Being both a mom who breast fed twins and an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant, I’m often asked about tips for breastfeeding twins or am finding myself being approached about my experiences whether they be first-hand or knowledge gained from within my profession. Anyone close to me knows my breastfeeding passion runs deep. Mom to mom and as a Registered Nurse and IBCLC, I have a deep desire to help mother’s be successful on their breastfeeding journey. Let’s face it, breastfeeding in general is not easy. It is not like the movies so often portray. At first! Whether one is breastfeeding a singleton or multiples when the feedings aren’t “easy” or effortless early on, we often find ourselves thinking, “What am I doing wrong?” Or maybe that was just my way of thinking eight years ago as I nursed my first child, a singleton (a word not even in my vocabulary at the time).
Flash forward through my years as a Maternal Newborn Nurse and then further as I became an IBCLC and I realized and learned so much through those years that I wish I would have known going in to breastfeeding my first child. I hope my experiences and my knowledge can help equip and empower other mothers who hope to breast feed their twins.
Here are my top 10 tips to being successful in whatever YOUR breastfeeding goals are for your twins:
Know what your breastfeeding goals are
Research shows that a mother’s commitment to breastfeeding may be the one most important factor to helping a mother achieve her breastfeeding “success”. Be sure to set attainable “bite size” goals to help build your confidence. Lord knows every.single.step is a big accomplishment! It takes 3-5 weeks (or longer when our babies are premature) for breastfeeding to be well established. An initial short term goal can be that you’re going to continue breastfeeding and/or pumping to bring your milk in. When your milk comes in celebrate that achievement! An initial long term goal can be to breast feed or provide expressed breast milk for 6 weeks.
Don’t underestimate the need for support and education
Find others who have breast fed their multiples and talk to them. Attend a Breastfeeding Twins Class and dive into Breastfeeding Twins books. Knowledge is huge in ensuring once your babies are born you are doing everything within your control to help have the best possible outcome for breastfeeding/pumping. Unfortunately, often times, you are your best advocate. Regardless of how or where we deliver, from these classes and opportunities, we will know what we need to do to best bring our milk in and protect our milk supply from the very moment our babies are born.
After delivery, if at all possible, within 30-90 minutes of birth breast feed your babies
Generally, if your babies are 36 weeks or older they will be eager to nurse during this time. If you do not feel comfortable tandem feeding at this time that is completely okay. What is most important is to focus on good technique and ensuring a good latch.
Skin to skin… Kangaroo Care
Have you heard of this before? Do it. As soon as you can. In an ideal situation, the babies are born and you and the babies are stable and able to immediately do skin to skin and take advantage of them being alert and eager to nurse. You are able to breast feed them within that first hour after birth if at all possible. If not, you will do skin to skin as soon as you can and if the babies go to the Neonatal ICU, you will begin pumping. I often find motherhood (especially being a mom of multiples) is all about flexibility and being able to adapt to our circumstances. We can’t control everything (despite us often wishing we could right?). So, we have our ideal “game plan” but, when or if that can’t happen… We know what we can do alternatively to help bring our milk in and protect our supply.
Breast feed on demand or at least every 2-3 hours
If one or both babies cannot go to the breast, be sure to also pump. Pump both breasts at least every 3 hours for 15-20 minutes. We know that frequent and consistent milk expression is best to bring our milk in and also important in the foundation of our milk supply. Babies cannot over eat at the breast so if they are showing signs of hunger, let them breast feed. The more we put them to the breast and have that stimulation/removal of colostrum, the more prolactin hormone is being stimulated telling our body to bring our milk in and that we need more milk. If our babies cannot breast feed, as soon as you can, begin pumping both breasts for 15-20 minutes every 3 hours.
Note: Often hand expression allows you to obtain more colostrum. Colostrum is very thick and sticky so please I urge you do not stop pumping because you aren’t getting anything when you pump. The pump is necessary for stimulation and being consistent will pay off! You will see an increase in the output. If you don’t see an increase in 36-48 hours of routine regular pumping please talk with a lactation consultant at that moment.
