How To Breastfeed Twins.
When I found out I was pregnant for the second time I was thrilled but pretty relaxed about things. I mean, we had done this baby thing once before. Sure, things would be different with two kids. It would be totally doable though. No big deal. Then I found out we were having twins. Oh my, that sent me straight back into research mode like when I was pregnant with Ben. This time it was all about two babies at once.
You can find a lot of information about twins online, but one area I had a hard time finding information on was nursing twins. I nursed Ben, and I knew I wanted to at least give nursing the girls a shot. I found a lot of information saying nursing twins was possible. I found a bit of information on how to hold the babies to nurse them. But honestly, beyond that, I felt a bit lost. It was very frustrating. Nothing beats having an actual person talk to you face to face about how to go about nursing twins. I can’t do that for most people, but I thought I could at least toss some tips out there to hopefully help some ladies out.
Find a real live person to talk to.
I am blessed in that my wonderful sister in law also has twins. She sadly lives nine hours away though. She had a lot of great advice, but something that was super helpful was attending a ‘Surviving Multiples’ class my hospital offered. We were the only people in the class, which was awesome because we got to really focus in on my questions. The woman who taught the class had a set of twins and a set of triplets. She knew things. She brought a nursing pillow and a couple of dolls with her to the class so I could practice a couple of holds. With Ben, I didn’t take any nursing classes. I read the books and thought we would figure it out together, which we did. But with two babies I wanted to have a better idea of what I would be facing before even starting. That helped build my confidence.
Nurse the babies one at a time at first.
Yes, nursing them together saves time. But nursing a sleepy newborn is tough. I mean really, trying to keep such a tiny person awake can take your whole focus! Two at once is even harder. Add to that you are recovering from birth, have hormones flying, and are exhausted. One at a time is a little more peaceful. It also lets you focus in on just one sweet baby at a time, giving you both a chance to feel more bonded. There is also the practical aspect that a newborn baby can have a hard time holding herself on to the breast and keep sucking. Focus on each baby individually so they can get a full feed and really learn what they are doing.
Nurse the babies at the same time.
What I mean by this is nurse one, then immediately nurse the other. The one piece of advice I heard all the time after telling people about the girls was to get them on a schedule. I am all about having a reliable pattern to our days, so getting the girls on a schedule was a huge goal of mine. Well, that can never happen if they are eating at all different times. Eating at different times means sleeping at different times. Having one newborn is chaotic enough, I didn’t want to have to deal with two completely different schedules. Luckily newborns are very sleepy, so the girls didn’t usually notice one was eating and one wasn’t. Plus they got used to having a slight offset in their eating (about 15-30 minutes) which actually made nighttime feedings earlier. I couldn’t promise that one baby would want to eat just because her sister did, but I would at least offer. (Learn how to actually get both babies into position when you are alone here: The Logistics of Breastfeeding Twins On Your Own.)
This is important to establish and keep up supply, especially in the early days. I think it is even more important with twins. As I said it is hard to keep newborns awake to eat, which makes it hard for them to get a full feeding. This leads to them being hungry again sooner, which leads to you doing nothing but feeding your baby all day. And yes, I am saying to do that with two babies. But just as it is hard to keep a newborn awake to eat, it is even harder knowing that a second baby is waiting to eat too. At least for me, it was tough mentally to know my baby was waiting to eat. If the girl I was nursing went to sleep and wouldn’t wake up, I would switch to the other girl, even if the first maybe should have had more. I don’t mean that I let the girls go hungry or not eat enough, just that they didn’t eat enough to last three hours. They would need to eat sooner than that. (Three hours is the common length of time you hear to have between feedings.) Knowing I had two to feed and not wanting to have hungry crying babies, I tried to stay ahead of the big hunger and fed them every two to two and half hours. Yes, you really do just feed babies all day. For me, the mental part of that was hardest. But settle in, line up some shows on the DVR, and try to enjoy all the couch time. It feels like forever while you are at this stage, but it really is just a couple of weeks.
When you feel ready, nurse the girls at the same time.
It took me about a month to reach this point. I’m sure it varies, but for my girls, at about a month old they could hold on and nurse properly without needing as much assistance. They also stayed awake to eat without as much help needed from me. Nursing the girls at the same time saves so much time. Around this point, the girls started having some really longer nursing sessions, sometimes about an hour. With both of them going at the same time I was only couch-bound for that hour at a time, not two. Plus nursing both at once means you are taking care of both at once. This is helpful because most women at this point are starting to have the kids on their own. No need to entertain one baby while one eats. Transitioning to nursing at the same time should be pretty easy timing wise. The girls were already used to eating at the same time in that I would feed one then immediately the other. I didn’t have to switch one up or try to come up with a new schedule to fit both, they were already there.
Get a nursing pillow!
