Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Ask Me About Breastfeeding Twins (part 1)

Ask me about breastfeeding twins

That's one of the profile pictures on my Facebook page this week.  It is World Breastfeeding Awareness week (or World Normal Feeding Awareness Week as they say on Mothering Mutiples:Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More page )

So, I suppose I ought to respond as though I had been asked.

On a parenting forum I was called smug when a woman asked about breastfeeding twins because she'd heard nothing but horror stories.  I replied that it was much like feeding a singleton except that there were two babies, but fortunately we have two breasts.  A non twin mum jumped quickly up to call me smug and tell me that I had NO concept as to how hard breastfeeding twins was.  Sadly tone doesn't carry through the printed word and no one could 'hear' me smiling as I responded.  I have, of course, helped many women with breastfeeding their twin babies and nursed my own until they were 18 months old.  And I still believe that it is as simple as having two breasts.  Now fret not, I am not some kind of narrow-minded freak who doesn't recognise that there are sometimes difficulties in breastfeeding, be it twin or singleton.  I just believe that we should start with the premise that it is as simple as having two breasts and work from there.

So, let's start with healthy, term babies, the ones with no health issues.  Actually, I think we need to start some months prior to this.  I think (and remember these are my opinions) that breastfeeding twins starts with preparing ourselves to nurse them.  Almost from the moment people find out that they are pregnant with twins the naysayers appear.  "You'll never manage to feed twins, it's too much", "You won't have enough milk to breastfeed twins", "I never managed to exclusively breastfeed twins, don't feel bad that you need to use bottles", "No one can breastfeed twins".  This is the time to get yourself informed.  There are many places where you can get good information.   The National Breastfeeding organisations, like The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, The NCT, The Breastfeeding Network, La Leche League all have helplines, websites and literature.  There are of course the various twin and multiple birth networks as well eg TAMBA and The Multiple Birth Foundation.  There are some wonderful websites full of information about breastfeeding like Dr Jack NewmanHow Breastfeeding Works and Kelly Mom.  Of course the growth of social media has simply opened us up to more information (though do be careful about your sources as there are some out there who are simply in it to make a quick buck and their information can be downright dangerous).  I shall quickly name a few favourites, but this could take all day, so I really will just post a few. Dispelling Breastfeeding MythsMothering Multiples:Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or MoreBreastfeeding BasicsThe Leaky B@@b, Best for Babes Foundation and Lakeshore Medical Breastfeeding Medicine Clinic.

A lack of understanding about breastfeeding and breastmilk tends to be the common denominator for discouraging twin mums when it comes to nursing.  I remember sitting with one of my clients after she had given birth to twins.  The first had fed beautifully and she was feeding the second.  A lady from the MBF (Multiple Births Foundation) came to see her and her opening words were not what either of us were expecting.  "Don't worry if you can't breastfeed twins, not many can.  I, myself, gave bottles.  It's good to get them started".  Fortunately my lady knew that she wanted to breastfeed and she had done her research and knew the key to producing enough milk for her daughters.  Feed, feed, feed according to their cues.

It may well be incredibly tiring, but that doesn't mean that you can't do it.  Get your support put into place.  Some twin mums swear by maternity nurses.  If this is a route you decide to take, make sure your MN knows how breastfeeding works.  I recently had a client who was relaxed and breastfeeding beautifully when I left her.  I went back a few weeks later after she had had a MN in.  She had been told that in order to have things 'work well' she needed to put the babies on a feeding schedule and breastfeeding was only encouraged 6 times a day.  Believe me, when you are a twin mum, some form of order is more than tempting.  Fortunately my lady knew that a lot of what she had been told to do wasn't helping.  Her milk supply didn't seem as good and her daughters were hungrier than they had been.  She recognised that it was the feeding schedule and went back to cue feeding.  

The same things that apply for nursing a singleton apply for nursing multiples, a few tweaks here and there perhaps, but the basic information about breastfeeding remains the same.

So, for now, assuming that your babies are/will be healthy newborns, put them to your skin and inhale the wonder of them.  Let them feed on cue and should there be any difficulties at all, get help immediately.  Often it's a simple issue, with an easy solution.  Use your helplines, call an IBCLC, call a Breastfeeding Counsellor, talk to experienced breastfeeding twin mums. Let your information be good and something that helps and not hinders you.

There is more to come, but for now let's start with two babies, two breasts.  You can do it!


  1. I exculsively breastfed my twins until they were both past 18 months. It was VERY hard work, but worth every minute. I think it allowed me to create a bond with each baby that can be very difficult with twins. I will say that I was lucky that my twins were born full-term and I did not have a c-section, which really helped in the early days. I also breastfed my son first, so I had experience. It can be done and it can be great!

