Breastfeeding twins – Bring on the challenges & joys!
Twins! Double the blessing and almost double the work. Whoo hoo.
Breastfeeding is a natural experience with a learning curve in the beginning for anyone. So, now there will be three of you learning together! First things first, you should know that you can do it! Women have been breastfeeding multiple babies since humanity began and so can you. Start with a positive attitude, you can make all the milk your babies need. The nutrients in your milk will be all your babies need to be healthy and thriving for the first 6 months of life. And, if it turns out that your twins need extra calories, we can help you come up with a strategy for that too. You will want to surround your family with people who are on a mission to help you reach your breastfeeding goals as often as possible. Their support will go a long way in helping you breastfeed your babies and continue breastfeeding for as long as you wish.
While we don’t want to downplay the fact that twin births can be more complicated we will not be covering those complications in this here. The tips in this handout will be helpful to families with twins who are healthy and full-term or near full-term. In the future we will offer helpful tips on our blog for breastfeeding preterm babies.
Let’s talk about time… In the beginning babies need to nurse very regularly, they enjoy frequent, small “meals”. In the first 3 months it will not be uncommon to spend most of your time breastfeeding. You will be establishing and maintaining a supply for two– which you can definitely do! You will likely experience times of major fatigue – as almost all postpartum parents do, have no fear, after the first 3 months you can expect to see longer stretches between feeds as your babies get older and your supply starts to level out. In the meantime, try and find a comfortable place for you and your little ones to feed, snuggle and bond. Spend as much time skin-to-skin as possible to strengthen the bond between you and your babies, boost milk supply, and to help regulate the babies temperatures, heart rates and breathing rates.
Since you have (or will have) two babies, you may need to think about ways in which you can maximize your time. While it is nice to nurse each baby individually at least once a day so that you can bond with each baby one-on-one, it will be helpful as a time saving measure to quickly learn how to feed the babies together for most feedings. Feeding both infants at the same time can also be beneficial if one baby is a little weaker (or still learning how to breastfeed) because the more efficient baby can trigger milk let downs. It should be mentioned that if one baby isn’t as efficient at “emptying the breast,” pumping may be required after you nurse your babies. We will devise a plan that works best for you and your babies if this seems to be the case. Remember that we are here to help you reach your breastfeeding goals.
Many nursing parents of twins find the following strategies helpful:
- Twin A begins to show signs of hunger, she may be rooting around, putting her adorable little hands in her mouth or just licking her lips in anticipation of a feeding. This is a great time to put baby A to breast.
- Twin B may still be snoozing but as long as they’re not in deep sleep– you may notice movement of eyelids, arms/legs twitch and/or baby may make routing or sucking movements sporadically– you can gently rouse baby B and put him to breast. Most babies will be interested in a snack even if they’re not yet gnawing on their hand.
- Allow babies to nurse together. You may want to burp and switch half way through a feed, or you may choose to switch breasts for each baby on a per feed or daily basis. It is very likely that your babies will eventually develop similar sleeping and feeding cycles if you begin a plan like this. You will be the expert in no time, you will know what works best for you and your babies.
One more thing to say about time… get help! As often as you can, take friends and relatives up on their offer to help. Ask someone to create a meal train for you and your family, ask for a postpartum doula or cleaning service as a baby shower gift. Try to remember that your loved ones truly do want to help. Consider writing up a little list of things people can do to help when they come by to visit.
Yes, but how do I position these little nuggets at my breast(?) you may be asking…
This is the beginning of your life as a baby scientist! Each day, you will be performing mini experiments on these babies for a long time to come. You will be trying out positions and techniques everyday and you will quickly become aware of what works best for you all.
That being said, here are some tips:
- Invest in or borrow a twins specific nursing pillow. Or just have lots of pillows on hand to help you create a nursing nest. Set up the basic nest and have someone help you get pillows in the most supportive places once you get the babies latched on.
- The double football or “clutch” hold is a good one with a twins nursing pillow. Both babies are positioned at the breast with their bodies curled around the side of your body, under your arm, with their feet behind you. Try to prop yourself away from the wall or seat with pillows so that the babies can not push themselves too far forward with their feet. This is an especially nice position if you are recovering from a c-section.
- We are big fans of laid-back breastfeeding. You may find it helpful to sit up a bit to latch the babies on and then lay back. Or you may choose to lay back and allow the babies to latch on with a little assistance from you.
- The double cradle hold is also a good one for twins. Both babies will be held and nursed in the cradle position with their feed coming together in your lap. Pillows will be helpful in this position as well.
- Cradle-Football Combo is when baby A is in a cradle position and baby B is in the football hold. The legs of baby A become like a pillow for baby B’s head.
- Another position that might work for you and your babies is one in which you would lay flat on your back with one baby placed on each side of you. They are in a prone (bellies towards you) position, somewhat kneeling or lying against your body. This can be slightly tricky at first, but we can work with you in order to adapt the position for your body and babies.
- Safe co-sleeping options can be discussed at our appointment in order to allow for the maximum amount of rest for all.
The nursing parent of twins will be very busy, there’s no denying that. Please try to remember that it is important for you to stay fed, hydrated, and as well rested as possible. Put a one handed snack and beverage center right next to your nursing nest. Ask your helpers to restock your snack station often. One more thought about breastfeeding… this is your time to relax and reflect. Most of the day you will be running around trying hard to meet the needs of your little ones. In nursing you will be connecting with your babies, providing them with optimal nutrition, and be able to physically relax your own body and mind.
Once the babies are getting the hang of breastfeeding and ready to go on outings, you may find a new parent support group helpful. We have a group that meets at Zenana Wellness (On SE Clinton near 20th Ave) every Wednesday from 11:30AM – 1PM. Join us!
National Organization of Mothers of Twins Club: http://www.multiplesofamerica.org/
- Specific group to Oregon and Washington for families of multiples: http://www.fullhousemoms.com/
- Northwest Association of Mothers of Twins Club: http://www.nwamotc.org/
- Twins and Beyond Group: http://twinsandbeyond.com/
Written by Rosemary Ragusa, IBCLC & Rachel Burkhardt
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