How is it that in books, on TV and in movies, moms never have to pump? The reality for Moms of Multiples seems to be that pumping breastmilk is essentially a mandatory part of feeding twins and triplets. Why is that? The main reason is because multiples are often born under 7 pounds and are frequently not able to latch well with a strong suck at birth. The babies need a few weeks to grow bigger and stronger, in order to improve their latch and suck. This means newborn twins usually don’t yet have the power to drain the breast. Rule #1 – an empty breast makes milk. The pump helps remove the milk that the babies left in there, thus triggering the command for the body to fill the breasts with more milk. If too much milk is left in the breasts, the body thinks it’s producing too much, and the production decreases.

Start pumping in the hospital

Ask for a hospital grade pump to be brought to your bedside in the hospital. Start pumping for 10 minutes every 2-3 hours (minimum 8 times in 24 hours). You will be pumping colostrum for the first few days and can give this to your babies. If your babies are in the NICU, this is extremely important to do, as you might not have babies suckling at the breast.

Rent a hospital grade pump for the first month

Consider taking a hospital grade pump home with you for one month. The hospital grade pumps have a stronger motor than any pump you can buy. Your “baseline” for milk production occurs in the first few weeks, so feeding and pumping 8 to 12 times per day is one ticket to a good milk supply. You can choose to rent the pump longer than one month, or start using a personal pump.

Insurance – know which pump is in your plan

Before you deliver, talk with your insurance company to find out what type of pump is part of your policy. Depending on your insurance, the pump could be anything from a single, plastic hand held pump to the full pump with all the accouterments, such as a Medela Pump n’ Style. Check out the website – they can help you figure out what your pump options are. Frequently, insurance companies will offer the pump machine, two bottles, two flanges, and the tubing. This means you have to purchase the carrying bag, insulated bag with molded freezer inserts and additional sized flanges if you need them.

Personal pump – how best to use it

Consider where you will be using this pump. Some MoMs stash it behind the couch where they breastfeed most of the day. Some have it in a separate room. It should be in a convenient place, so you can (hopefully) hand off the babies to someone else after you have breastfed them, and go straight to pumping for a minimum of 10 minutes. Pump a minimum of 8 times per day – up to 12 times if you need to increase your supply. If you will be out and about or at work, get a good carrying bag and make it easy to use.

Pumped milk is your friend

Use the pumped milk to your advantage. If you are told to “supplement” your newborns, use the pumped milk after breastfeeding, to give them that extra bit so they reach their birth weight by two weeks old. Let your partner or grandma or the nanny feed the babies so you can sleep through one feed. Store the milk in the freezer – you’ll find lots of times to use it, for example MoMs tend to have a dip in milk production when the babies are about three months old.

Pumping at work

Before you return to work, pump at least a few times per week, to get your body used to releasing milk via pumping, and to build up a stash in the freezer. Your employer is obligated by law to have a clean place for you to pump, preferably one with running water, and a place for you to store your pumped milk in a refrigerator. Be familiar with this arrangement at your place of work, before you return./p>

Pumping and your Lifestyle

I am often asked how on earth a MoM can fit pumping into an already crazy schedule, feeding multiples every two hours round the clock. A good feeding plan for newborns is to put the babies on the breast for 20-30 minutes maximum (keeping them awake so that they actually feed), hand them to someone else to burp, change the diaper and sooth, while you “Power Pump” for 10 minutes. If milk is still flowing after 10 minutes, keep pumping a few minutes longer. After your milk supply is established (3 to 6 weeks postpartum), you can decide how much you want to pump. Do you need milk in bottles for someone else to feed them? Do you want to pump just once a week, so you can get out to your favorite Yoga class? Do you never want to see that pump again? Do you have to return to work and will pump again at that point?

One last note – Get professional breastfeeding help if you need it

Breastfeeding is a learned skill. Breastfeeding multiples has its particular challenges. At the first signs of concern, nipple pain, insufficient newborn weight gain, or any other signs, contact a lactation consultant. A trained lactation consultant can help you give your babies the highest amount of breastmilk you can produce. Know that every drop of breastmilk you give your babies is a boost to their overall health, and one of the best things you can do for them. That’s why it’s known as “Liquid Gold”.

Join one of our monthly online Breastfeeding Twins classes and let our twin specialised Lactation Consultation put you on the right path to feeding your twins and triplets – perfect for new and expecting mamas.


About the Author: Carole Hanson, our Twin Love Concierge San Francisco Associate, is a Certified Perinatal and Lactation Educator at UCSF and CPMC hospitals in San Francisco. She is the mother of 15 year old twin boys, and has been educating parents of multiples for over a decade. You can connect with Carole by email