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Nursing Twins: Thoughts on a year

We have made it to the one year mark of nursing with Ali and Sammy!  I am thrilled we were able to breastfeed as long as we have.  I wrote about my tips for nursing newborns previously, and fortunately nursing has gotten easier and faster since that point in time.


Before I get too into talking about nursing, I want to say that I really do believe fed is best.  I am so happy we have been able to nurse as long and as well as we have.  This is my experience and so that is what I am able to talk about.  That doesn’t mean this is everyone’s experience, and it does not mean it is the only way to feed babies.  There are lots of factors that going in to nursing and formula feeding, and every family has to do what is best for them.

When we started nursing the girls took a long time to eat.  Fortunately by about six months on the girls have only taken about 5-10 minutes to nurse.  The first and last sessions of the day are the longest, which is to be expected.  They are hungry when they wake up and more tired at night.  We were still nursing five times a day.  This doesn’t quite fit into the traditional babywise schedule, and ignores the eat play sleep cycle before the afternoon nap.  I mention this because a common babywise myth is that you have to follow all the rules, it is very black and white.  And this is so not the case.  We adjusted the schedule to fit our needs, making it work for us instead of the other way around.  A concern with nursing before sleep time is that it will become a prop for baby, making it hard for them to fall asleep any other way.  I haven’t found that to be the case with my girls.  I made sure to nurse in a different room, and just moving to the bedroom woke them up enough if they had fallen asleep.  Like I said, it worked for us.

I found I liked having more nursing sessions during the day because it took some pressure off.  With Ben, if he had a bad nursing session, it was easy to add in another one to make up for it.  With two babies and a toddler, it isn’t always so easy to get off schedule.  More frequent feedings meant it was easier to make up for any poor sessions.  It gave less of a chance for the girls to get too hungry and need additional nursing.  It also allowed me to worry less about timing.  We could stretch nursing sessions out a bit if we need to and the girls would be just fine.

I actually have used my nursing pillow for the whole year.  I have the (affiliate link) My Best Friend Twin Deluxe Nursing Pillow, and I love it.  I was never that into a nursing pillow with Ben, but with the girls I love it.  I found it worthwhile to even take it in the car with us if we would be gone through a nursing session.  I think it helped the girls settle into eating time by having a designated place that was just for eating.  It helped me feed them both at the same time.  Once they got pretty quick at eating dual nursing wasn’t as much about saving time.  But it was so helpful to have both babies occupied at the same time.  That left just Ben free, and he could handle that.  It also let me have my hands free, which is a huge perk!  I was able to help the girls out if needed, referee their fights, and still help Ben if he brought things to me.  I highly recommend getting a good nursing pillow if you have twins.  It has been worth every penny.

A change we did make to our nursing style was to switch to only nursing on the floor.  Around seven months old the girls started to get antsy if they were done eating before their sister.  Before that they would just hang out and snuggle, but after seven months they wanted to get back to playing!  Never ones to just sit back and wait, they quickly learned how to roll off the pillow and get back to playing.  By sitting on the floor they are, of course, closer to the ground if they suddenly roll over.  I am able to help them down easily and they can get back to playing.  It sounds a bit strange, but it works!

We have been very fortunate in that we didn’t have any major issues with nursing.  One thing that did come up is biting.  Both the girls did bite a few times.  There are a few big ways to deal with biting.
1) Yelp.  This one works well because it can be an honest reaction to getting bitten.  The idea is to startle the baby into letting go, and hopefully getting them to realize that biting hurts you.  I didn’t want to try this with the girls because I didn’t want to scare whomever wasn’t biting.  And overall it just isn’t my favorite technique.
2) Smoosh.  When baby bites you smoosh them into you.  This works with the body’s natural response system.  If you try to pull something out of someone’s mouth, they will bite down harder.  But if you push in the natural response is to let go to get whatever you have in your mouth out.  (It also kind of makes it hard for baby to breathe, so they let go.)  This worked well with Ben.  He quickly figured out he would get a giant head hug if he bit me and didn’t bite.  However with both girls on the nursing pillow I couldn’t quite get the angle right for this method to work.
3) Stop feeding.  This one worked for us.  If one of the girls bit me I would stop her sessions and put her down.  I would let the non biter finish, then finish up the biter.  So in reality the offender only had to wait a few minutes to get back to her meal, but it was long enough.  My girls did not like wanting to eat and not being able to.  It took a few times of biting, but the girls quickly figured out biting equals no more food.  This worked well for my babies.

Another change that took place after seven months was that I stopped worrying about who at from which side at each meal.  Before that I would have each girl stick to one side a day.  Once we started solids consistently and they each ate quickly, it really seemed like it didn’t matter which side they were on.  I would pay attention to it if one of the girls seemed to be having a string of short meals, but overall they were pretty consistent.  I think this is a bonus of having identical twins- they tend to have similar appetites.

A time when nursing behaviors did change was during teething.  This was when, despite being identical as I just mentioned, personality differences really came out.  Ali was all about nursing when she was teething hard.  She didn’t like to eat solids and just wanted milk.  Sammy on the other hand did not want to nurse much during these times.  She wanted the solid food to gnaw on.  If I noticed this happen I would pay attention  to which side the girls ate on and switch back and forth to maintain supply in both breasts.

