My Experience with Tandem Nursing and Milk Differences

Tandem nursing is becoming more common these days. More moms are nursing through pregnancy and continuing to nurse their older nurslings once their new baby is born. There isn’t a lot of science or research in the area of tandem nursing, so while the information in this article is strictly my experience, it is an interesting idea to ponder what happened while nursing my 7 children, and how amazing the body is.  

When I was in labor with my oldest, just over 13 years ago, my plan was to nurse her until she was  6 months old for financial purposes. After she was born, I began researching and educating myself on parenting topics, such as breastfeeding. When 6 months hit, I decided I would take a completely different approach. I decided I was going to allow my daughter to self-wean at whatever age she chose.  

When she was 14 months old, I was pregnant again. I was told I would have a stillborn baby at 20 weeks if I continued to breastfeed. Unfortunately for more than this reason, I did have a miscarriage with that pregnancy, but was pregnant again shortly after. This next time, I was able to successfully breastfeed and carry my baby to full term. 

With my 3rd child, I continued to nurse my two kids through another pregnancy and after the birth. On the 4th child, when my children were the ages 5, 3, and 1, I was able to nurse all 4 children for 6 months before my oldest decided to wean.  

By the 6th baby, my 5th baby was the only one nursing. This is when I noticed something different. 

When the 6th was born, he had a major thrush issue, so I decided it would be best to isolate my toddler to one breast, and my newborn to the other, so as not to spread the thrush.

It was during this time I started noticing my breasts filling at different times. I was a Doula at this point. At long births, I noticed the side my infant would nurse on would engorge, and the toddlers side would not. I would get more milk pumping from the infant side too, and much less from the toddler side, which would also come out much thicker. 

Similarly, during my 7th pregnancy, the side my older child nursed on almost went completely dry, while the side that my younger child nursed on continued to produce throughout the whole pregnancy.  And when the 7th was born, my 5th child weaned and gave her side to her new baby brother. Her side normally produced less, but now, with the newborn taking over, it became the side that produced more. And with my 6th child older, but still nursing, his side began to produce thicker milk without engorging. Now, when I pump at work, or go many hours without nursing or pumping, the infant’s side fills more frequently, and the toddler’s side fills less frequently.  

To me, this is all proof of the body’s instinct to care for the needs of the certain child. Recently, I went on a trip with only my younger nursling for several days. Because of the nature of the trip, I nursed him on both sides. By the 2nd day, the breast that is usually reserved for my older child was producing at the same rate as the other breast. Upon return it took 2 days for my older child’s breast to acclimate back to the old schedule and intake.  

I have known that breastmilk and bodies are amazing. I have known that breastmilk changes throughout the nursing session, day, and with illness of mom and/or baby. I was however, completely naïve to the fact that one’s body could be so smart that it would tailor each breast separately to the needs of who is nursing from it.  

Written by Felicia Mills MED, CBD (CBI)

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