Tandem Breastfeeding: Multiples or Toddler

Women have two breasts; two mammary glands that are capable of producing milk for their offspring. But the thought of having more than one child breastfeeding at the same time seems to be unthinkable in our culture.  So why is it that many people don’t question a dogs ability to nurse their litter of 8-10 puppies? They do, after all, have 8-10 mammary glands. The human body is just as amazing as a dogs, if not more amazing!  …but I’m a little biased. The human body is already prepared for the possibility of providing milk for two children at the same time, having two breasts available to produce enough milk for each child. So if we already know our bodies are capable of producing enough milk for two children, and sometimes more than two, the focus should be directed towards how it can be achieved and managed. Breastfeeding more than one child at the same time can look different for each family, with multiple infants or an infant and a toddler. There are some things to consider with each situation to help achieve success.

Having a multiple birth:

  • Though breastfeeding more than one baby can present a few challenges, it is an accomplishment many mothers have been able to achieve.

  • Pumping, in addition to direct breastfeeding, can often be helpful to ensure milk supply increases and establishes at a high volume.

    • Since many multiples are premature or small for gestational age, the additional stimulation and milk removal a pump can provide often helps mothers communicate an appropriate milk volume need from their bodies when their babies may not be able to.

  • It is helpful to alternate the babies with each breast at breastfeeding sessions to allow equal breast stimulation and milk removal since many multiples differ with their feeding efficiency.

  • Doing this can ensure each breast is stimulated equally and each baby is able to nurse from a potentially higher producing and/or faster flowing breast.

  • Achieving a successful breastfeeding relationship with each baby individually can often be helpful before transitioning to tandem breastfeeding.

  • Each baby is often so individual with their growth, progress and abilities. Some mothers may have more success with tandem feeding if they begin with latching their more efficiently nursing baby to the breast first then latch their less efficient nursing baby. Other mothers may find more success with beginning with their less efficient nursing baby then latching their more efficient nursing baby. It’s important to determine what works best, then stick with that.

  Breastfeeding a toddler with a newborn:

  • Similar to delivering multiples or pumping in addition to breastfeeding an efficiently nursing baby, a mother’s breasts will most often increase with milk supply and establish at a higher volume when nursing her older child with a newborn.

  • While breastmilk supply is increasing and establishing for a new baby, its important to nurse the newborn from each breast at every feeding session prior to allowing the toddler to nurse.

    • Since an older child will most likely be a more efficient nurser, ensuring the breasts are not emptied before the newborn has a chance to take in an appropriate volume is very important when tandem nursing an older child with a newborn.

  • After the newborn has emptied the first breast, a mother may be able to tandem breastfeed her toddler from the breast her newborn has already nursed from while nursing the infant from the second breast.

  • Tandem breastfeeding a toddler and an infant without allowing the infant to finish from the first breast can be heavily dependent on mother’s milk supply and storage capacity (how much milk is held within the breast).

  • It’s important to consider a growing infants intake needs and to ensure the baby is provided with an appropriate volume of milk. Monitoring a baby’s weight gain and wet and dirty diaper count can help provide the reassurance needed that baby is getting plenty of milk while sharing with their toddler sibling.