When I found out I was having twins I had a ton of questions. The first of course being What did you just say? As the pregnancy progressed, more questions came up. Once you get past the information overload of twin pregnancy it is time to think about what you will do once your babies are actually here. A big question for me was how do I breastfeed twins? I had successfully breastfed my singleton, and I knew I wanted to at least try with my twins. The thought of the money saved on formula was motivation alone to give it a go! I am happy to report we were successful, and I breastfed my twins for 15 months. Along the way and since then I have seen a ton of questions on breastfeeding twins, and I want to help out other twin moms who are in the same boat I was. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about breastfeeding twins.
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Breastfeeding Twins FAQ
Can you breastfeed twins?
Yes! This seems like an obvious answer, but I was surprised by how many people assumed I just couldn’t breastfeed twins. Or that I just wouldn’t. But you can. Okay, yes. This is theoretical. There are many reasons breastfeeding doesn’t work, and if you have two babies to try to feed that can make those challenges more pronounced. But generally speaking, yes you can breastfeed twins. I did and so have many other women.
Is it hard to breastfeed twins?
Well, yes. But keep in mind it can be hard to breastfeed one baby. It’s time we all gave up the idea that breastfeeding is supposed to be so magical and easy all the time. It gets easier, but it is not always easy when you start. That’s doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort though. And if you stick with it breastfeeding can get so much easier.
Do I need a specific nursing pillow?
No, you don’t need a twin specific nursing pillow. It is a good idea though. I hate telling people they need to buy something extra, but for me, the nursing pillow was so helpful. Twins are often smaller, so it helped hold my girls up close enough to the breast so I wasn’t bending over. It also provided a safe shelf almost for my twins to lie on while I nursed. This safety and comfortable positioning allowed me to nurse hands-free. This meant I could help my girls as they ate. I could also help my then 2-year-old when he brought me things. And yes, I could read or play on my phone. (You spend a lot of time nursing, every second isn’t going to be magical bonding.) The nursing pillow was one of the best investments we made for feeding our twins. We used it almost every session for 15 months, so I got my money’s worth. You don’t need it, but I do recommend one.
Twin Z vs. My Brest Friend: Which Pillow Is Best?
This is the debate you see amongst twin moms. (I think there are other options, but these are the two main brands.) I used the My Brest Friend and cannot say enough good things about it. But from my research, it comes down to one thing really. The My Brest Friend is best for exclusive nursing, the Twin Z pillow is better for bottle feeding. We had a couple of regular boppies from my singleton, and I felt we were covered in terms of having a place to put the babies, bottle feeding, or tummy time needs. The brest friend is really best as a breastfeeding pillow. So if you want more options or think breastfeeding is not the way you are going to go, the twin z might be the way to go. But in terms of actual breastfeeding- My Brest Friend every time. My advice is to try to find someone who has them and try them on and see what feels best for you.
Will my body make enough milk?
Yes. Okay, theoretically yes. It is a supply and demand system. Twins demand more so your body will make more.
How do I know my twins are eating enough?
Twins bring unique circumstances sometimes, but for the how much question it is just the same as a singleton. Are your babies having enough wet and dirty diapers? Are they gaining weight? It is very helpful to keep notes with twins. (I forgot stuff with a singleton, two babies need notes!) Keep track of how long they nurse and how many wet and poopy diapers they have. This should give you a good idea of whether or not your babies are getting enough to eat.
How do I nurse two babies at once if I am on my own?
If anyone was home with me when it was time to nurse I made them hand me a baby. It’s so much easier to have a little help loading and unloading. But sometimes you will need to nurse and be on your own. You will figure out your own logistics of getting both babies to the proper nursing position. This post has all the details of how I did it. (It is way too long to reproduce here.) Safety is key, and effectiveness is all you are going for. Getting into your nursing position doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to work. And don’t be afraid to nurse sitting on the floor. As my mom told me when I baby sat as a teen, baby can’t fall off the floor. Your twins will not mind not being in a picture perfect rocker. They just want to eat. Trust me that you will find your way and figure out how to nurse two babies at the same time.
