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Trimester Thursday: Considering Tandem Breastfeeding

Posted by Natalie Cassell on

There is a lot to think about if you are breastfeeding and pregnant. One thing that has been on my mind is tandem breastfeeding. I’m expecting my third child in a few months, and my second is just 13 months old. Midway through my pregnancy my milk dried up, but he still wants to dry breastfeed for comfort and at bedtime. I don’t offer it though, because it is extremely uncomfortable. Thankfully he is usually happy to just put his open mouth on my arm or chest, snuggle up close, and rock to sleep. But since he is still showing interest, I’m still considering tandem breastfeeding when the baby arrives and my milk returns. Here are a few things I’m taking into account:

My Toddler’s Needs

If you still have a child under two, you might be concerned about their nutritional needs. I know I am. Of course, my son is relying heavily on solids now, but I still have a twinge of regret every time I hand him a cup of milk. It isn’t the best, but it is the best I have to offer for now. When my milk supply returns, I could give him something much better, which is important to me. However, not long before my milk dried up, I could no longer stand the feeling of breastfeeding. Pregnancy hormones played a huge role, but I’ve read those feelings can carry over to tandem breastfeeding. Some women feel fine when breastfeeding their newborn, but get the creepy crawly sensation when their toddler/older child nurses. I’m not sure I can deal with that emotionally. If it is a problem, I’m considering pumping instead and offering breast milk in a cup to my toddler.

The Juggling Act

As if breastfeeding a newborn isn’t enough of a challenge, now I’m considering trying to breastfeed two at the same time. Isn’t that unnecessary stress? Won’t I feel burned out? When you first start breastfeeding a newborn, there is always an adjustment period though and tandem breastfeeding could actually make the transition easier in some ways. Having an experienced nurser can help bring in and increase milk supply. In the past, I’ve struggled getting my milk to come in, so that aspect of tandem breastfeeding sounds pretty appealing.

Displacement or Jealousy

I worry that jealousy will be worse if I tandem breastfeed. Will my toddler see the new baby as a rival or competition for milk? Or will he have a renewed/stronger interest in breastfeeding when the baby arrives and feel displaced if I don’t let him nurse? These are things that can only be answered with time. By all accounts, every child reacts differently, and I take comfort in the fact that there are ways to help older siblings adjust in either case.

The Unexpected

I think the most important thing to keep in mind is to expect the unexpected. I’m torn between hoping my toddler doesn’t lose interest and hoping he does. However, there is no way to plan for the moment they decide to wean completely. Most women have a significant decrease in supply during pregnancy. The child’s interest in breastfeeding might wax and wane for a while. By the time your milk supply returns, they could have moved on or have trouble latching correctly. Or they may show renewed interest and have no problem with latching.

As with most breastfeeding conundrums, tandem breastfeeding is something I think you just have to figure out as you go. Research and preparation is valuable. However, you can’t predict how your body will function, how your postpartum emotions will affect the situation, or what your older child’s reaction will be. So, during this waiting period called pregnancy, I think the answer is to just go with the flow.

 

Hi readers! I’m Natalie, writer and mom of two. I am so excited to join The 16 Minute Club’s new blog, and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you. My pudgy breastfed baby, Jackson, is 8 months old and looks like he subsists on whipping cream. You would never know he was once “failing to thrive.” Breastfeeding has certainly had its ups and downs. Like most moms, I spend my days wavering between maternal bliss and horrification at some of the realities of motherhood. After my first child, I was sure I had things figured out. I just knew breastfeeding would be easier with my second. But the truth is that every baby is different, and they each present new challenges. Sometimes they even present the same challenges, but require different solutions.


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