Breastfeeding has many benefits for both mom and baby, and naturally the benefits double when nursing twins. As you know, breast milk is uniquely designed to meet the specific developmental needs of your baby, and the breastfeeding experience fosters a very special bond between the two of you. Nursing twins can be a challenge in the beginning, but it can also be a wonderful experience when moms are given the support and encouragement they need. Also, breastfeeding twins is more economical, more convenient, and less time-consuming than preparing bottles.
For moms of twins, it will be most important to establish an adequate milk supply early on and to maintain the supply to meet the growing demands of the babies. This can be facilitated by early and frequent breastfeedings – at least 8 times in 24 hours for each baby. As is the case with all newborn babies, do not let more than 3 hours go between the start of one feeding and the start of the next feeding. If the twins are born prematurely and have an immature suck, mom will need to pump frequently until they are able to nurse at the breast. This frequent stimulation is necessary to ensure that mothers will be able to produce enough milk.
There are a number of options for breastfeeding twins and it may take some experimenting to find what works best for you. The babies may breastfeed separately or simultaneously and this can be accomplished with various positions. When babies are fed separately, mom can breastfeed one infant and then the other, or one can be breastfed and the other bottle fed. You may have to wake the second baby to feed, but this will keep them on a consistent schedule. It will be important to nurse each of the babies on both breasts, especially in the early weeks, so that they are both evenly stimulated, particularly if one twin has a more vigorous suck than the other.
Some moms prefer to nurse their babies at the same time which saves time and ensures that both babies are eating on a similar schedule. Remember to alternate breasts with each baby for even stimulation and drainage. You should comfortably latch the less vigorous nurser first and then the other baby. In the beginning, you may need help getting comfortable with extra pillows, and of course good back support.
There are 3 nursing positions you can try:
1- Both babies in the football hold or the double football: This position allows for better head control with smaller babies and moms can support their breasts better when latching and during the feeding. Mom also has good visualization of both babies in this position, and it is easier on a mom who has had a C-section.
2- Both babies in the cradle or cuddle hold with their legs crossed over or next to each other. This position may be more difficult in the beginning since mom can not support the babies’ heads as well. However, as the babies gain more head and neck control, mom’s hands will be freer and she will have better eye contact with her babies in this position.
3- One baby in the cradle hold and one baby in the football hold.
As your babies mature and need less support, nursing will get easier and more comfortable. Hang in there!
Frequent feedings that drain the breasts will keep your supply up and will decrease the likelihood of developing sore nipples, plugged ducts, and breast infections. A breastfeeding log will help you to keep track of breastfeeding sessions in these first few hectic weeks. You can also keep track of the number of wet and soiled diapers in your log which is the best measure of breastfeeding success. You will also want to share this information with your Pediatrician and/or lactation professional.
I do not have personal experience nursing twins, but I have two very close friends (who happen to be twins themselves) who nursed their twin sons happily and successfully. They wanted to share some personal advice with you.
Dee – Mom of twin boys that nursed for 12 months:
“I remember going to La Leche League and buying a ‘twin pillow’ so I could nurse them both at the same time. It was the best investment because you are nursing so much. It gave me a little break in between. Nurse them on demand for the first couple of weeks to bring your milk supply in and remember, what seems like non-stop nursing will end. New moms have to hang in there for the first 4-6 weeks! Nursing gets so much easier after that (babies go longer and learn to nurse more efficiently so they are not on your breast as long), and it becomes so much more convenient than bottle feeding. Have someone leave snacks out for you to munch on during the day, such as graham crackers with peanut butter, because new moms forget to eat and drink…you’re so busy nursing, but you need the nutrition to build your milk supply! I had a doula for the first couple of months which helped me immensely, and she had twins so she knew what it was like.”
Deirdre – Mom of twin boys that nursed for 14 months:
“I agree with everything my twin sister said, but I would like to add a few things. In the first couple of weeks my nipples were a little sore when the babies first latched, but I hung in there and it passed and I’m so glad I did! I nursed each baby separately with soft music playing in the background. My husband would sometimes hold the second baby while I nursed the first one who was a more active, vigorous baby. In the middle of the night I would just roll over and nurse them. There was no need to get up and warm a bottle. It was so easy. Sometimes at night when the babies slept a little longer, I felt fuller, so I would pump a little milk off to keep my supply up and save it for when I had a chance to go out. I kept a breastfeeding ‘clip board’ to keep track of which baby was on which breast so I could alternate them. I sometimes wore two breast pads in my bra to help absorb leakage. I would tell new moms to accept help from family and friends, eat well, and get rest when you can. If I had an hour off, I wanted to be by myself, so I would take a bath with a glass of wine, or I would go out for an hour of shopping! Breastfeeding was the most rewarding experience of my life. It is an incredible bond. Don’t quit!”
The first year of life for parents of a new baby is an adjustment, and for the parents of twins it can be very hectic, and at times it may seem overwhelming. Accepting the help of family, friends, and professionals if needed, will be essential in the first several weeks to ensure adequate rest and nutrition for mom. It is also a wonderful idea to contact other moms who have nursed twins for their support and suggestions. We are happy to be offering our own support group for mom of multiples beginning on January 30th. Below is a list of some additional resources to turn to for support.
Resources for Breastfeeding Support with Twins: