When my twins were born, I knew I wanted to nurse them, just as I had my other babies. As I neared the end of my pregnancy, though, I began to doubt myself. None of the information I came across was encouraging and I wondered if I was being realistic expecting to nurse twins, especially twins who were likely to come early.
Breastfeeding had come easy for me with my other 4 kids. I’d never doubted my ability to breastfeed before but every book I read talked about how hard it was going to be to nurse twins. Every twin mom I talked to said they tried and gave up quickly.
When I landed in labor and delivery at 34 weeks, as soon as things settled down, I asked to talk to the lactation consultant. I wanted to know one thing, just if it was possible to nurse twins. Her answer was the first and only encouraging thing I’d heard about breastfeeding twins. She said, “Absolutely! Just make it to 37 weeks”. I finally had hope that breastfeeding twins was possible.
Then I delivered a few days later at 35 weeks.
My preemie twins had very little suck reflex and my C-section recovery was challenging so nursing didn’t start out smoothly. The first few weeks we fed my babies with a tube. After my twins lost 11% of their body weight in the first few days after birth, the hospital required that I supplement with formula.
That felt like a blow. I’d never resorted to formula so early with my other babies and I wasn’t sure if we could get back on track with breastfeeding after that.
The pediatrician came in and told me not to bother breastfeeding. It was too much work, he said. I had too many other kids and wouldn’t have time. I wouldn’t make enough milk.
Those words were exactly what I needed to hear. Not because they were true. No. But with postpartum hormones flooding my body, his words ticked me off. And when I get ticked off I tend to get to work.
Breastfeeding exclusively wasn’t an option at that point because my babies were working too hard to nurse. They were using up more calories than they were taking in and dropping weight. But I could pump. And I pumped like a crazy person.
I lined up a row of preemie sized bottles on my hospital tray and started pumping with a hospital grade pump that put my old pump to shame. At first, I filled them with only drops of colostrum. The lactation consultant helped me scoop it up in a spoon and drip it into my babies mouthes. As my milk came in I began to fill each tiny bottle and I gained confidence with each one.
After one day on formula my babies began to get my own milk in their tube feedings.
When the pediatrician came in the next time I had the hospital tray lined up with freshly pumped breastmilk on full display as a giant “I told you so”. He still insisted I couldn’t breastfeed twins but I had my start.
Today my twins are 4 months old and are now breastfeeding like champs. After a week or so being fed by tubes then a few weeks using bottles of pumped breastmilk to supplement their nursing sessions they’ve been breastfeeding exclusively.
Breastfeeding twins has not been what I was expecting to be. It’s a different experience than nursing one baby. It’s been hard, yes, but in some ways not quite as hard as I thought it would be and I wish there was more information out there that encourages moms who want to try.
Here’s what you need to know about nursing twins:
It IS possible. Start with that. If you want to do it you can. It is work but it isn’t double the work. I’ve nursed 4 babies on their own and nursing twins is definitely not twice as hard. Depending on your babies it’s probably about 25% harder. That’s not unreachable though. Some days it’s way easier than formula would be. I can’t imagine loading up my diaper bag with bottles and formula on top of everything else I already have to carry with me.
Eating will become a part-time job. Fortunately, I’m really good at eating. With my other kids, I didn’t pay much attention to my diet or fluid intake. I had plenty of milk and nothing I did really seemed to effect that. With twins, I have to fight a bit to keep up supply. I’ve had plenty of milk overall but on those days when I don’t quite eat or drink enough, I can tell the difference in the amount of milk I have. I’ve heard you need to eat 3,000 calories while your are nursing twins. That’s pretty similar to the food requirements during a twin pregnancy when nutrition is literally a life-or-death situation so I was already in the habit of trying to fit as many calories in as I could. This probably means I’m not really going to loose the baby weight until after I wean my twins but at the moment, breastfeeding takes priority. Guilt-free stress eating comes in handy on those days when I’m running on no sleep.
