What Is Tandem Nursing?

What Is Tandem Nursing? 

Breastfeeding siblings that aren't twins is called tandem nursing. When you have two children in close succession, you may want to continue breastfeeding your toddler even after the new baby arrives. Since breastfeeding works on supply and demand, you should have an adequate milk supply for both children. Breastfeeding a toddler and a newborn is a special situation, and it's not always easy. Keep reading for tips to help you through tandem nursing. 

Reasons for Tandem Breastfeeding

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is 6 months old. After that, the AAP recommends continuing to breastfeed until at least a year and then as long as is mutually desired. WHO recommends breastfeeding until at least 2 years and beyond.

Sometimes when people become pregnant again very quickly after the birth of their older child, they may not have yet met their breastfeeding goals and want to continue. When a toddler continues to breastfeed after a new sibling is born, they get the added benefits that colostrum (the very first milk) provides—namely the highly concentrated immune benefits.

Some parents want to continue to provide their toddlers with the emotional benefits that breastfeeding offers. When siblings are very close in age, tandem nursing may reduce the likelihood that your older child feels displaced by the new baby. If you are not ready to wean your older child or practice child-led weaning, tandem nursing may be a reasonable option.

In addition, some parents want to breastfeed an adopted baby. For them, tandem nursing offers the opportunity to breastfeed without having to induce lactation.

A child who has recently weaned may express interest in nursing again after the birth of a new baby. You may find you are pleased to reestablish nursing. Or you may be ready for your child to remain weaned. Both are valid, and you should do what is best for you and your circumstances.

Types of Tandem Nursing

While breastfeeding during pregnancy is not considered tandem nursing, it is often a precursor to it. Be aware that as your pregnancy progresses, your breast milk will change.

The hormones of pregnancy may affect your milk supply and make breastfeeding uncomfortable. It’s a good idea to talk to your child about this if it happens. You may find that you need to set some boundaries around breastfeeding.

Talk to your doctor about breastfeeding and pregnancy, especially if you have a history of miscarriage, preterm birth, or if your baby is less than 1 year old.

When your breast milk returns to colostrum, your older child may not like that they’re not getting as much milk. They may also dislike the change in the flavor. When your milk "comes in" and transitions over to mature milk, your older child may show more interest in nursing again. This return of enthusiasm could be due to the increase in your milk supply, the desire to feel closer to you, or both. 

Every parent handles the mechanics of tandem nursing differently. Some choose to nurse their baby and toddler at the same time. Others like to nurse their children separately. There is no "right" way to tandem nurse.

How to Breastfeed Two Children

Keep in mind that a newborn breastfeeds at least every two to three hours throughout the day and night. Since your breast milk is produced by supply and demand, you don’t need to worry too much that your toddler will "steal" the milk your baby needs. Still, some parents like to nurse their newborn first and then allow their toddler to nurse, especially in the early weeks.  

The great thing about toddlers is that they are natural acrobats and can probably accommodate any new breastfeeding positions that you propose. For example, holding your baby and toddler in a cradle hold on either side can work out as long as your toddler is careful not to kick their sibling inadvertently. A double football hold places your toddler’s feet behind you, limiting the risk of flying limbs. Your children don’t always have to be in the same position, though—one can be in a cradle hold while the other is in the football hold, for instance.

Talk with your older child before your new little one arrives. Let them know that their new sibling will need to nurse, too. Explain that a baby cannot eat and drink other types of snacks and foods the way they can, so the baby will need to nurse a lot more. If you prepare your toddler in advance, it may be a little easier for them to share breastfeeding with a new sibling.  

Also, be sure to tell your children's doctor that you're nursing your older child along with your newborn. Your pediatrician will carefully monitor your newborn's growth during the first few weeks to ensure that they are getting enough breast milk and growing at a healthy, consistent pace. 

Tandem nursing reduces engorgement, which makes breastfeeding more comfortable for you and easier for your young baby.

Tips for Tandem Nursing

While you're nursing two children, your body will need more energy to make more breast milk. So be sure to eat a well-balanced diet, get some extra healthy calories each day, and drink enough fluids to stay hydrated.  

It can be exhausting to meet the nursing needs of a newborn and a toddler. Postpartum fatigue can interfere with breastfeeding and your breast milk supply. Don't overdo it, and try to get as much rest as possible. Let the housework go, put your feet up, take a nap, and don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. 

If you are concerned about tandem nursing, or if you have any questions about nursing a newborn and an older child at the same time, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant. Local breastfeeding groups are also great places to find acceptance, support, and advice.

Potential Challenges

Tandem nursing can offer a sense of closeness and help with the new baby transition, but it also comes with challenges. Since you are meeting two little people’s needs, you might find that you feel overwhelmed or touched out sometimes. Be prepared for bumps in the road, and adjust your expectations and plans if you need to.

Oversupply

The extra stimulation that your older child provides at your breast will help to increase your supply of breast milk. Often, in the first few weeks, your supply will adjust to feeding both of your children in the same way that it would for someone who is breastfeeding twins. You may even end up with an overabundant milk supply

If you have breast milk oversupply, you can do things to manage it, like lying back while breastfeeding and nursing only from one breast. Be sure to seek support from your doctor or a lactation consultant if you experience a breast milk oversupply. 

Lack of Support 

Others may not understand or support your decision. You may feel pressure from your spouse, family members, or friends to wean your older child. However, if your newborn is growing and gaining weight well, you can continue to tandem nurse for as long as you feel comfortable.

The benefits of breastfeeding your older child do not end once they turn 6 months or even a year old. On the contrary, breastfeeding will continue to provide many health and developmental benefits for your child well after the first year. 

If tandem nursing becomes too overwhelming, you don't have to feel guilty about weaning your older child. If your child is over 1, they can get all of their nutrition from a healthy diet of solid foods, and you can continue to meet their emotional needs in other ways. 


If your child is under 1, be sure to talk to their doctor about supplementing until they turn 1 year old.   

Frequently Asked Questions

How common is tandem nursing?

Plenty of parents tandem nurse, but the practice is not common in the U.S. or Europe. Researchers suspect that lack of support and misinformation may contribute to low rates of tandem nursing. It is also possible that more people tandem nurse than is widely known since some people may not openly nurse their toddlers or talk about it due to the stigma associated with nursing older children.

How can I wean my older child while tandem nursing?

Weaning a toddler is different from weaning a younger baby. If the decision to wean isn’t mutual, your toddler may be vocally resistant.

Gentle conversations can go a long way with a toddler. It may not quell their frustration, but it can help them understand and eventually accept what is happening. Distractions, limiting the duration or frequency of breastfeeding, substitutions (like a special snack or cup with milk), and cuddles tend to be good ways to encourage your toddler to find new ways to self-soothe.

A Word From Verywell 

Breastfeeding your older child along with your newborn can be tiring, but it can also be a rewarding experience. As long as everyone is satisfied with the situation, you can choose to continue nursing both children together for as long as you feel comfortable.  

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4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3):e827-e841. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-3552

  2. World Health Organization. Breastfeeding.

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Nursing during pregnancy. Updated November 2, 2009.

  4. Sinkiewicz-Darol E, Bernatowicz-Łojko U, Łubiech K et al. Tandem breastfeeding: A descriptive analysis of the nutritional value of milk when feeding a younger and older child. Nutrients. 2021;13(1):277. doi:10.3390/nu13010277

Additional Reading
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.
  • Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.
  • Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.