Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tandem Nursing and Colostrum

When people realized that I wasn't intending to wean my first child before my second child was born, I got a lot of questions. First there were the questions about the safety of breastfeeding while pregnant. Those questions were fairly simple because overwhelming evidence supports the safety of breastfeeding while pregnant (as long as there aren't complicating risk factors, like a history of pre-term labor). Second I got questions about supply - would the newborn get enough once he was born? Well, since I've always tended toward over-supply, and I didn't plan to limit nursing sessions, I wasn't worried. The answer to that question is simply logistical: let the newborn nurse first, for as long as (s)he wants, and then the older child gets the "leftovers".

The one question that stumped me was - will the new baby get colostrum? If you're asking yourself "what exactly is colostrum" or wondering about its benefits, check out the La Leche League factsheet on colostrum. I thought the new baby would get colostrum, but I wasn't sure exactly how it would work.

In case you're considering tandem nursing and are wondering the same thing, I'm posting this information from email newsletters I received this week:

First, from the Mothering weekly email, one of the questions of the week was re: colostrum and tandem nursing. The reply from Kathleen Bruce explains that "When a mother delivers a baby and the placenta separates from the uterus, the hormones of lactation take over and lactogenesis continues with the production of colostrum, and later, mature milk as your baby and toddler nurse frequently."

A very similar question was highlighted in the most recent Midwifery Today email newsletter, which offered a similar response: "Typically the pregnant and nursing mother experiences a decrease in milk production sometime during second trimester, and then begins to produce colostrum sometime during third trimester. Colostrum production continues until about the third or fourth day after birth, when frequent nursing by the newborn baby brings in mother's milk. It is important during these first few days for the mother to limit the older nursling's time at the breast, to insure that the newborn receives plenty of colostrum."

Some of my favorite tandem nursing resources include:
Adventures in Tandem Nursing, by Hilary Flower
Kellymom's pages on nursing during pregnancy & tandem nursing
La Leche League's articles on tandem nursing

Just for a data point, here is my experience: I tandem nursed for just short of a year before my older child weaned. There were lots of benefits for all of us - I never got engorged (unlike my first breastfeeding experience), my milk production stabilized quickly (instead of leaking for almost a year, I had stopped leaking after about a month), I didn't have anything like the nipple soreness I had with my first, I didn't feel that I was depriving my older child of something she needed, etc. My older child was still able to reap the many benefits of extended nursing (now, at six years old, she still has never had an infection of any kind, or any antibiotics - yay breastmilk!), and occasionally share nursing time with her brother; weaning didn't play into sibling dynamics or resentment.

This is not to say tandem nursing is easy - I think it can be emotionally challenging to nurse two children, as well as physically draining. For us, though, I think it was easier to tandem nurse than to wean my older child who was so not ready, emotionally or physically.

Anyway, since there were two articles in my email newsletters in the same week, I figured I'd share... Anyone else care to share tandem nursing experiences?

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes in Central Maine

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posted by Christina Kennedy at


Blogger rvcookie said...

Thank you for the info. My daughter is only 7 months and I just found out I'm expecting my second Neither of us are even close to being ready to wean. I didn't know how to handle it.

July 23, 2009 11:09 PM  

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