Tandem Breastfeeding a Toddler and Newborn

When you have two children in close succession, you may want to continue breastfeeding your toddler even after the new baby arrives. As long as your breast milk supply is sufficient for both children, you can safely do this. Tandem nursing provides all the benefits of breastfeeding to both children and may reduce the likelihood of the older child feeling displaced by the new baby.

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. 

1

Tips for Tandem Nursing

A toddler, newborn, and mom snuggling in a bed
Tandem nursing is breastfeeding a newborn along with an older child.

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If you become pregnant while you're breastfeeding another child, you can breastfeed throughout a new pregnancy if your doctor tells you that it's safe. Then, after you have your new baby, you may decide to continue to nurse your toddler along with your newborn. When you breastfeed siblings that aren't twins it is called tandem nursing.

Reasons to Tandem Nurse

  • You become pregnant again very quickly after the birth of your older child, and your older child is under one year of age.
  • You believe in child-led weaning.
  • You do not feel it is the right time to wean your older child.
  • You want to continue to provide your toddler with the emotional and psychological benefits that breastfeeding provides.
2

Prepare Your Older Child

A toddler and pregnant mom sitting on a sofa
Prepare your toddler for tandem nursing while you're pregnant.

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Have a talk with your older child before your new little one arrives. Let them know that their new brother or sister will need to nurse, too. Explain that a baby cannot eat and drink other types of snacks and foods the way that they can, so the baby will need to nurse a lot more. It may be a little easier for your toddler to share breastfeeding if they're prepared.  

3

Nurse Your Newborn First

Newborn and mother
Breastfeed your newborn before your toddler.

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A newborn breastfeeds at least every two to three hours throughout the day and night. It's important that your newborn gets all the nutrients and healthy immune-boosting properties that they need from your breast milk, so always nurse your newborn first and often. After your younger child is satisfied with their feeding, you can then go on to nurse your older child.  

4

Your Breast Milk Will Change

A toddler with their head on their mom's pregnant belly
Your breast milk will change during your pregnancy and with the birth of your new baby.

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As your pregnancy progresses, your breast milk will change. When your new child is born, you will be making colostrum. Colostrum contains all the nutrition that a newborn needs, but you only make a small amount of it. 

When your breast milk returns to colostrum, your older child may not like that he's not getting as much milk or the change in the flavor so he may not want to nurse.

However, as 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, or the need to feel closer to you. 

5

More Nursing Means More Breast Milk

A mom breastfeeding a newborn
Breastfeeding a newborn and a toddler could increase your supply of breast milk.

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If your toddler does continue to nurse through the colostrum phase, the extra stimulation that your older child provides at your breast will help to increase your supply of breast milk.

After a few days, when your breasts begin to fill up with milk, 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 overabundant milk supply. 

6

Talk to Your Children's Doctor

A new baby being weighed on a scale
Your child's doctor will monitor your baby's weight and growth.

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Be sure to tell your children's doctor that you're nursing your older child along with your newborn. The pediatrician will carefully monitor your newborn's growth during the first few weeks to be sure that he's getting enough breast milk and growing at a healthy, consistent pace. Be sure to follow the doctor's instructions and take your baby to all of his scheduled well visits and weight checks.

7

Others May Not Understand

A mother breastfeeding her toddler
Breastfeeding is still beneficial to older children.

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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, and there is no danger in continuing to nurse both children, you can continue tandem nursing for as long as you feel comfortable.

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

8

Don't Forget About Self-Care

A mother drinking glass of water while holding her baby
Eat a well-balanced diet, get extra calories, and drink plenty of fluids when you're tandem nursing.

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

9

Try to Get Enough Rest

A mother and baby asleep next to each other
Tandem nursing can be exhausting. Be sure to get plenty of rest.

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Don't overdo it. 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 ask for help if you need it. 

10

It's OK to Change Your Mind

A toddler sitting in a highchair eating a snack
Your toddler can get enough nutrition from the foods that she eats.

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If tandem nursing becomes too overwhelming, you don't have to feel guilty about weaning your older child. Your older child 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.  

11

Find Assistance and Support

Two breastfeeding moms sitting on a sofa, holding their infants
A local breastfeeding group is a great place to find acceptance and support.

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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, such as La Leche League International, are also a great place to find acceptance, support, and advice.

Breastfeeding your older child along with your newborn can be tiring, but it can also be a rewarding experience. As long as your younger child is getting all the nutrition that she needs, you can choose to continue nursing both children together for as long as you feel comfortable doing so.  

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Article Sources
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  • 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.