Tandem nursing is REALLY hard. Every single book I read about nursing twins said that you have to tandem nurse or it will suck up (pun intended) every second of your day. Tandem nursing was apparently the only way nursing twins was possible. So, I bought a big giant twin pillow and practiced tandem nursing with the lactation consultants in the hospital. When I got home there was a problem though. I didn’t have an extra person there to hold the second baby up to my boob and as it turns out I’m really just not that coordinated. Tantem nursing was a test of my patience. Once I gave in a decided to just do what I was used to and nurse one baby at a time things got so much easier. I still tandem nurse on occasion. Usually that’s when both babies wake up from a nap at the same time and are starving and (and this is a big and) I’m home and able to hide out in my bedroom because there’s just no way to be at all modest and tandem nurse. Does nursing two babies take up more time? Well, yes. It does. But I’ve found I actually like having the chance to spend some one-on-one time with each baby during the day and I’m pretty good about multitasking while I’m nursing.
Ask for help when you need it. My twins are babies number 5 and 6 so I already knew how to nurse but I didn’t know how to nurse twins. I could have been a know-it-all and tried to fend for myself but I realized early on that I needed help to be successful. I had the lactation consultant in my room most of each day I was in the hospital. I drilled her with questions while she was in my room. Once I was home from the hospital I visited the hospital-led lactation group. It was a bit awkward walking into a room of first time moms and announcing that I had 6 kids. I got a few strange looks for that (The lactation consultant followed that with, “Next thing you’ll be telling me you homeschool.” Awkward). But no matter how many times I had done this before, my babies were learning to nurse for the first time and all three of us needed some pointers. If it was my first time nursing, I probably would have splurged and had the lactation consultant come and do an individual session with me in my home and I definitely would have kept going to the group.
Your babies are not the same. I’ve never been big on comparing babies but I didn’t realize how hard that is when you have twins. I mean, they are both RIGHT THERE. And they are the same exact age. It’s hard not to compare them. It’s caused a lot of unnecessary stress for me during their first few months though and I’ve decided I’m done comparing. My babies don’t nurse the same way. One is quick and to the point. The other can’t stop smiling long enough to eat so she takes a while to get through a feeding. Couple that with the fact that they were growing at different rates and I had a few moments of panic. What if I really wasn’t making enough milk. What if one still wasn’t sucking effectively? It turns out they are both just fine. They are just different people.
Enjoy it. Nursing can be stressful sometimes, especially if you have other stressful things happening in your life (not that I have any experience with that). One of the things I love about breastfeeding though is it requires me to slow down and just enjoy my babies. Slowing down is not something I’m very good at. Having those quiet moments with my babies every few hours is good for all three of us.
Find a Really Great Nursing Bra. Everyone needs to be comfortable. As a nursing mom it’s especially important to find a nursing bra that gives you a great fit, doesn’t compress anything too much, and keeps you comfortable. Finding a nursing bra that I loved was a huge ordeal for me this time around. It was tricky to find the right fit since my size fluctuates so much while nursing twins. I also wanted great support without an underwire for the first few months while I established my supply. I tried nearly a dozen different sizes and styles before finding one I absolutely love. Bravado Designs sent me their Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra when my twins were first born and its been insanely comfortable. The best part is it’s a super easy to fit because it’s a small/medium/large system so you have a bit of leeway when sizing. Whatever you choose, find something that is comfortable and easy to use.
Do what works for you. No set of twins are alike just like no babies are exactly the same. You have to do what works for you. For me, that meant throwing the advice to tandem nurse out the window. I went into this determined to nurse, but I was realistic too. I knew I had to be open to the possibility that preemie twins just might not be able to nurse, I might not make enough milk, or the stress might be too much for me in the midst of caring for infant twins. I was willing to give myself a break if breastfeeding just didn’t work. I would have been disappointed, but I had already decided I wasn’t going to beat myself up about it. The same applies now. We’re 4 months in. I’d like to breastfeed for a year but if we make it to 6 months I’m just going to be glad I made it that far and cut myself some slack.
Have you nursed twins? What worked for you?
If you are pregnant with twins and have questions, please ask them in the comments. I hated how hard it was for me to find advice from someone who had actually nursed twins while I was pregnant so I’d love to answer whatever questions I can.