Breastfeeding is important to me. Often referred to as “liquid gold,” the healing properties of breast milk cured my daughter’s allergic colitis when she was an infant. Research is even underway evaluating breast milk’s healing properties in curing cancer as well as a wide range of auto-immune diseases. I was determined to breastfeed all my children, but I was thrown a curve ball when I found out I was expecting twins. My mind was flooded with logistical questions. True, there would be a breast for each baby, but I couldn’t figure out how I was going to get two babies latched at once. Or would I need to feed them individually? I couldn’t be trapped feeding babies all day; I had a two-year-old to keep up with.
Fortunately, before I lost my ability to see clearly as a side effect of prescribed terbutaline for preterm labor, I read Mothering Multiples and Adventures in Tandem Nursing both published by Le Leche League. These books give excellent how-to tips on everything from nursing positions appropriate at different ages to advice on nursing pillows.
When my boys were born, I was lucky to have an amazing lactation consultant at Swedish Hospital, who got us off to the right start. She gave us essential tips that weren’t covered in the books I’d read. It all worked out beautifully and I breastfed by twins for two years. So without further ado, here are five of the best tips you must know if you’re going to give yourself and your twin babies the best chance of breastfeeding with success!
1) Rent a hospital grade pump. Some hospitals will have them ready for you to rent after your babies are born. Hospital grade pumps allow you to pump both breasts at the same time, and they produce the greatest suction, which in turn draws out the most milk and keeps your milk supply high. Don’t even try over the counter brands. They will just frustrate you, and you’ll end up burning out the motor in your fruitless attempts to just get a let-down reaction.
2) Establish a high milk supply early. This was one of the key tips the lactation consultant at Swedish gave me. To establish a high milk supply in those first few hours after birth, latch both babies on (ask the lactation nurse to help you), feed them for about 10-15 minutes or until they seem full, then pump until you are empty!! You’ll feel completely deflated when you’re empty. Repeat the process in 45 minutes, but after your babies seem full, burp them, then feed them your pumped milk with a bottle. This process requires at least one if not two other people helping you bottle feed the babies while you pump. My husband and I used this process for the first six weeks, gradually increasing the time between feedings as my boys grew stronger and were able to draw out milk more efficiently. My boys were born a month early and were each around 6 lbs at birth. If your twins are more premature, you may have to extend this process longer.
3) Keep your milk supply high. Even if your twins are identical, they will have subtle differences when it comes to their feeding style and ability to draw out milk. Keeping this in mind, it is very important to have the babies alternate breasts in alternate feedings. The breast produces only as much milk as there is available space in the breast. True, your breasts may grow, but if you don’t empty the breast completely, you will produce less milk for the next feeding. The process continues, gradually producing less and less milk, until you’re not producing enough milk. This is one of the most common ways all breastfeeding adventures end, with twins, triplets, quads, or even singletons. It’s also important not to skip or delay emptying your breasts. Milk supply can decrease dramatically if you send the signal to your breasts that you’re not emptying them as much as you once did.
4) Train yourself to use both sides of your brain. The right side of your brain controls the left side of your body and vice versa. You will quickly perceive that you’re using much more brain power then you anticipated as your brain interprets the physical sensations of two separate babies nursing in tandem. It takes a few weeks, but you find you’re able to make subtle movements to your body to accommodate both your babies at the same time. You’re able to keep one with a good latch steady, while adjusting the other who as a poor latch. You’re able to burp one while the other is still nursing. This brain training has proven incredibly valuable to me as my twins have grown. I’m able to listen to both of them read to me at the same time. I’m ambidextrous in my cleaning and organizing. Who needs an extra set of hands when you really just need to train your brain to effectively use the two you have?
5) Finally, seek out help even for the small things. Breastfeeding support groups through NOMOTC (National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs) can be very helpful. You’ll run into unique issues to your children because they are unique individuals. Brainstorming with others is a wonderful way to keep your head above water when it feels like life is getting two overwhelming.
Breastfeeding twins is challenging at first, but it is a goal that can be accomplished. Your hard work in those first weeks establishes a solid foundation for successful breastfeeding for the rest or your children’s early years, which in turn establishes a strong framework for the rest of your life as a mother of twins.
Jennifer Smith-Daigle is a stay-at-home mother of a third grade daughter and twin kindergarten boys. She and her boys are survivors of Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, being some of the first 200 people in the United States to be cured by Fetoscopic Laser Ablation surgery. Jennifer’s life before kids included world travel, historic preservation, and archaeology digs. When she’s not busy with a house full of kids and enough mammals to constitute a small zoo, Jennifer finds freedom in freelance writing, martial arts, and gardening.