Okay, so I realize some of this makes it sound like nursing twins has been a breeze.  We have had a great go of it.  Oh, there were a few minor hiccups, but overall it was just a natural as breathing.  Yeah… this is not always the case.  As I said I am thrilled that we have made it a year with nursing.  But I don’t want to be putting pressure on other moms to feel they have to do the same.  I honestly am not sure we would have made it as far if I wasn’t with the girls all day every day.  I didn’t have to worry about pumping or bottle feeding.  I could make adjustments to the girls eating schedule as needed, and I could be sure that I maintained supply through consistent nursing.  There are many factors that make nursing hard, and twins just add to that.  I do think babywise and having a schedule helped out.  It helped me make sure nursing was a priority.  I started hoping to go just a few weeks nursing exclusively, then a few months, then a few more.

And now here we are at a year.  It wasn’t always pretty.  Any nursing mom can tell you that it isn’t all sunshine and roses.  Oh yes, there are moments where you feel so connected to your baby as they peacefully nurse.  But then there are moments where you wonder why you are doing this.  The girls grab at me, leaving little bruises and scratches from their tiny fingers and finger nails.  They mess with each other.  Sometimes accidentally, bumping each other or swinging an arm around.  Sometimes on purpose, reaching out to touch each other’s faces or grab at each other’s meals.  (Yes, I’ve tried to explain to babies that they are separate systems.  You don’t get more if your sister doesn’t get to eat!  I don’t think they believed me.;) )  It can be emotionally hard to nurse twins.  There are times when I have to comfort one baby while the other eats happily.  It if physically awkward to pick one girl up and not disturb the other.  It is very hard when both of them are unhappy.  I mean, who do you comfort first?  It isn’t necessarily any easier when they take turns being upset either.  It can be mentally draining.  I think for nursing even a single baby it can be tough to take just sit and focus on feeding.  At the beginning I counted, and I would literally spend eight hours or more of my day just nursing babies.  As someone who likes to be doing things, it is tough to remember that you are doing something, just by sitting there.  Two babies means even more to be done- more laundry, more messes to clean up, more to do.  I really had to work to remember that I am being productive and taking care of my family by sitting still and nursing.  Thankfully the girls eat quickly now, so that part for sure got easier.  I don’t want to scare anyone out of trying to nurse their twins.  But I do want anyone going through it to know they aren’t alone when they think, This is hard.  It is, and any unhappy thoughts you have about it are normal.  But it is worth it.

There are moments in nursing twins that you just have to laugh.  Our sessions sometimes look like something you would see in a viral facebook video.  This is how it goes down.  I get one girl and bring her over to the nursing spot.  I leave her sitting on the floor with a toy, hoping she will stay put.  Sometimes she does, score.  Usually not.  I go and get the other sister, and put her in the nursing spot.  I go and get the girl who crawled away already.  I remember to take down the gate between the living room and the hallway so Ben can get where he needs to be.  I try to grab my phone, some water, and anything else I will need in case the girls decide to settle in for a long feed.  I grab my nursing pillow and put it on.  I get one girl (they have both crawled away by now), and put her back in the nursing spot.  I quickly grab the other escapee and manage to sit down.  I get one girl on the pillow, and then the second.  They nurse.  Once they are finished they launch themselves into a roll, with absolutely no concern about the fact that they are about a foot off the floor and will fall right on their face.  I manage to control the fall and help them get down to the floor.  I try to entertain whomever is done first, especially if the gates aren’t up.  I try to encourage the slow eater to eat faster, then feel guilty for telling a baby to chug.  First finisher gets bored and starts to get away from me.  Second baby finishes and launches herself off.  I quickly remove the pillow and scramble to get all the gates back in place while redressing.  It can be a to-do.  Some days you just have to laugh (and be grateful there usually aren’t witnesses to the madness).

Let’s talk gear.  As I said, I adore my nursing pillow.  Love love love it, would recommend it to all twin moms.  That was the main thing I have needed over the past year of nursing.  I have found it helpful to always layer a tank top under a top shirt.  This way you can take off the top shirt and just pull down the tank to  nurse, leaving your stomach covered.  If you nurse in public and would like you can use a cover, but really with nursing two babies at once everything is all out there.  I even just use a regular bra, because everything is out when nursing two.  This does save some money, nursing tanks and bras can get pricey!

The pros of nursing twins? You need less stuff.  You can take care of both babies at once.  The food is always ready, always formulated to your baby, and with you wherever you go.  My favorite- it’s free!  The cons? It takes time.  It can be hard to get away from your babies.  You are always on call.  It can be emotionally and mentally draining.  Oh, and you can get bitten.

Overall, I don’t think I would change a thing with how nursing my girls has gone.  Okay, not true.  I would totally eliminate the biting if I could.  Other than that I think it has been a great run.  I know nursing isn’t for everyone.  And nursing twins can be twice the pressure.  (Two babies needing you all the time for basic nutrition!)  I want to encourage other twin moms to do what is best for them. I think one of the most important things for a baby is a healthy mom.  But if nursing is the way you want to go know that it is possible!  You can do it, twin moms!

Kim

Please comment with your tips and experiences other moms!  (with singletons and multiples!)  Any twin moms have any questions?  I’m here to help if I can!

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Schedule update: One year old twins and a three & a half year old!
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