Breastfeeding my children was never a hard decision. I was lucky that it came easy for me, and I’m all for something that is good for my babies and cheap at the same time. When I found out I was having twins, one of my first thoughts was, “How in the world am I going to breastfeed two of them?!”
I was worried that I’d have a different experience bonding if I wasn’t able to breastfeed my babies, and the cost of formula for two babies – yikes! I had plenty of time to research my heart out while I was on bedrest during my pregnancy, and what I found was mixed. There were plenty of people, both doctors and moms of twins, who said it just wasn’t realistic to expect to breastfeed twins. Only a handful of what I came across made it sound like breastfeeding twins was a realistic goal.
For the first time since becoming a mom 11 years ago, I questioned my ability to breastfeed my babies. What if I was expecting too much?
During one of my trips to labor and delivery for a pre-term labor scare, I asked to talk to the hospital lactation consultant. As soon as she walked in the room, I asked, “Is it possible to breastfeed twins.”
Her answer was the first reassuring thing I’d heard. “Absolutely.”
She went on to tell me what to expect and what I needed to do to successfully nurse my twins. The first thing I needed to do, she told me, was make it to at least 36 weeks before delivering so that my babies could develop their suck reflex.
I ended up back in the hospital only a few days later to deliver my babies at only 35 weeks pregnant. My twins did struggle with their suck reflex at first. I was fortunate enough to deliver in a hospital that was baby-friendly though, and the lactation consultants worked with me to get my babies off to a strong breastfeeding start.
In the hospital, my twins dropped 10% and 11% of their body weight, which put them right on the edge of needing to be admitted to the NICU. I had to supplement for a day with tube feedings of formula until my milk came in.
Determined that they wouldn’t be on formula for long, I pumped like a crazy person. The pediatrician came to check on the babies daily during our stay, and every time he told me not to get my hopes up about breastfeeding. It wasn’t likely that I’d produce enough milk for twins or have time to nurse both of them, he said. Each time he left, the nurses agreed with him.
I was shocked. I had preemies who needed breastmilk. One baby has reflux and did not do well on formula. I thought my pediatrician, of all people, would be encouraging me to try and nurse them.
We’ve had a few ups and downs, but now at 6 weeks old, I’m proud to say that both my twins are now exclusively nursing. After one day of supplementing with formula in the hospital, and about a week of tube feedings and bottles, they seemed to figure things out.
Since I haven’t found much information that encourages breastfeeding twins, I wanted to share a few of the things that have worked for us.
Get help from a lactation consultant early and often. The lactation consultants were always a breath of fresh air in the hospital. They came in to help me multiple times a day and always told me that it absolutely was possible to breastfeed twins. They helped me with positioning and latch issues. After leaving the hospital, I followed up with the lactation consultants at a hospital-sponsored lactation group to make sure my babies were sucking effectively and gaining weight.
Invest in a twin nursing pillow. During my pregnancy, I debated back and forth whether it was worth buying a twin nursing pillow. I had my old Boppy pillow, but honestly, more often than not I ended up using pillows or nothing at all while nursing my other babies. Twins are different. They need to eat at least 10 times a day . . . EACH. That’s a lot of time spent nursing. You can cut that down drastically by nursing both babies at the same time. I haven’t quite mastered tandem nursing, so I only attempt it if both babies are crying to be fed at the same time. The twin nursing pillow is useful, even if you aren’t attempting to tandem nurse, though, because it lets you keep both babies right there where you can reach them.
Eat up. You need a lot of calories to nurse twins, so don’t stress about losing the baby weight just yet. Oatmeal helps increase milk production, so it’s my standard breakfast these days. Keep your fridge stocked with healthy and high-calorie snacks like hard boiled eggs, yogurt or, my favorite, peanut butter energy balls.
Stay hydrated. There’s a direct link between my milk supply and how much I’ve had to drink during the day. If I get dehydrated at all, I notice a nearly immediate drop. Keep a large water bottle with you at all times. Drink smoothies, milk and juice to get some extra calories in while staying hydrated. If you need to, set a timer to remind you to get a drink at least once an hour.
Slow down. It takes time to make sure breastfeeding is securely established. You need time to recover from childbirth anyway. Slow down for a while and enjoy those many, many nursing sessions. I’ve been using the time to listen to audio books, watch movies with my other children and just relax.
Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do it. My pediatrician told me repeatedly that I wouldn’t be able to nurse twins. He made us come back for multiple weight checks to make sure I was producing enough for two babies before deciding that we had things figured out. Every twin book I read discouraged nursing, and most twin moms I talked to said they gave it a try but didn’t last long. I’m currently going on six weeks of nursing twins, and I’ve learned that I have to base my decisions on my own experience and not the negative experiences that other people have had. Once we got the suck/swallow thing down, I haven’t found nursing twins to be much harder than nursing one baby.
Learn to nurse on the go. Nursing twins definitely does take up a lot of time. As your babies become better nursers and you start to recover and get back into a more normal routine, you’ll want to learn to multitask while nursing. Use a baby carrier to nurse while you are up and moving. My favorite carrier to nurse in is my Lillebaby carrier. I’ve nursed while walking to the park with my kids and while grabbing a quick snack for myself. A baby carrier also gives you enough extra support to nurse while working on the computer, which is great for me as a work at home mom.
Have you ever nursed twins? What tips do you have for breastfeeding success?