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If you achieve pregnancy while you are still breastfeeding your previous child, you may suddenly find a host of worrisome questions popping up in your mind. Should I wean my first child as fast as possible? Will I produce milk during my later stages of pregnancy? Let us allay your fears on the topic by addressing common questions and concerns on the matter!
What is Tandem Nursing
A lot of mothers get pregnant and give birth when they are still nursing their previous child. In such a situation, the mothers usually continue breastfeeding the newborn with their toddler. This arrangement of nursing siblings (that aren’t twins) is called “tandem nursing”.
Benefits of Tandem Feeding
While many women may find the idea of nursing two children at the same time worrisome, the situation can benefit you in many ways!
- The more a child nurses, the more milk the mother produces. Tandem feeding ensures plentiful milk production for both children.
- If the mother experiences ‘overactive letdown’ (this is when the milk comes too fast for a baby to feed comfortably), nursing the toddler first can help regulate flow.
- Tandem nursing helps relieve engorgement of the breasts that a mother is susceptible to in the first week after the birth.
- It will help assuage feelings of jealousy that older children are prone to when a new child comes along. When done as a shared activity (breastfeeding both siblings at the same time) it could help the siblings bond with each other.
- Breastfeeding also provides an undisturbed opportunity for the mother to bond with the older child, as the demands of pregnancy and a new birth usually results in them receiving less attention.
- Tandem nursing allows the older child to continue receiving the benefits of breast milk.
Drawbacks of Breastfeeding Toddler and an Infant
There are a few drawbacks of tandem breastfeeding too, that you should educate yourself about (if you are thinking of tandem breastfeeding your two children).
- The high nutritional and physical demand of breastfeeding two children; or even breastfeeding one child while being pregnant; can leave mom feeling exhausted all the time.
- Breastfeeding during pregnancy may trigger nausea.
- Mothers who are prone to losing weight while nursing will do so doubly fast and need to eat much more to keep up their strength and energy levels.
- If the siblings are breastfed separately, with the infant requiring milk every few hours and the toddler 3-4 times a day, breastfeeding could take up the majority of the mother’ day, leaving little time for anything else.
- One might experience social stigma toward tandem nursing! A mother may have to deal with unsolicited opinions about how the infant is not getting all the nutrition it requires because the toddler is taking it all up or some such armchair-expert opinions.
How Does Tandem Nursing Work
Two children with different nutritional needs and nursing habits, and one mom and her physical limitations – this can prove to be an overwhelming situation!
1. For Moms
Both children can be fed simultaneously. This falls entirely on the preference and convenience of the mother. What one may consider empowering, another may consider a hassle!
Some moms assign one breast to each child, feeding them only on that breast. Others alternate their children from one breast to the other every day, and others do this every time they feed.
2. For Toddlers
The feeding habits of toddlers differ from infants. A toddler may not require nursing more than thrice a day while a baby will need to nurse every 2 – 3 hours.
Some toddlers may demand to breastfeed every time the baby does so (out of feelings of jealousy. Whether this is practical or not, there are always toddlers who will throw a tantrum when denied what they want, while others may be more kind. As a mother taking care of an infant, it is imperative that you focus on your requirements, even if it means saying “no” to your toddler!
Is it Safe for Toddlers to Drink Colostrum
Colostrum is hundred percent safe for your toddler to consume. Indeed, colostrum naturally contains immunity-boosting substances that are essential for a newborn, but these could also provide an immunity boost for a toddler too!
It still remains, however, that colostrum is specially produced for the newborn. Feed your newborn first, while you are producing colostrum so that they get their adequate requirement. Remember – your toddler already got his share when he was a baby!
Tips for Tandem Breastfeeding
Even though it may be uncommon in the general population, there are several benefits to tandem nursing, as discussed above. They may encourage you to try it out. So, here are a few tips that could help you ease into a regular system of tandem nursing.
1. Prepare Your Older Child
Talk to your older child about the baby that is coming. Make it clear that the baby cannot eat other food as the toddler can. Most older siblings develop a sense of responsibility towards their younger siblings. Being open about the facts of the situation and fostering their bond with their younger sibling could prevent sibling jealousy.
2. Feed the Newborn First
This ensures that the newborn receives all the nutrition they require. Also, since a newborn feeds frequently while a toddler only does so occasionally, this could happen naturally.
3. Be Aware of Changes to Your Milk
You might have learned that your breast milk changes with the age of your child, providing them with the nutrition required for their age. When a second baby is born, this cycle resets with the production of colostrum.
4. Stimulation Produces More Milk
The body responds to stimulation. If both your children feed regularly, your body will produce enough milk for the two of them. If feeding becomes irregular, milk production could wane. If your toddler breastfeeds through the colostrum phase, it ensures ample production of milk for both later on.
5. Consult Your Doctor During Your Pregnancy
It is important that you consult your doctor even before the second baby is born. Your doctor will know if you should continue nursing your toddler while pregnant. Not everyone might be able to physically cope with the demands of feeding one child while also pregnant.
6. Regularly Visit Your Paediatrician
It is important that the doctor monitors your newborn’s growth. In the first weeks after birth, regular consultation and weight checks will allow the doctor to judge if your newborn is getting enough milk.
7. Expect Criticism
You may face criticism from your spouse, family, and friends! Tandem nursing may be uncommon, but it is by no means unnatural! Provided the newborn is getting enough nutrition and growing normally, tandem nursing can be continued. Your toddler does stand to benefit from consuming breast milk, even though they are eating other foods. In fact, the World Health Organisation recommends that every child is best off being breastfed until two years of age.
8. You Have Needs Too
Have you noticed how in the safety instructions given to you before flying, you are instructed to secure your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others? This is because trying to help an impaired person while you are being impaired yourself could result in two causalities rather than one.
This rule applies to take care of babies too! Only if you are well hydrated, well fed and well rested can you provide adequate care and nutrition to your children?
Best Positions for Tandem Breastfeeding
Figuring out the “logistics” of how to breastfeed newborn with toddler simultaneously can be tricky.
- If seated on the floor, leaning back, the baby could be cradled in your arms while the toddler stands or kneels beside you to feed. If you are not leaning back on anything, your toddler can lean in from your back or side, while you are cradling your baby on your lap.
- When lying down or reclined, both children could be positioned, with the help of some pillows, on your sides, facing you to feed.
- Your baby can be on your lap, nursing on one side as you sit down and your toddler can be held under your other arm to nurse.
- If your toddler is feeling docile enough, you could cradle both children on your lap, with the baby lying on your toddler.
Always remember that as the mother, you wield the power. Do not over-extend yourself to the whims of your toddler. Deciding to wean your toddler if the demands on you are too much is perfectly acceptable!
Also Read: Exclusive Breastfeeding