  2. My b/g twins are 4 months, and can't imagine not nursing them! I work full time at home and have a nanny half days so I can nurse during the day (I'm lucky and have an unusual work situation). There was 1 day since they were born that I had to bottle feed, and I was EXHAUSTED! All the prep, cleaning, situating the babies, burping, etc! And I've been amazed to find how many twin moms solely pump to bottle feed! Every twin mom I know did this, I'm the only one I know who has BF'd! I don't know if it's because I have 2 older kids, but this time around the babies are quicker to feed. I might just be more aware of their "full" signals and less willing to push them to feed longer. The ONLY inconvenience is my unwillingness to feed in public, I either have to be in the car, at home or in another room at someone else's house. I feed them simultaneously, so it is a production but it's only for a limited amount of time in my life...totally worth it!!!! The key was learning how to feed them together, I met with a lactation consultant within the first week to get that figured out, and haven't looked back since!

  3. I breastfed my twins exclusively until they started solids at 7 months and then very frequently (never formula) still until over 3 years, and then they didn't wean until they were almost 5 and a half years old. They were old enough at 3 to tell me it made them feel better when they had sniffles or needed some comfort, and they also told me when they didn't happen to need some too. They knew how great it was for them and I knew it was a gift that would benefit them their whole lives, and I am happy that we did things the way we did.

    Yes, there were several challenges along the way, but mo matter how you feed twins it is hard work and there are challenges. I see them nursing their stuffed animals and dolls and hear them tell them there is nothing like "nanny milk", and I am happy to see that they felt that and learned it without lectures from me. It is definitely doable, and although it can be hard at times, what isn't with multiples??

  4. Love your post ram! Very similar to what I was going to post. My twins are now 11 years old & nursed consistently till they were six!

    Oh you CAN also nurse while pregnant with twins. My 4th child nursed until a couple of weeks before the twins were born. He was 3 & still recalls when we just couldn't find a comfortable position any more! OB said nursing would take too many nutrients from the babies & could cause early labour. The twins were born at 38 weeks & 2 days & weighed 6lbs & 8lbs (more than 2 singleton siblings born at 41 weeks). You CAN nurse twins through a next pregnancy. Again others were concerned that with 2 nursing my body could not provide enough for the in-utero baby. Again concerns around early labour, especially with double stimulation. Well my surely early & tiny baby was born at 1 day shy of 42 weeks and he weighed 9lbs, 2 oz. I did not have gestational diabetes & gained almost all baby weight.

    It is such a shame there are so many tales about breastfeeding twins! My OB told me because I had 4 other kids to keep track of and because I was "small" breasted ( I am less than an "A" cup!) that there was no way I could a exclusively breastfeed twins. What a surprise he would have had if he found out I ended up breastfeeding my newborn/toddler/....while still breastfeeding the twins. I had more than enough milk for my 3 "babies" despite my "small" size!


  5. Thank you ladies for your lovely lovely comments. It is always good to hear positive stories about breastfeeding twins. I was on the train reading your comments and my grin nearly blinded the other passengers.

    Keep telling your stories. Soon breastfeeding twins will be the norm.

    Mars xx

  6. love what Ram said especially. When people express admiration/amazement that I am breastfeeding my twins, I reply that twins are hard work, but breastfeeding them is the easiest part about caring for them. I know the early days especially must be much harder with prem twins and those who need NICU, but I have honestly found feeding my twins easier than feeding my older singleton. Perhaps because he was in NICU and tube fed at first (but that didn't mean anyone told me I wouldn't be able to feed him), perhaps because second time round I know what I'm doing.

    It was heartening at our last twins group meeting to count the mums of twins 8 months and under and see that 7 out of 8 were at least partially breastfeeding :) A totally unselected group of twin families, by the way. Perhaps breastfeeding twins is more normal amongst twin mums than everyone else would like to think?

  7. Amen!

    My twincesses turned one year old on the 3rd of August and we're still going strong. They've never had formula. It's so nice to have proven everyone wrong, because I was also told I have to accept the fact that I'll need to supplement some or other time because there's two. NOT TRUE!

    I love having this special bond and relationship with my girls.

  8. My twin girls are 8 months old and we've been exclusively nursing since day 1. I never doubted my ability to feed two and I do hope it becomes the norm and people stop the negative comments! As you said in your post, it starts months before birth! You NEED a support system.

    One reason I didn't let any negative comments phase me was because I was already a "lactivist" when became pregnant with twins. I nursed #1 until she was nearly 3 (including tandem nursing with her little sister for 7 months). Her little sister nursed until 2.5. So, there was never any doubt in my mind that I'd nurse my two new little ones.

    My biggest piece of advice -- the first month is critical to success. It is HARD and it feels like they are nursing constantly (not all that different from a single newborn though right?) You need to establish your supply then though. I was very blessed to have family stay with us and help with older children, laundry, and housework while I focused on the twins those first weeks. I thought of it as my "full time job" to feed them and once we had our routine (and supply), I could add other things back in my life.

    To those preemie moms, don't give up! Pump and work with a lactation consultant. It is possible to get the babies to the breast when they are ready. Rent a pump from the hospital. Most insurance companies will cover the cost. Before my twins, I had two premature singletons. My twins were FULL TERM (thank you Brewer's Diet) and born at home! So I know we had a great situation going into nursing, but I also know what it's like to have those "not so ideal" situations.