Who eats on which breast?
With a singleton, I was taught to switch which breast was first every nursing session. With twins, you have three main ways to handle things.
- Assign one breast to one baby for every session. So twin A always gets breast A. This eliminates the need to remember who ate on which side, but I had one breast that would sometimes be more efficient than the other. This is common for women to have one ‘slacker boob.’ You don’t want one baby having a lesser experience. And if your twins don’t eat the same amount you don’t want to end up feeling uneven.
- Assign one breast per baby per day. This is the one I went with. It makes remember who eats where easier, you only switch once a day. (And I used the morning feeding as the start of the switch, not midnight. Late night feedings are hard enough without remember to change side.) The thought behind this is that if one baby is a bigger eater you are still balancing out your supply (which is for your comfort and babies’ benefit). It also helps baby gets maximum hindmilk by coming back to the same breast if she didn’t want to eat a lot in the previous session. (I’m not actually sure if biologically that is what happens, but it sounds good.) And overall, it is just easier. You are balancing out the feedings without having to remember to change every session.
- Switch breasts each feeding. This gives maximum balance if you have one strong eater and one weaker one, or if you have one breast that produces a lot better than the other. If this is the case you might want to try it, but for me, it just made everything more complicated and gave me more to keep track of. One boob a day for us.
What position works best for holding my twins?
There are several options for how to hold your babies while breastfeeding. I found the football hold to be the easiest. This is where the babies’ heads are in the middle at the breast and the feet stretch back by your armpits. We used it for the entire time we nursed. There can be some concern your children will run out of leg room, but I wouldn’t worry about that. They make it work. This post has some illustrations to show you other options as well.
What if my babies have a hard time latching?
In the newborn days this is common, especially with early born twins. The first option is to nurse your babies one at a time. Yes, it takes longer. But when it comes to keeping your babies fed does that really matter? If you are ready to tandem feed but one baby still has a tough time latching get the baby with the better latch going first. They can happily eat away while you help the other twin get going.
What if I need to supplement?
It can take a few days for your milk to come in, especially if your twins are born early. There is nothing wrong with needing to supplement with formula. If your goal is to breastfeed then you need to offer the breast first. Do your best with that and then follow-up with formula. As I said breastfeeding is supply and demand, so you do need to keep trying to nurse to encourage milk supply. If over time you need to supplement an entire session with formula, that is okay. But in the beginning, start with breastfeeding.
When do I fit in pumping?
If you want to build up a freezer stash then you will have to pump. I am by no means an expert in pumping, but I saw two main ways to approach it. One was to pump at different times each day. This worked well because I never knew exactly when I would have time. It also encourages your body to just keep up milk supply. In the early days before you regulate this works well. The other option is to pick a set time each day to pump. This encourages your body to produce milk at the same time every day. My biggest recommendation is to get a hands free pumping bra so you can pump while doing other activities.
If you want more information on how to pump for twins, especially if you end up pumping exclusively, check out my friend Caitlin at Twin Mom and More. She exclusively pumped for her twins for 9 months and has some great tips.
How do I burp my twins?
With a singleton, you generally nurse on one side, burp, then nurse on the other. But with twins, each baby stays on one breast for the whole feed. So how do you burp them? This is a good time to go off the clock a bit. Once you get about halfway through your nursing session, gently unlatch one baby at a time and carefully burp them. Yep, it is a bit tricky to lift one baby while the other eats. (If someone is with you get them to help out.) This is where a good nursing pillow comes in handy, as the still eating twin can stay safe. Get a burp out of the first twin, help her relatch, and then repeat with the second. It is tough to get good burps this way, so it is even more important to work for good burps at the end of the nursing sessions. Once your babies get older and eat faster the mid-feed burp will become less important.
At the end of the nursing session, you can gently hold each baby and burp at the same time. Another option is to put your nursing pillow on the floor and lay your babies over it on their tummies like you were doing tummy time. This makes it easier to burp both babies at the same time. Burping at the end of a feeding is a great time to get your partner involved and each burp one baby. You can share the cuddles this way and make sure you get a good burp out.
