Breastfeeding Twins Or More
The excitement of pregnancy is doubled with twins — but so are the worries, too.
Will the babies be healthy?
Will the birth be harder?
How in the world will I feed these babies — can I even consider breastfeeding?
Mothering multiples is challenging whether you're breastfeeding or not.
However, breastfeeding your babies has a multitude of benefits to help your little ones thrive.
The rules are the same as with a single baby — the more milk you remove, the more milk you'll make.
When breastfeeding twins, breastfeeding or pumping often is essential. With multiples, it may seem like feeding is all you do all day and all night. But breastfeeding twins will make it easier (can you imagine all the formula you'd have to buy otherwise?).
You'll know your babies are getting enough breastmilk by keeping track of wet and dirty nappies/diapers. Here are reliable signs a baby is getting enough milk.
Aside from these basics, here are ten tips to make breastfeeding twins (or more!) a smoother process:
#1: Invest In A Good Breast Pump
Many twins or higher order multiples are born before their due date. Even slight prematurity can cause problems with feeding.
Having a high quality double electric pump can be essential in bringing in a full milk supply for these premature babies. If you are separated from your babies due to health concerns, start pumping as soon as you can after the birth – preferably with a hospital grade pump – and pump every few hours around the clock. You can save this milk for whenever the babies are ready to receive milk feedings. If your babies are healthy and can feed at the breast, a pump may come in handy to help increase your supply, if necessary.
#2: Find Positions That Work
Sometimes it may feel like you need three or more sets of hands to get the babies positioned, latched, comforted and settled. If the cradle hold doesn't work, try the football or clutch hold. Just because one baby is in a one position doesn't mean the other baby needs to be held the same way. Look at pictures of mothers nursing twins — sometimes the babies bodies are crossed, sometimes parallel, sometimes head together, etc. Which brings me to my next point…
#3: Breastfeed Both Babies At The Same Time
… or decide to breastfeed separately, or a combination of the two depending on how everyone feels that day.
In the beginning, it may seem like breastfeeding one baby at a time would be best — you're learning and positioning and latch may be awkward. But nursing separately doubles the amount of time you will spend feeding babies each day. Not to mention the baby not being fed may be fussing the whole time his sibling is nursing.
#4: Get Help
Physical hands on help with every feeding may be needed when you're learning to breastfeed. If you can get one baby latched, then have someone support that baby while you latch your other baby, things may go more smoothly. Even just having someone to hand you twin B after twin A starts nursing will go miles toward helping you have a successful nursing session. But also get help if things aren't going well — reach out to a breastfeeding counsellor or lactation consultant who may be able to help you get a better latch, a more comfortable position, or a stronger milk supply.
#5: Find A Routine That Works For You
This is the one time that scheduling and breastfeeding go together. A schedule can bring sanity to life with multiples, and it may be necessary so you can remember who fed when and how much, especially if your babies are premature, small, or have health issues. If one baby is still sleeping when the other is ready to nurse, wake them both. If it's been the set amount of time and their both still asleep, waking them to nurse will help you maintain your milk supply.
#6: Assign Breasts, Switch Mid-Feeding, Switch For The Next Feeding
As long as you have a strong milk supply, it shouldn't matter who nurses from which breast how many times each day. But some mothers find that assigning a breast works to help them know whether the baby took enough or not. Other mothers find that switching mid-feed gives both breasts equal stimulation — which might be important if one baby has a weaker suck. And some mothers switch sides from feed to feed — starting baby A on the left at one feeding, then starting him on the right at the next feeding. Don't drive yourself crazy trying to remember, though. Your body will compensate by adjusting your milk supply to match your babies' needs, as long as they are both stimulated often.
#7: Remember: Each Baby Is An Individual, With His Own Feeding Pattern
One baby may consistently take longer to feed, one baby may gain weight on a different curve than the other, or one baby may wean sooner than his sibling. This is one of the joys of parenting twins — learning their differences along with their similarities.
#8: Take Care Of Your Own Needs
Even when you're busy with just one baby, it can be hard to take care of yourself. Double the babies may equal half as much time for self-care. But showering, brushing your teeth, getting some fresh air and exercise can all make a difference to your ability to cope with caring for multiples. Pay close attention to getting enough calories each day, and to staying hydrated.
#9: Streamline Other Tasks
Create changing areas with all nappy/diaper supplies on hand in several places around the house — next to feeding, changing is the task you will do most often. Keep in mind babies don't need daily baths (especially newborns). Get help with housekeeping — even if it means hiring out. Keep cooking simple at first, and allow others to bring you food. Focus on your babies and nothing else.
#10: Don't Compare Yourself To Other Mothers With Only One Baby!
Or even other mothers with multiples.
Every family, every mother, every father and every baby is a unique individual with their own personalities and needs. Comparing can only serve to frustrate you!
There are no set-in-stone rules for breastfeeding twins. Sometimes it's just trial and error. Sometimes everything goes smoothly, sometimes not so much. Some multiples need supplements, others are fully breastfed. Be open to possibilities, but know that every drop of breastmilk your babies get from you is a precious gift. Have faith in yourself, and have faith that you're doing your best for your multiple bundles of joy.
Want to learn more? Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada is the go-to book for mothers with more than one baby.