I never liked nursing Ben with a nursing pillow. This is kind of funny because we ended up with four boppies from nice friends and family. They got used, but never for actual nursing. I don’t know how I would nurse the girls without my pillow. It is huge, it is cumbersome, but it is awesome. I have the (affiliate link) My Brest Friend Twins Nursing Pillow. Yes, the name is terrible. But it really is a great product. I hook it around me like a belt and the girls can both lay on it in the football hold. (Heads toward the middle, feet in my armpits.) The pillow slants in a bit, so if the girls do wiggle or slide they slide into me. Yay safety! I love it because I am kind of hands-free while nursing. Yes, sometimes they need help for positioning, but I don’t have to actively hold them the whole time. If you have older kids this is a must. I can help Ben with things. He can bring me books to read. I keep a water bottle nearby to refill his sippy. I can read and play on my phone. (I know that can be frowned upon, but really. I nursed those girls literally for over 7 hours a day in the beginning, we bonded.) It also means I can wipe up spit up and drool. I can help one baby while the other eats away happily. All in all my nursing pillow is one of my favorite twin products. They are a little pricey, but so so worth it.
Be prepared for nursing to be hard.
Yes, nursing can always be hard, but you have two babies you are feeding with twins. You are feeding on both sides every time. This means if one nipple starts to hurt you can’t give it a break, you have to power through. It means instead of two little hands grabbing and pinching you there are four. Nursing both babies at once is awesome, but it means if one spits up and the other is still eating you end up messy. For the first four months of nursing I would end up with spit up and milk all over me basically every day. That is mentally hard. It isn’t fun to feel stuck in that newborn phase of wearing bodily fluids. But with two babies nursing it is hard to get a cloth in and catch spit up. Then there are those times when babies can be fussy over nursing. They may cry, latch and let go, pinch at you, etc. And with twins that is double. It is so doable to nurse twins. And honestly in the grand scheme of things I have it really easy with my girls, but in the moment it is still hard.
Know how you feel about having formula in the house.
We got the usual set of sample cans in the mail. Some people do better at nursing by having no access to formula. It means they don’t have a choice in how to feed their baby, they have to nurse. That is great if that works for you. I prefer to have a can in the house. I feel more at ease knowing that if for some reason nursing just does not work we can still feed our babies. This allows me to relax and keep trying in the beginning. Fortunately, it didn’t take too long to reach the point where nursing seems so much easier than mixing up formula. I still feel better knowing we have a backup plan. Know yourself and plan accordingly.
Know how you feel about nursing in public.
I know women are allowed to nurse anywhere. I think that is wonderful and how it should be. Babies need to eat, and there is nothing indecent about a woman feeding her child. However, I personally am not overly comfortable with that. I wasn’t very comfortable doing so with Ben without being covered, and that is just fine. With twins, well, it is even harder to cover up. Let’s just say everything is out there the whole time. Again, I think it is awesome if women want to nurse in public places and they should have every right to. It just isn’t my cup of tea. Because of that, I make sure to plan ahead to either nurse at home or somewhere else I can be private. I aim to be home most of the time, the nursing pillow is kind of annoying to schlep around. Babies nurse a lot, especially in the newborn days. It is important to know how you feel about nursing on the go so you can plan your days and let others know why you may not be out and about so much.
Eat and drink!
This is even more important when you are feeding two babies. I have never drunk so much water in my life as these past few months nursing the girls. You are providing all the nutrients two human beings need. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your twins.
Set small goals.
I am hoping to make it to a year with nursing my twins. I don’t want to set myself up to feel disappointed if we don’t make it that far though. There are so many reasons why nursing might not work out, and having twins just adds to that list. I try to set small goals for myself. At first, it was just to make it to a month. Then three months. Now I am aiming for six months. I know a lot of women beat themselves up if they don’t nurse as long as they think they ‘should.’ There is a ton of mom guilt as it is, there is no need to add to that. Nursing is hard, especially at the beginning. It can be very daunting to think you are the sole source of food for not just one but two babies. Having small goals makes it seem more doable and takes some pressure off.
A lot of people who have nursed want to know about the how of rotating the babies. With one baby you generally feed on one side, switch, then start with the second breast next feeding. With my twins, each girl gets one side per day. They get their whole meal from that side. Yes, your body can make enough to do that. If one girl didn’t want to eat much at one meal, she didn’t get stuck getting all foremilk all over again by switching breasts at each meal. She could kind of pick up where she left off. This method of feeding the girls ended up working really well! Just make note of who is on what side each day, it is surprisingly easy to forget!
These are my biggest tips for nursing twins. The beginning can be hard. We are over five months into this thing now and I am happy to say we are in the time where the thought of bottle-feeding seems way harder than just nursing. It is different than nursing just one. You have to play referee between the girls sometimes, you have four little hands grabbing at you instead of two, and it is way messier than just nursing one. (Stock up on burp cloths.) But it is also so amazing. You get to hold and cuddle two sweet babies at the same time. You get to save double the money. I am happy I am providing for my girls the best that I can.
Having twins can bring up a lot of challenges, but nursing doesn’t have to be one of them. If it is something you want to do, try!