Breastfeeding Twins: Challenges, Tips and Strategies from a Twin Mama
By Linda Lee
Breastfeeding can be a time-consuming challenge for any first-time mama, but imagine having to DOUBLE your output. One mama shares her tips for successfully breastfeeding twins.
Many prenatal courses and motherhood blogs highlight the benefits of breastfeeding, but very few are upfront about the realities of nursing. Two years ago, I was a determined new mother who was eager to breastfeed my twins. I soon realised that I was completely unprepared for this humbling journey.
After my twins were born at Gleneagles Hospital, the nurses brought my babies to me every 2-3 hours so they could latch and stimulate milk flow. It was amazing to see them nurse instinctively, but it was extremely painful. My nipples were achingly sore, and I did not know how to latch my babies properly. By the third day, I developed a cracked nipple.
Tip 1: Research breastfeeding before giving birth. My childbirth course did not teach proper technique. Watch YouTube videos on proper latching, and read educational blogs such as KellyMom.
The hospital offered me an electric pump so I could stimulate milk production in between nursing sessions. My colostrum (concentrated milk full of antibodies and other nutrients) came in on the fourth day. I was thrilled but felt uneasy about how to manage at home.
Tip 2: Your milk will probably take a few days to come in. Don’t stress if you can't lactate right away. Stress will suppress milk production. Pack lanolin cream your hospital bag to soothe sore nipples and prevent them from cracking. If nursing is too painful, try pumping instead.
After several frustrating nursing sessions at home, I hired a lactation consultant. She taught me how to latch each baby and tandem nurse, using a football hold and a twin nursing pillow. After a lot of practice, my twins and I learned how to nurse properly. Each baby was very different in his / her style of nursing. My son was impatient and wanted his milk as quickly as possible, while my daughter suckled slowly.
Tip 3: Call a lactation consultant to make a home visit as soon as possible. The earlier you and your babies learn how to breastfeed correctly, the easier the whole process will be.
During the first two months, my husband, helper, and confinement nanny helped with feedings. They bottle fed the twins formula and breast milk, while I nursed as often as possible. To build up my supply, I used an electric breast pump in between nursing sessions. I pumped every 2-3 hours, waking up twice each night to pump milk because prolactin levels are highest between 1am and 4am. After two months, I was able to produce enough milk for my twins. But milk production consumed all of my free time, and I had to plan all of our activities around my pumping schedule.
Tip 4: A pumping bra is convenient for hands free pumping sessions. Choose the correct sized flanges for your pump, and rub olive oil or lanolin in the narrow part of the flange so you don’t develop any blisters from the friction. Drink lots of water before and after your pumping sessions, and queue up lots of Netflix shows!
At seven months, I developed mastitis (infection of breast tissue), which was excruciatingly painful. I was bedridden for two days, took antibiotics for two weeks, and my affected breast was extremely sensitive for a month. I had to hand express my milk while my breast was healing. Two months later, I encountered mastitis again. This time, the symptoms were more debilitating, and I was struck with bad diarrhea from the antibiotics.
The transition from breast milk to formula
After I recovered, I decided to wean my twins and feed them formula. At nine months, my babies had already tripled their birth weight and were eating solids three times a day. I slowly dropped one pumping session a week and stopped expressing milk when my twins were ten months old.
Breastfeeding is immensely beneficial for bonding and nutrition. Nursing twins, however, is a massive challenge. Both breast milk and formula can help your babies thrive. If you decide to breastfeed, prepare yourself for the numerous challenges ahead and seek help as often as you need.
Kelly Mom is an educational, evidence-based website on pregnancy, breastfeeding, and parenthood. Exclusive Pumping provides useful info for those want to exclusively pump or who want to build up their milk supply. Science of Mom is by a PhD mother who writes informative, well researched posts on parenting topics, particularly on breastfeeding, nutrition, and sleep.
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