How To Tandem Nurse Your Newborn and Your Older Child

JanelMS, RD, LDN, CBS

Read time: 4 minutes

What to know about breastfeeding your baby and your older child at the same time

  • How to set yourself up for success when tandem nursing

  • How to know your body is making enough breastmilk while tandem breastfeeding

  • Helpful tips for nursing your newborn and older baby or toddler

Breastfeeding both your newborn as well as your older child is called tandem nursing.

The decision to continue nursing an older baby after your new infant is born can be a difficult choice to make, with different factors to consider. If your older child is under 1 year old, then deciding to continue nursing them may take on a different urgency than if your child is a toddler and relying less on the nutrition of your breastmilk.

Read on for tips, tricks, and important things to consider as you embark on your journey of tandem breastfeeding.

Learn about: Breastfeeding While Pregnant

Prepare your older child for the birth of your baby

Depending on your older child’s age, it can be helpful to prepare them for their new sibling, including how they may need to share their special time with mom. Explaining to them what will happen when you go to give birth and how the new baby will need to feed a lot in the early days can help them start to process what will happen, even if you think they may be too young to understand everything fully.1,2

For example, you can tell your toddler that their new sibling will need a lot of milk and nursing time to grow big and strong like them. And reassure them that they are always special to you and that you may spend other quality time together other than breastfeeding.

The first few days: Your newborn comes first

Given the limited amount of colostrum that is made in the first few days after birth (perfect for your newborn but potentially frustrating for your older child!), it’s important to prioritize the new baby’s access to the breast until your mature milk begins to come in.1,3

If your older baby is under one and needs the milk, it might be important to have a stash of pumped breastmilk ready for those first few days, if you are able to do so. For a toddler who isn’t as reliant on breastmilk for their nutrition needs, this is where those pre-baby discussions come in.

Toddlers do get nutrition from breast milk, but when they wean or vary their daily intake of breast milk, such as when a younger sibling needs to breastfeed more often, they typically just increase their intake of solid food.4 It will be important to keep an eye on their diet and make sure their meals are nutrient-dense.

If you need nutritious meal and snack ideas for your toddler, our team of registered dietitians, fellow moms, and lactation specialists, are available from Monday – Friday 8 am – 6 pm (ET) and Saturday – Sunday 8 am – 2 pm (ET) to help you with ideas. Chat now!

Read more: Healthy Snacks for Babies and Toddlers

Will my breastmilk supply meet both of my baby’s needs?

It’s common to wonder if you will have enough milk for both babies.5 In many cases, the answer is yes! Remember that your milk production works on supply and demand – if you have two babies demanding milk, then your body will most likely up its production to meet both of their needs. The only exception may be the early days as noted above.1,3

If you have a history of difficulty with milk supply or your new baby has special nutrition needs or growth concerns, then it will be important to connect with a lactation consultant to make sure that you have a plan for success.6

To know if your newborn baby is getting enough breastmilk, look for:

  • At least 5+ wet diapers

  • 3+ dirty diapers per day

  • Good weight gain

  • Frequent feeds1,7

If you are concerned that your baby is not getting enough, check in with your child’s health care provider, as well as a lactation consultant.

Read more: Breastfeeding: How to Support a Good Milk Supply

Tips to help you tandem breastfeed

Once you are home with your new baby, how you structure your tandem nursing depends on your children’s temperaments, feeding frequency, any particular needs of baby and your older child, your comfort levels, and how much help you have.5,8

Each family is going to have their own experience, and it may take time and trial and error to see what works best for your family.

Here are some final tips and strategies to consider.

Nursing together or separately?

If you are nursing both children at the same time, then you do not need to make sure your younger baby eats first. Note though that some babies will want or need to breastfeed from both breasts to get enough. If you find your little one is still hungry after the first breast, it may be a good idea to feed your children separately.

If you tend to nurse them separately, it’s good practice to make sure your littler one gets the feeding they need before your older child nurses.8

Our Happy Baby Experts can help you brainstorm a plan that works for you and your children. Chat now!

Breastfeeding positions while tandem nursing

You and your little ones may need to experiment with different breastfeeding positions to see what works best, particularly if you decide to nurse them at the same time. It will be easier to latch your newborn first and get them settled before letting your older child find their nursing position.

Laid back or side lying positions often work well for tandem breastfeeding.5,8

Read more: 6 Breastfeeding Positions for You and Your Baby

Do I need to wash my breasts between feeding each child?

No extra hygiene practices are needed between breastfeeding sessions or between breastfeeding each child. Just regular bathing and washing when you’d normally do so.

Even if one of your children becomes sick, often no special precautions are necessary other than the usual extra hand washing to help limit the spread of illness.1 One exception is if there is a fungal infection/thrush. This can spread very easily, and some extra hygiene may be necessary.1

If you are worried about tandem breastfeeding while one of your children is sick, give your health care provider a call for more information.

Read more: Thrush article

Do you need to drink or eat more when tandem nursing?

It’s normal to be hungrier or thirstier while breastfeeding. Depending on how much your older child is nursing, you may indeed need more calories and nutrients.1,2,8

Keep yourself nourished with frequent snacks and carry a water bottle around with you to help quench your thirst. Enlist the help of your partner or family as much as you can.

Learn more:

How Much Should You Eat While Breastfeeding?

Healthy Easy Postpartum Snacks

Tips for Staying Hydrated while Pregnant and Breastfeeding

When possible, give your older child a little extra time and attention

It’s normal for your older child to have big feelings about all of this. Whether it’s getting special nursing time by themselves or a special outing with another parent or a grandparent, helping them feel extra loved and secured can go a long way.1,4

Consider setting boundaries for nursing your older child when outside of the house

While you may feel comfortable nursing your newborn outside of the house, it may get tricky if your older child also wants to nurse. If you feel comfortable nursing both – go for it! But also brainstorm ways to help your child navigate wanting to nurse outside of the house, just in case. This could mean setting boundaries beforehand or bringing favorite snacks along with you.1

Read more: Setting Boundaries When Nursing an Older Baby

Remember to take your own needs into account

Gauge your comfort. Depending on your personality and the situation, nursing both children may be smooth, or it might feel overwhelming and uncomfortable. If you’ve tried it and it is too much for you, you can consider restricting your older child to nursing at certain times or weaning them altogether.2,8

Read more: Weaning your Baby or Toddler from Breastmilk

Remember that whatever you tandem nursing journey looks like, you and your little ones have gotten the amazing benefits of breastfeeding, in any amount you’re able to offer. You are doing a great job!

amazing benefits of breastfeeding, in any amount you’re able to offer. You are doing a great job!

Let's Chat!

We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.

Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am - 6pm (ET), and Saturday - Sunday 8am - 2pm (ET).Chat Now!

Read more about the experts that help write our content!

For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

Top Breastfeeding Latching Tips

Breastfeeding On Demand Vs. On a Schedule

Getting the Right Nutrition While Breastfeeding

What Type of Milk Should My Toddler Drink?

Dealing With a Low Breastmilk Supply