A mother breastfeeding twins is the ultimate manifestation of a multitasking ninja mom. Or at least, that’s how I envision the endeavor. I just so happen to personally know three of these epic multitasking-ninja-breastfeeding-twins-mamas.
And each of them did it successfully! For over a year!
Seriously, how did they do that?
Today we are going to find out how they did just that.
What problems did they encounter? What advice would they offer to a mom who is preparing to breastfeed twins? If they could do it all over again, what would they do differently?
Jane is mom to 3 kiddos!
Carolyn is mom to 4 kiddos!
Christi is mom to 5 kiddos!
How did you prepare to breastfeed twins? Is there anything you did ahead of time to facilitate this huge task?
Jane: I had successfully breastfed one baby prior to having my twins. He nursed for 16.5 months when he self weaned. Our breastfeeding relationship was not without struggles at the beginning, so I think a huge benefit for me when it came to nursing twins was that I knew it may be difficult, especially at the beginning.
With my first son, I was completely emotionally unprepared for the struggles. I cried and cried that my milk didn’t come in right away, and that he was losing weight quickly, and that it took him awhile (9 days, to be exact) to learn to latch properly. And once he did learn to latch, he was a slow and sleepy nurser. BUT I stuck with it and I ended up having a huge milk supply and we had a great breastfeeding relationship.
So when some of those issues arose again with my twins, I was MUCH better prepared to deal with them emotionally. Some advice I would give to any new mother, but definitely a mother of twins, would be to try not to get too upset if there are bumps in the road. If you can stick with it, you can definitely be successful! Consult with lactation consultants, talk to friends, get a good nursing pillow, and make sure her partner is supportive of breastfeeding.
Carolyn: I attended La Leche League meetings while pregnant and read the book “Mothering Multiples“. I also set up help ahead of time, help to take care of all the other aspects of life so I could focus on nursing the babies the first 6 weeks.
Christi: I bought a twin breastfeeding pillow. I also was very determined that I was going to breastfeed. There were no thoughts in my mind about it not working out. That’s just what we were doing. Period.
What is one obstacle you had and how did you move through it?
Jane: I mentioned some already, but my biggest issues were that my babies all got jaundiced and lost weight. Add to that that for some reason my body makes very little colostrum and my milk doesn’t come in until day 3 or later, so without that, my babies couldn’t get rid of the bilirubin.
I did end up supplementing with formula with all 3 babies, but only for the first few days. I pumped and bottle fed in addition to the nursing and formula.
Some people cringe at the thought of formula, but for me that was the right answer. It calmed me enough to know that my babies were getting enough to eat and getting rid of the bilirubin. That emotional calm helped me relax when it came to nursing and pumping. And like I said, the max time I ever gave my babies formula was for 4 days.
It’s not right for everyone, but that’s an example of doing what is right for the individual.
Carolyn: My Baby B had difficulties latching for a few weeks. We worked on latch and fed her my pumped milk from a syringe and then from a bottle, then used a nipple shield for a week or so until she learned to latch on her own.
I knew if I kept at it she would learn eventually, and she did. It was hard work though.
I had many days in a row of doing nothing but pumping, nursing, syringe feeding, pumping, nursing, syringe feeding.
Christi: Both babies latched very shallow on the left side, which caused lots of pain. I sought the counsel of a friend that was a doula, that had experience with helping mothers breastfeed. She came to my house and helped me get a better latch. I also saw a lactation consultant in a private appointment. With her I took the babies in and she watched how I was doing things and helped me adjust.
I also had an inconsistent milk supply. My lactation consultant gave me the advice of making sure I always feed them together so that my body knows it is supposed to be making milk for two babies.
At 11 weeks my supply was still not established. I was actually ready to quit! A good friend that is also a doula (yay for doulas!) told me not to give up and that the supply gets established at 14 weeks. This gave me the encouragement to push through, and by 14 weeks I had a consistent, dependable supply of milk for both babies.
How long did you end up breastfeeding? Were you surprised at your success?
Jane: I breastfed my first son for 16.5 months, and my twins I’ve nursed for a year so far, and while they don’t nurse as much as they used to, they don’t show signs of stopping.
I haven’t put a time limit on it at this point. I trust that they will self-wean like my first son did. And if they don’t, I’ll just keep going til I feel like we’ve all benefitted from it as much as possible.
With my son, I was definitely surprised at my success, considering the rocky start. But this time around, I knew what to expect, so I’m not surprised. In fact, I even give milk to a friend who doesn’t make enough milk for her own son who is just a couple of weeks younger than my twins.
Carolyn: My goal was two years, in fact the twins nursed for 2 years and 6 months. It felt good to know their little bodies grew as they should since they had human milk for so long.
Christi: We breastfed until 13 months. Yes! I felt very accomplished!
What is some advice you would give new moms who are hoping to breastfeed?
Jane: I would say to try not to get too worked up if it’s not easy at first. It’s not unusual for it to be difficult in the beginning. Being the sole person responsible for feeding your baby is a monumental task and can be overwhelming, so be proud of every drop of breastmilk you’re able to give your baby or babies.
If you’re struggling, call a lactation consultant. They are totally worth the cost. Make friends with women who have successfully breastfed and don’t be afraid to ask them anything.
If you need to cry about it, then cry. As much as you need to. Crying helped me sort of reset my frame of mind. Once I got the emotions out, I was better able to focus on the task at hand.
Carolyn: Attend a LLL meeting! Don’t just join an online community. Actually GO to a meeting. Go while still pregnant and then again as often as you can after the babies come.
Christi: I I did find that feeding on a schedule to be very helpful for us, mainly because I was also raising a toddler. I had everything in top notch order, everyone was clean, fed, etc. and there was sanity in the house. But… oh I wish I would have snuggled them individually more!
So, my advice is, make sure not to always handle them together. If you do nurse them together, go crazy and nurse them separate every once in a while. Stay up and cuddle one of them later sometimes. Let just one of them fall asleep next to you after the early morning feeding.
They will always have each other and sometimes it is hard to break into their world. Start early and develop an individual relationship with each one from the start.
Do you have any closing thoughts?
Jane: I’m with Christi about feeding on a schedule. Not that it is necessarily best for everyone – but I also had a toddler I needed to care for, so feeding them at the same time worked for us. I think it lead to more sleep as well in those early weeks. Once my supply was established I did occasionally feed them one at a time, just one right after the other, so I did still get some individual cuddles.
Carolyn: I had a four year old and a two year old when my twins were newborns. I totally understand needing to care for older children and I needed to focus on nursing I delegated childcare of the older children to others. I was the only one that could nurse, but I was not the only one who could care for kids. My husband helped with the older kids when he was home, when he was at work my mom or dad helped with childcare. They also came over several times a week and did my dishes and folded and put away laundry so I could just focus on nursing. I know not everyone has so much help, but truly it takes a village to raise multiples.
Also, following each individual baby’s nursing cues led to a good milk supply and less crying. Baby A nursed close to 20 times a day, Baby B preferred to nurse 12/13 times a day. They were so different, even from the beginning.
I don’t know how I survived, I will be honest. But I did. And now they are three years old! THREE! The days are long but the years are short.
Christi: Seriously! My husband changed so much through this process. He helped a ton! As did friends. I also hired help for the house and kids.
Breastfeeding Twins Resources
We recommend these products when breastfeeding twins:
A GOOD Nursing Bra (Breakout Bras)
A Breastfeeding Pillow for Twins
A Book: Mothering Multiples