Well, I did it. I tandem breastfed a toddler and a newborn for almost a year. It's crazy to me because I never thought that was something I would do. I am probably similar to many mothers on their breastfeeding journey, I stumbled my way through.. none of it was planned.
Getting pregnant while breastfeeding
I have written a lot about getting pregnant while breastfeeding since I did it twice somehow. When I became pregnant with my son I was still nursing my daughter, but she weaned quickly into my pregnancy. I believe I was around 14 weeks along. I was a bit sad at the time to end our breastfeeding relationship but also felt hugely relieved because no way I wanted to breastfeed two babies at once.
When I got pregnant with my third baby I was still breastfeeding my son, and I was sure he would wean too. Since that had been my experience previously I expected it to happen. He was already older than my daughter had been when she weaned, and it seemed like the right time.
Weaning while pregnant...or not
But here's the thing.. I have never been able to force my children to take a next step, whether it's weaning, potty training, or something else which involves growing up and becoming more independent. I have always preferred to let them reach each step on their own, when they were ready. So, I was at a loss of how to get him to wean when he clearly still wanted to nurse for comfort. And, as I've learned breastfeeding does not lose it's nutrition at a certain age. It's still beneficial.
My son kept on nursing throughout my pregnancy and there were times I did not love it. Well I pretty much did not love it at all to be honest. It was somewhat painful and uncomfortable. I kept thinking, he's going to wean soon. But, nope.
At some point I realized I might end up tandem nursing, and I was not too thrilled but decided to prepare. I read about it a bit, and posted questions in the local La Leche League, but then I decided to go forward as I have for most of my parenting journey and just follow my instincts. I knew there was no way I wanted to actually tandem breastfeed them at the exact same time. That was too much for me. I know some women can and do, but I had to set some physical limits.
Once my daughter was born I went with the flow. I think my son was more than happy with the new supply of milk, but I nursed them separately and tried to set my limit of only nursing him right before bedtime. Doing it this way actually helped in the early days of having a newborn I believe.
Here are some of the surprising benefits I received from breastfeeding a toddler and a newborn
I was able to still bond with my toddler in a way familiar to him after bringing a newborn home. This is huge, it's such an adjustment to bring a new baby home, this way I still had some time where I focused on my son only. This helped keep the jealousy to a minimum.
I was able to keep us all healthy. My son got sick shortly after my newborn came home, and while I freaked out at the time I think breastfeeding kept my newborn healthy. I wrote more about this here because there was a not a lot of information to be found online at the time.
I did not have to deal with oversupply and engorgement when my milk came in. I know for some women they deal with low supply and if this is the case I am not sure if tandem nursing would be good for supply or harmful. It's definitely best to keep an eye out for the signs a newborn is getting enough milk. But, for me it limited the engorgement I had with my first two pregnancies.
So, I kept on breastfeeding them both and it went on for almost a year. I wanted to wean my son because I felt like it was time, so I gently pushed him towards it by talking more about the milk being for the baby. It was an extremely gradual process and I didn't even know it was the last time when he weaned. But it was, and after one night he never asked again. Bittersweet for sure but I am glad we did it this way.
Please let me know if you have any questions about tandem nursing a toddler and a newborn at all!