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Mother's Milk: Room for Two (Tandem Nursing)

Tandem NursingEditor’s note: This guest piece on breastfeeding is from Amy Gates. Amy writes about attachment parenting, activism, green living and photography at Crunchy Domestic Goddess, where this was posted originally.  Thank you Amy for sharing your story!

One of Ava’s books about nursing (Breastmilk Makes My Tummy Yummy) contains a picture of a mom nursing a toddler and a baby and states: “Two can breastfeed without fuss, there is room for both of us.” On Wednesday night, we – me, Julian and Ava – experienced that for the first time.

Jody had to work an unusually long day yesterday and wasn’t planning on getting home until after 8 p.m. Since I knew Ava was really tired I decided to try to put her to sleep while Julian slept in the swing. Seems easy enough, right? Well, wouldn’t you know it, just as I got Ava undressed, Julian woke up crying. So much for easy. I brought him in the bedroom with us, hurriedly put Ava in her PJs, washed her face and hands (we skipped brushing teeth) and we all laid down on Ava’s twin bed (it was cozy) so that I could nurse Julian and hopefully, get Ava to sleep. She thought it was quite fun that we were all laying on her bed together. When I asked her if she wanted “na-na” (to nurse) with Julian, the giggles started. It took a bit of acrobatics on Ava’s part to nurse since I had Julian in the side-lying position, but she/we managed it. She giggled a lot as she nursed and thought the whole thing was quite funny, and I started laughing a few times too appreciating the comedic value of the scene. After the giggles subsided, she stroked Julian’s cheek and then held his hand as they both nursed, and it was a very sweet moment. Then the giggles started back up again.

It was all going quite well (other than being a bit uncomfortable for me), when Ava remembered that we hadn’t read any books yet – something that daddy generally does as part of her nighttime routine. Since Julian was asleep at that point, Ava and I got some books, turned on the closet light and read in the little hallway by the closet while we sat on the floor. She thought that was pretty fun too. Then Julian woke up so I brought him to our storytime on the floor as well.

It was about that time that daddy got home, so he came in and proceeded to brush Ava’s teeth, then took Julian downstairs so I could finish putting Ava to bed. She had a bit more na-na though not without first saying she wanted to do it with Julian again. Aww. I explained to her that it was a special occasion that she had na-na with Julian because daddy wasn’t home yet. She seemed OK with that, had her na-na, rolled over and drifted off to sleep.

Never a dull moment in this house.

I was talking with a friend about breastfeeding recently and she observed that since Ava only nurses once per day (before bed) that I’m not really tandem nursing, and she’s right. I made the decision before Julian was born that even if Ava asked to nurse more frequently (than her usual once before bedtime nursing), I was going to say no. It was hard to tell her no a few times when she was really upset, but I knew I had to set those boundaries or I would end up tandem nursing them, which wasn’t something I felt comfortable doing. And now after having nursed them simultaneously once (which may be the only time I do – we’ll see), I am happy I made the choice that I did because I honestly can’t imagine nursing two kids throughout the day and/or night. I commend the women who are able to do it. You rock, girlfriends!

Since we’re on the topic of breastfeeding, I thought I’d share a few recent articles on the subject:

Sharing the milk: Moms breast-feeding other women’s babies are raising eyebrows, and concerns

Food or lewd? Breast-feeding reveals divide – Why we get so worked up about how women feed their babies

You can read more from Amy Gates at her blog Crunchy Domestic Goddess where she writes about green living, attachment parenting, activism and maternal health. Subscribe to her blog here.

More “Mother’s Milk” breastfeeding posts:


  1. Mrs. Domino says:

    Hm. Tandem nursing is something that hadn’t even occured to me. I’ve only got one, but will begin trying for another child soon. I’m impressed with you for pulling this off. I can’t imagine the acrobatics!

  2. Old Hippie Mom here again. Just wanted to add my two cents. My fourth and fifth babies were only 20 months apart (didn’t want the fourth to be virtually an only child, and I was nearly 40) and though my 20 mo. had tapered off in my last months of pregnancy, she was so excited when my milk came in, it was hilarious! like I had be holding out on her! Sadly, my first baby, Benjamin, died suddenly at 16, during a birth injury related seizure, and I was plunged into a place I had no bearings in. The only thing I knew was that I would continue nursing my babies. I nursed them both till they were 5. Not all the time, for the last few years, and I even was able to take time off traveling. I think people put so many rules out there for nursing mothers and babies, that women stop nursing rather than take the chance that they can be flexible when their babies get older. I wasn’t sitting out on a bench nursing my 4-5 yo babes. By then it was mostly a comforting thing, a settling down thing, a connection thing. They both have turned out great, the youngest, a boy, has the healthiest attitude toward women I have known, and all my children benefited from the ‘normalization’ of the nursing phase of the mother-child relationship. Just don’t over-intellectualize it, or stress over it. I didn’t have a mother who nursed, so no help there, and my first was born in 72, still in the dark ages. When I nursed my first at my uncle’s lilywhite country club, I thought they would die, but everyone survived, and my cousins thanked me later.

    peace to you, and nurse your babes!

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