What if one twin spits up?
Oh yes, this happens. Everyone is happy and eating then one twin coughs and spits up everywhere. It sounds gross, but this never stopped my non-spitting twin from eating. So I would just let her keep at it. Pick up the spitter and wipe them off as best you can. I would nurse in the early days with burp cloths under my twins heads on the pillow for just this occasion. You can remove the soiled cloth and replace with a new one. I would also nurse with two or three extra burp cloths in arms reach for emergency cleanups. It will happen, you will get to sit and soak in spit up, and you will laugh about it later. Motherhood is always glamorous, isn’t it?
What if I get bit?
Ouch, biting. It happens. There are a few ways that are recommended to handle biting. One is to yelp. This one can be good because it is a natural response and possibly shows baby that they hurt you. The one problem is it can startle the non-biting baby as well and then you have two upset babies. Another option is the smoosh. Basically when baby bites you smoosh them into your breast. No, it doesn’t hurt them. This works with the body’s natural instincts. If what you are biting is pulled away, it is common to bite down harder to prevent it from being pulled. But if you smash something into your mouth the response is usually to open wider so the object can be removed. By smooshing your baby into your breast you are actually encouraging them to let go. It is also a little unpleasant. That sounds mean, but your baby cannot be biting your nipple. Damaging their food source hurts everyone. A third option worked really well for us when my girls were a bit older. If one girl bit me I would remove her from the nursing pillow and place her on the floor. My twins are very food motivated and did not like this. I would go back and finish feeding the offender after a few moments, but not being able to eat was consequence enough to end the behavior. (Get more details on how to handle biting here–> What To Do When Breastfeeding Twins Bite.)
What if my twins mess with each other while nursing?
Once your twins are a few months old they will become aware that their sibling is eating with them too. And yes, they might want to play with each other. This is cute to a point but can become a distraction. (Or they might try to pull the nipple out of the others mouth as mine would. I tried explaining to them that they did not get more food if their sibling didn’t eat, but they didn’t believe me.) I would roll up a burp cloth and place it between their heads as a divider. It was soft, but it prevented them from touching each other too much.
What if my twins pinch me while nursing?
Another ouch. Babies tend to grab and pinch the breast while they eat. As they get older and stronger this can hurt a bit. With my singleton, I would gently hold my baby’s hands until he got the message to stop. But twins means four tiny hands and two mama hands. You can let your babies play with your hands. I would also place a cloth or soft toy by my breast for them to grab as an alternative. No one wants tiny bruises on their breasts, trust me.
What if one twin is a faster eater than the other?
Even identical twins won’t eat at the same tempo. One twin will finish first. In the newborn days the first to finish twin was content to hang out and snuggle. Oh, the snuggles of those early days. I loved them. Once my girls were about 7 months old they were done with that though. They wanted to get back to playing asap! To help with this I would nurse sitting on the floor. Yep, the nursing pillow still works sitting on the floor. Once a girl had finished eating she would start to roll off the pillow. By sitting on the floor I could help her land gently and be back to playing. A key to this method is to make sure that your nursing area is secure for when baby is playing. It is hard to jump up and stop a potential injury with the other twin still eating.
Will I ever figure this all out?
Yes. If by figuring it all out you mean will your babies be fed? Absolutely. Nursing gets easier the more you do it. You and your babies need to learn each other and what works best for you. Sometimes that means a little trial and error. In all honesty though there are times when breastfeeding just doesn’t work. I don’t want to be discouraging, just realistic about this. It is okay if you give your best and breastfeeding doesn’t work. Formula is not the end of the world. But if you want to nurse and are able, keep at it. Make small goals and take it session by session. You are doing a great job.
Breastfeeding twins is challenging, messy, and so rewarding. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You and your twins will figure out what works best for you. You are a doing a great job.
Please let me know what other questions you have! I will answer them as best I can. And please share your twin breastfeeding experiences. Let’s help each other out!