Like most aspects of mothering small children, tandem nursing is an adventure. Here are some tips:
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Find some other tandem mamas. Hearing about a range of experiences can help you decide if tandem nursing might be for you, and a support network of tandem mamas will serve you well as you go along. One place to start is your La Leche League group. You can find local groups internationally at www.lalecheleague.org. You can also find tandem-nursing moms on the www.mothering.com message boards.
Take stock of your self-care resources: Do you have access to the nutrition, rest, and support you will need to make breastmilk, grow a baby, and enjoy your pregnancy? Breastfeeding your older child can help you make the most of couch-bound mothering–a much-needed energy-saver if you’re battling pregnancy fatigue or caring for a newborn–but good self-care is essential.
Expect changes. Pregnancy has a tendency to lead to weaning, especially if nursing becomes painful or your milk supplies dwindle. Children have also been known to abruptly self-wean at the birth of the baby–or to turn around and un-wean when the milk comes in and begin nursing again like newborns. Then again, through it all, some nurslings don’t skip a beat.
When considering the safety of overlapping breastfeeding with your pregnancy, a breastfeeding-friendly midwife or obstetrician can make a huge difference. We still lack sufficient medical research to make definitive guidelines, although the research we do have is encouraging for well-nourished mothers. The American Academy of Family Physicians asserts that breastfeeding during a healthy pregnancy is a personal decision for the mother–indeed, that weaning before two years of age can increase a child’s risk of illness. Remember to ask yourself: Does this overlap feel harmonious within my body?
Have realistic expectations. Breastfeeding your older child can offer many gifts after a new baby joins the family, but tandem nursing can at times be stressful or difficult. Some of the variables that make the biggest difference–for instance, whether or not simultaneous nursing will work well for you–are hard to predict in advance. Above all, trust in your fundamental relationship with the older child, and not tandem nursing per se, to get you both through the shifts in your relationship.
Hold your nursling close as you dream about your next baby, and never doubt for a moment that you have what it takes to make the best choices for each of you as you go along.
PDF version with resource page (great for printing)
See also the sample chapter from Adventures in Tandem Nursing…
Pregnant Pause: To Nurse or Not?