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My Experience with Tandem Breastfeeding

When my oldest child reached 18 months old, our nursing relationship was still going strong and I was pregnant again.  (Read about my experience with breastfeeding and pregnancy.) I was sure my son would wean during my pregnancy due to changes in my milk supply. Boy, was I wrong!

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Tandem Breastfeeding During Pregnancy

Child Led Weaning Led to Tandem Nursing

I began practicing child led weaning with my oldest son when he was around 15 months old by using the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” method.  I’d nurse him if he asked, but I didn’t offer to nurse him several times a day like I did when he was under a year old.

He was 16 months old when I became pregnant with my second son. I expected him to wean within a couple of months because of the pregnancy and the “don’t offer, don’t refuse.”

To my surprise, he didn’t wean!  He kept on nursing two or three times a day. By about 22-24 weeks into my pregnancy, my supply returned and nursing was no longer painful.  I knew then that I would be a tandem nursing mama when my second son was born.

Tandem Breastfeeding – a Friendship was Born

When my oldest son was 25 months old, my second son was born.  I panicked, when I experienced the same newborn breastfeeding struggles (namely latch issues) that I’d faced with my oldest son.  He only failed to latch correctly two or three times before I whined to my husband that I could not – no,would not – go through this again.  All of the strength and empowerment I’d developed through my breastfeeding difficulties with my oldest son was gone in a flash. I was giving up before we’d even gotten started.

Fortunately, within a week or so, my son learned to latch properly. We were off on our breastfeeding journey.

I expected some jealousy from my older son when it came to breastfeeding, but he showed none. He was happy to nurse alongside his baby brother.

I’m convinced that tandem breastfeeding was the start to the solid friendship my oldest and middle sons have today. They’ve had very little sibling rivalry.

Tandem Nursing Solves Overactive Letdown Issues

Thanks to tandem breastfeeding, one thing I didn’t experience with my second son was any problems caused by overactive letdown.  My oldest was there to take care of the worst of it and my youngest could latch comfortably. My supply settled in and my baby began to nurse like a champ.

Tandem Breastfeeding Toddler Boundaries

I won’t sugar it coat it for you. When I was tandem nursing my oldest and middle sons I felt as if all I did was breastfeed.  Within a few months, I had to set boundaries with my oldest son. He was over two years old at this time. While breastmilk did provide him with nutrition, he had a good appetite for food and I knew he mostly nursed for comfort.  I limited him to three nursing sessions per day.

Again, I assumed he’d wean within a couple of months.  However, he settled into nursing first thing in the morning, once in the afternoon, and at bedtime.

Tandem Breastfeeding While Pregnant

When my oldest was three-and-a-half and my middle son was 19 months old, I became pregnant with my third son.  I contemplated weaning my oldest son.

In an attempt to speed up the weaning process I even wrote and illustrated a cute handmade book about a boy his age who weaned and had a weaning party.  I thought it was brilliant, but he was not convinced.

Because I believed in the benefits of child-led weaning, I dropped the subject and continued to tandem nurse.

During the 1st trimester of my pregnancy, my oldest was nursing only once or twice per day. My middle son, who had never nursed for comfort, but only when hungry, was nursing only three times a day.

I was grateful for the break (although nursing during pregnancy wasn’t as painful this time around).

They Won’t Go Away to College Still Breastfeeding

About a week before his 4th birthday, my oldest spent a few days with his grandmother.  When he came home, I expected him to nurse before bed as usual.  Instead, he talked to me while his brother nursed.  I didn’t offer to nurse him and he didn’t ask to nurse.

Eventually, a few days after his 4th birthday, I asked him if he would ever nurse again. He barely stopped playing long enough to give me a nonchalant, “Nah.  I’m all done.”  And so he was.

Four years after our rough start and our eventual triumph, he was done.

Several months later, about two months before my youngest son was born, I sat down to nurse my second son to sleep for a nap.  He shook his head and pushed away from me and laid down to sleep.

He never nursed again, although I offered daily for a few weeks.  At 27 months, he was done.  As I mentioned before, he wasn’t a  comfort nurser and once my supply dipped in the third trimester, breastfeeding held no appeal for him.

I was both surprised and relieved by how quickly weaning had happened!  In just two months, the final chapter of my breastfeeding story would begin.

Read about my last time breastfeeding.

Important Note: I share my breastfeeding experience to offer encouragement and celebrate my triumph over personal struggles, not to judge or condemn other moms whose stories are different from my own. If you feel like a breastfeeding failure you have to read this article to moms who think they failed at breastfeeding. You’re not a failure, mama.

My breastfeeding experience spanned a continuous 5 years and 9 months.  In this series I share my breastfeeding story, with all of its ups and downs, for the purpose of inspiring and encouraging both new moms and those who are well into their breastfeeding experience. 

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