Many expectant moms look forward to breastfeeding their new baby, that is until the ultrasound tech drops an unexpected bomb! Twins! Oh boy! Now what? Can you handle it? How will you manage? A million panicked thoughts intermingled with unbridled joy rush through the head of any mom-to-be who's just been told she's expecting twins!
We're here to tell you that you can do it! Other women have done it. And to prove it, we'll let you in on ten ways to handle breastfeeding twins like a champ!
First of all, you'll need to digest the information, start doubling up on supplies, and seriously consider recruiting a friend or family member for the first week or two after arriving at home with your twin bundles!
1. Just the Facts, Ma'am
The first step is to learn what you'll be up against. Anyone who's breastfed multiple babies will tell you that it's a labor of love -- and hard work and dedication. Expect to feel tired and at times, and more than a little overwhelmed. It's normal to worry about whether you're producing enough milk to feed two little eating machines that get hungry every 30 minutes or so for the first few weeks.
Get set up and create a nursing friendly space in your home with a cozy chair, your breastfeeding essentials, snacks, ipad or books, water bottle, and any other needs to be prepped for many many days and nights of on demand feedings.
Your nipples will probably become sore and cracked, and your breasts may become engorged. But before you run screaming from the room feeling defeated before you even start, rest assured that you can and will do just fine with a little support from your doctor, a lactation specialist and your friends and family. In time, you'll be surprised at how well the whole thing is actually going. You'll also have the added satisfaction of knowing you're doing what's best for your babies.
The Mayo Clinic staff asserts that aside from the benefits of breast milk for all babies, twins in particular are in need of its benefits since they're often smaller -- or premature -- at birth. That means they have smaller, less mature stomachs and digestive systems, and there's nothing easier for a baby to digest than breast milk!
2. Save More of Your (Precious) Time
If you're worried that it may take longer to breastfeed your twins than it would to bottle feed them, stop worrying. It takes about the same amount of time to breastfeed, but you're saving the time required to wash and sterilize bottles, and the time it takes to prepare and warm up the formula.
3. Learn the Ropes
When you first start breastfeeding, it may be a good idea to feed each baby separately, just so you can see how well each baby latches on to your breast and address any specific issues. Focusing on the latch is super essential to starting on the right foot.
Once you've got that part of the puzzle solved, it's entirely up to you whether you want to tandem nurse or do it separately. It's really a matter of personal preference. If you decide that feeding both at once is a time saver, be aware that they might well have different appetites. In that case, it's best to go with the demands of the hungrier baby.
4. Position is Everything!
There are several approaches possible for juggling two babies at once. For instance:
- Use pillows as props. Your nursing pillow is going to be one of your best friends when nursing twins. Place your babies -- head to head -- on pillows right in front of you with their bodies turned toward you. Use your palms to cradle their heads as you bring them to your breasts.
- Try the double-clutch or double-football method.
- Cradle both babies so their feet cross like an "X".
- Face both babies in one direction and cradle the one on the left in the crook of your elbow. Support your other baby's head with your right hand.
- And don't forget to use nursing tops, nursing hoodies, or dresses that are specially made to expose your breasts easily without having to unbutton a blouse or lift your top (brr!). A nursing top will also help you maneuver more comfortably around the various positions! The Bun Maternity nursing tanks have two straps that come down at the same time to comfortably give access to both breasts at the same time for tandem nursing (and they're uber stylish)!
5. The Milk Supply Question
Remember this essential fact. The more you breastfeed (preferably starting at birth and 8-12 times per day), the more milk you'll produce. If your babies are premature and can't breastfeed right after birth, start pumping your breasts as soon as possible to establish your milk supply. Make sure you have a high quality hospital grade pump to save time and for efficiency. Once breastfeeding is underway, pumping also allows your partner or helpers to supplement breastfeeding with bottles. (Just be sure to wait for supplemental bottle feedings until your breastfeeding is well-established.)
6. Nipple Problems
If your nipples get sore, treat them with a combination of breast milk and pure lanolin. Here's how: After breastfeeding express a few drops of milk and let it dry on your nipples for five minutes or so. The milk will both help heal cracks and kill bacteria. Next, apply the lanolin and don't rinse it off. The pure lanolin will help keep your nipples soft and supple.
7. Take a Break
Yes, you deserve an occasional break. That's where your support system comes in. Have your mate, a family member or a friend watch the babies for 15-20 minutes while you take a walk, a soak in the tub, or have a cup of tea and read a magazine. Take naps when the babies nap and let somebody else clean up the lunch dishes. Yes...that does sound crazy, but it really can happen. You'll be a better mom for it, so there's no need to feel like you're neglecting your "duties"!
Find more ways dads can help breastfeeding moms here and be sure to share with them.
8. Don't be Afraid to Ask for Help
Suffering in silence is not doing you or your babies any favors. If you're concerned about your milk supply, talk to a lactation expert. If you're concerned about whether your babies are doing well, talk to your doctor. If your hormones are making you crazy, talk to a friend or a counselor.
9. Patience is a Virtue
Be patient with yourself. This is a learning experience and is undeniably challenging at times, but the rewards make your efforts worthwhile. You'll be establishing a deep bond with your babies and feeling more confident every day as you watch your babies grow and change!
10. Gauging Your Progress
Here's a few ways to tell if things are going well with your double breastfeeding challenge:
- Your babies are eating every 2-3 hours (at least 10-12 times a day) for the first few weeks.
- They're passing stools approximately 6-10 times daily and the stools lighten in color to a mustard-yellowish color by the fifth day.
- They're gaining roughly an ounce a day by the fifth day after birth and until they reach their 3-month "birthdays".
- They're wetting 7-8 cloth diapers or 5-6 disposables per day (disposables are more absorbent).
- If the room is quiet while you're nursing, you can hear them swallowing.
- Your breasts feel noticeably softer after nursing.
Doing leads to learning so start there and with these tips. Above all, enjoy this special bonding time with your babies, and learn to relish the satisfying feeling of caring for two babies at once -- a special experience that most women will never have!
Keep going mama! You're doing great!