on which breast (this is especially true with triplets or more!) to ensure even emptying and production.

With children of different ages, give yourself a few weeks to settle into a new tandem nursing pattern. Your new baby will need time to learn to nurse, your older child will need time to adjust to the new baby and you’ll be experimenting with the most comfortable positions for all of you.

With the exception of the first few days after birth (the only time you’re producing colostrum which is in limited supply), it is not necessary for your newborn to nurse first to get “first dibs” on the milk. Both research and anecdotal evidence assures us that there is enough milk for both children because as demand increases, so does supply. Because more milk is removed at the same time, tandem nursing increases your milk production more quickly. Your milk composition will adjust to what the new baby needs and your older child will receive all those same benefits. Remember, however, that if you are tandem nursing a newborn and a toddler that baby will always take priority – after all, it’s their only source of food!

In either case, it may be helpful to establish a comfortable nursing routine with each baby individually for the first couple of weeks after birth. Once you begin nursing them together, a supportive U-shaped pillow or the “football hold” (especially when the babies are little), might help you get comfortable.

And don’t worry about the hygiene of sharing breasts, even if one child is sick. The antibodies and other important ingredients in breast milk will help prevent the spread of illness.

What to Do

Stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet with adequate calories to support tandem feeding

You must stay well-nourished to meet your own nutritional needs as well as the needs of two children. You’ll likely need considerably more calories than if you were nursing one baby, and the exact number will vary depending on your activity level, weight and nutritional status as well as the amount of milk your body is producing based on the developmental stages and nutrition needs of the babies or toddlers you’re nursing.

Let your appetite be your guide, and speak with a Happy Family Coach to develop a plan.

Seek out support from an in-person lactation consultant

Even while you’re still in the hospital, ask your lactation consultant to show you how to tandem nurse (and bring your tandem nursing pillow to the hospital to try it out). Or schedule a lactation consultant appointment once you’ve established individual breastfeeding and you’re ready to try tandem nursing.

Practice practice practice

Practice different positions and pillows to find the most comfortable set up for you. You may find you’ll need several pillows or rolled up blankets to help prop the babies up until they get bigger.

If your older child wants to nurse when the baby does, try to set up the younger baby first into a comfortable position for you and then let the older child latch.

If simultaneous nursing is too difficult to coordinate at first, try nursing each child separately (this is still tandem nursing!) before trying again. Remember, you all need time to grow accustomed to the new routine.

Set realistic expectations for yourself

Like singleton nursing, tandem nursing has a learning curve that takes time to master. Set realistic expectations for yourself and make sure to have helping hands nearby when you’re first learning to tandem feed.

Keep track of which baby nursed on which breast so you can alternate at each feeding

Try using a notebook or an app to keep track of feedings so you have less to hold in your mind and you won’t feel anxious about remembering. There’s so much else to think about!

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