Take care of you. Listen to your body
Ensure you are getting plenty of rest as you can… listen, I get it. 100% I get it. Twin Mom right here remember? So as cliché as it seems to hear those words, “sleep when the babies are sleeping” please… do it. Nights can be HARD. The first year has its challenges. But embrace it… the moments are fleeting! The feedings go from a long, lengthy, very “hands on” time to eventually easy, effortless, and quick. But until then…. Be sure you are resting when they are sleeping. Ensure you drink plenty of fluids and are eating three well balanced meals with your snacks in between. This is a great way to involve your partner. If you aren’t good with your water intake, it can be your partners “job” to help ensure that when you sit down to nurse, they are getting you a large glass of water and a snack to eat.
Be a team
Speaking of your partner helping… let’s talk tip #7. Be a team. Together you must both agree on the importance of breastfeeding as a priority. Remember the feedings can be quite lengthy and frequent in the early postpartum days and weeks. When you agree together that this time is of importance, together you prioritize the feedings. Meaning, if the babies are hungry and you don’t feel comfortable feeding them with certain visitors around, your partner can help support by ensuring the visitor(s) understand that when the babies have to eat, they may have to leave and come back later. It is so important, especially early on, to be feeding the babies on demand. Both parents knowing this and the why behind it allows there to be no hesitation in the importance of protecting those moments.
When can we introduce bottles?
A common question I am almost always asked as a health care professional is: When can we introduce bottles? If your twins are exclusively breastfeeding, if at all possible, it is best to wait 3-5 weeks. On average it takes 3-5 weeks for breast feeding to be well and established. This timeframe can be even longer if your babies are preterm (as mentioned above). So ideally, somewhere in that time frame give or take, when you feel like breast feeding is going well, at that time you can introduce a bottle. This would be a great first feeding for your partner to do.
Your partner should be aware (and agree) that when that first bottle is introduced they will be the one feeding the baby or babies. If they don’t feel comfortable tandem bottle feeding, be sure to include a grandparent or nanny to be available during that feeding. I would introduce only one bottle for that day and breast feed at the other feedings.
Don’t let fear creep in
Can you really breastfeed two babies? YES. Absolutely. From the moment you are pregnant with twins your body is gearing up for two babies. Trust in your body’s ability and ensure to breast feed on demand, or pump consistently every 3 hours for no longer than 20 minutes. Be confident. Seek help at the first sign of trouble and know you are not alone in this
Relax and enjoy this time with your babies!!
My final tip is to relax and enjoy this time with your babies!! Whether you end up exclusively breast feeding your twins or doing a combination of both breast and bottle feeding formula the pressure should not be on breast feeding to anyone’s standards or ideals but YOURS. Please know any amount of breastmilk you provide your babies is a wonderful and beautiful thing. Praise yourself for all your efforts because each and every effort and each and every day you breast feed or pump should be commended. Breastmilk is a beautiful gift you are able to provide your babies and your milk is specific to them and their unique needs. My hope is that this provides some great tips for you as you prepare for this journey and that you walk away from reading this feeling more confident in your body and your body’s ability to provide breast milk for your twins. You can do this!
About the Author
Lorna Donnelly – RN,IBCLC, TLC’s Dallas Associate, born/raised in Texas and has resided in the Fort Worth area for 15 years. Proud mother of three amazing children who all enjoy being outdoors. Her daughter, the oldest, is an insect loving little girl followed three years later by very active fraternal twin boys. Lorna attended Texas Christian University where she received her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. She then began working in local hospitals as a RN providing postpartum care to both mom’s and babies and later worked in the newborn nursery. After the birth of her daughter and having first-hand experience with breastfeeding she realized how passionate she was about empowering mothers to breastfeed and helping to be a source of support along that journey. It was then that she became an IBCLC and began working in the Lactation Department within local hospitals. After the birth of her twins, she dived into various online multiples groups because of her driving passion to be a source of encouragement to fellow moms of multiples. She joined TLC to fulfill her desire to educate, equip, and further empower moms of multiples in whatever way they need. You can reach Lorna at email@example.com for more information on our Dallas classes and our online Breastfeeding Twins Class.