Congratulations, you’re expecting twins!
Mothering multiples is challenging whether you’re breastfeeding or not. Many mothers wonder whether breastfeeding twins or multiples is even possible.
Rest assured, it can be done – and the results are doubly rewarding!
The rules of breast milk production are the same for two babies as they are for single babies: the more milk you remove, the more milk you’ll make.
When you have multiples, in the early days it might seem as though feeding is all you do all day and all night. When breastfeeding is working well, though, it can be both time saving and convenient.
Here some tips when breastfeeding twins or multiples:
Breastfeeding Twins Tip #1. Pump to stimulate milk production and increase breast milk supply
Many twins or higher-order multiples are born prematurely. Even babies born slightly prematurely can have a poor suck or aren’t able to breastfeed directly at first.
For more information on preterm labor and birth, you can read BellyBelly’s article Preterm Labor | All You Need To Know.
In the early days postpartum, having a hospital-grade double electric breast pump can be essential in bringing in a full milk supply. If you are separated from your premature babies because of health concerns, start pumping as soon as you can after the birth and pump every few hours around the clock.
Breastfeeding works on the principle of supply and demand, meaning that the more milk you remove, the more milk your body will make. This is why pumping or nursing frequently from birth is essential.
For more information, you can read BellyBelly’s article How Does Breastfeeding Work? An Explanation.
You can save this expressed milk for whenever the babies are ready to receive milk feedings. If your babies are healthy and can feed at the breast, start breastfeeding as soon as possible after the birth.
A breast pump might still come in handy to help increase your milk supply, if necessary.
Breastfeeding Twins Tip #2. Breastfeed both babies at the same time
In the beginning, you might find breastfeeding one baby at a time is easier. You and your babies are still learning, and positioning and latching might be awkward.
After the early weeks, though, breastfeeding multiples separately doubles the amount of time you will spend feeding babies each day.
Not to mention that the baby not being breastfed might be fussing the whole time the other is nursing.
Breastfeeding Twins Tip #3. Find breastfeeding positions that work
When breastfeeding two or more babies, it might feel as though you need three or more sets of hands to get the babies positioned, latched, comforted and settled.
If the classic cradle hold doesn’t work for nursing twins, try the football (underarm) or clutch hold. Just because one baby is in 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 they’re parallel, sometimes they have heads together.
Use nursing pillows or rolled up towels as props. This can be extra helpful in getting your babies into a comfortable position.
Breastfeeding Twins Tip #4. Get professional help
Not many breastfeeding mothers breastfeed twins successfully without some professional support. The earlier you seek help, the more likely you are to meet your breastfeeding goals.
Even if things are going well in the first few weeks, feeding multiple babies is a mammoth and time consuming task. A La Leche League International breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant can advise you on how to maintain your breast milk supply and make sure both babies are getting enough milk in the most efficient way. This means you’ll have time for rest and self care.
You might need physical hands-on help with every feeding 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; that way things might go more smoothly. Even just having someone to hand you the second twin after the first twin starts nursing will go a long way towards helping you have successful breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding Twins Tip #5. Find a routine that works for you
Breastfeeding twins and multiples is the one time that scheduling and breastfeeding go together.
When you are feeding twins or multiple babies, a schedule can bring sanity to your life, especially in the first few weeks. It might also be necessary so you can remember who was fed, when and how much, especially for preterm infants. Alternate breasts between twins for each feed, so that if one twin has a weaker suck, both breasts are equally stimulated.
If one baby is still sleeping when the other is ready to nurse, wake both twins. If it’s been the set amount of time and both are still asleep, waking them to nurse will help you maintain your milk supply.
Breastfeeding Twins Tip #6. Keep track of your baby’s wet and dirty nappies
The most common cause for ceasing breastfeeding earlier than planned is perceived low milk supply.
In the first few weeks of parenting, it can be difficult to distinguish between hunger and normal newborn behavior. This is especially true for exclusive breastfeeding, as it is impossible to see exactly how much milk a baby is having per feed, as it would be for a bottle fed baby.
The most reliable sign of adequate milk intake is adequate nappy output. Babies who are getting enough milk overall should be having at least 5 heavily wet nappies every 24 hours, as well as regular bowel motions that are soft and easy to pass. If babies are meeting their expected outputs, you can be reassured that they are most likely getting enough milk.
For more information, you can refer to the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s guide: Is my baby getting enough breastmilk?
Breastfeeding Twins Tip #7. 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 number of babies might mean half the time for self-care. Try not to let that happen; we’ve all heard the saying ‘You can’t fill from an empty cup’.
Prioritize rest and self care when your babies sleep. Showering, brushing your teeth and getting some fresh air and exercise can all make a difference to your ability to cope with caring for multiples.
Try to eat a balanced diet with plenty of nutritious whole foods but, most importantly, make sure you get enough calories and stay hydrated each day.
Breastfeeding Twins Tip #8. Streamline other tasks
Make a breastfeeding caddy that can be wheeled from room to room. At the start of each day, restock it with all the essential items you need, so you’ll have them all in one place. Think nappies, wipes, nappy cream, spare onesies, breast pads, breast pump and milk collection kit and a water bottle. Don’t forget snacks for yourself.
Keep in mind, babies (especially newborns)don’t need daily baths.
Get help with housekeeping – even if it means hiring out. Delegate cooking or keep it simple, at first, and allow friends or family members to bring you food.
Focus on yourself and your babies above all else.
Breastfeeding Twins Tip #9. Don’t compare yourself with other mothers
If you have two babies, or more, there’s no point comparing yourself with mothers who have only one baby, or even other mothers with more than one baby. Every family, every mother, every father and every baby is a unique individual. They all have their own personalities and needs. Comparison is the thief of joy.
There are no set-in-stone rules for breastfeeding twins or multiples. 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 and, if you do need to formula feed, remember that every drop of breast milk your babies have received 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.