If there’s something we can all agree on, it’s that breastfeeding twins is definitely more challenging than breastfeeding one baby.
But what about when it comes to boys and girls?
Is there a difference between breastfeeding different genders and, if so, are boys or girls easier?
Breastfeeding twins – how does it work?
When it comes to feeding twins, many breastfeeding mothers wonder whether they will be able to make enough milk for two babies. In short, the answer is yes.
Human milk production is initiated hormonally. During pregnancy, your breasts go through rapid development to prepare for lactation. Colostrum is present in your breasts from around week 20 of your pregnancy. This is what your babies drink when they start breastfeeding from birth.
A few days after the birth of your baby, your colostrum changes to mature milk. The more milk that is removed from your breasts, the more milk your body will make.
This is how breastfeeding mothers are able to establish and maintain a breast milk supply to feed more than one baby. Understanding the principle of supply and demand and how it affects breast production is vital in understanding how breastfeeding multiples works.
For more information, you can ready BellyBelly’s article How Does Breastfeeding Work? An Explanation.
Differences in twins: boys and girls
Size differences between boys and girls
We know there are different growth patterns between baby girls and boys. The World Health Organization even has separate charts for measuring the growth of male and female infants.
On average, baby boys are generally born heavier than baby girls, in both single and multiple births; however, this varies greatly, depending on how close a baby is born to the due date.
More than half of twin pregnancies end in preterm delivery, meaning that the resulting birth weight is lower than the average birth weight of a baby born at term.
Baby boys typically triple their birth weight by 12 months and girls by 15 months; all babies, however, grow and develop at their own individual pace.
Difference in average daily milk intake between boys and girls
Studies have found that, on average, baby boys drink more breast milk per day than baby girls.
From ages one to six months, baby boys drink an average of 831 ml per day. Baby girls drink slightly less, averaging 755 ml of milk per day.
Difference in breast milk composition for boys and girls
We know that breast milk is a dynamic substance that changes, depending on a baby’s age and developmental needs. Interestingly, a mother’s milk composition also changes based on the gender of her baby.
In research into the milk of lactating mammals, it was found that mothers with female offspring produced milk that is higher in calcium. Mothers with male offspring produced milk that was higher in fat and protein and lower in lactose.
For more information on this topic, you can read BellyBelly’s article Do Mothers Make Different Breastmilk For Boys And Girls?
What are the challenges of breastfeeding twins?
Although the previous explanation regarding supply and demand might simplify breastfeeding twins – boys or girls – there are many other challenges that nursing twins brings.
You probably know how common it is for mothers of single babies to require assistance with comfortable positioning and attachment for breastfeeding. Imagine the challenges that mothers of newborn twins face. It is, quite literally, a juggling act!
Challenge of multiples
Multiples are often born early, too. Depending on their gestation, some premature babies might not be able to breastfeed directly, or might have partial breastfeeding and some bottle feeding with expressed breast milk or formula. In the early weeks of breastfeeding, a new mother might feed at the breast, express milk, then offer a supplemental or ‘top-up’ feed. This makes each feed a lengthy process.
Even when breastfeeding is going well, feeding one baby takes many hours each day; obviously, breastfeeding twins is even more time consuming.
The few hours left in a day that are not spent breastfeeding are often spent engaging in other hands-on care. This leaves less time for a mother’s self care and rest. In some cases, it can lead to postnatal depletion.
You can read more about this in BellyBelly’s article Postnatal Depletion | What It Is And How To Recover.
So which is easier – breastfeeding twin girls or twin boys?
As explained in the previous section: Breastfeeding twins – how does it work, breast milk supply is maintained on the principle of supply and demand. Even though it might seem as though breastfeeding twins girls would be easier, as they need less volume on average per day, when you breastfeed twins, your body will produce the same amount of milk that is taken at each feed.
Regardless of whether you are breastfeeding twin boys or twin girls, it’s all about supply and demand. Milk production is dependent on how often and how effectively your two babies feed.
The greatest variable that will affect your ability to breastfeed twins successfully, regardless of their gender, is the gestation they are born.
For information about breastfeeding a premature baby, you can read BellyBelly’s article Breastfeeding A Premature Baby | 7 Great Tips.
Where to seek support
For help with feeding twins, seek professional support from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). A lactation consultant is a breastfeeding specialist who can support you to breast feed twins successfully.
To find your nearest lactation consultant in Australia or New Zealand, head to LCANZ.