You know that breast feeding your infant provides an opportunity for bonding as well as providing a number of health benefits for your child. However, many parents to be, even those who plan on breast feeding right from the beginning, find themselves wondering how they will manage to breast feed when they discover that the infant they are expecting is not one child, but two!
Just take a deep breath, because it is possible to breast feed twins, without either baby suffering from sharing their mother’s milk. Here are some tips that can help you to breast feed your twins.
- Set Up One or More Comfortable Nursing Stations – Twins often require more time to feed than a single child. Therefore it is essential to sit up one or more comfortable areas where you can sit or lie comfortably when breast feeding your infants.
- Breast Feed on Cue Not on Schedule- When feeding twins you shouldn’t rush to get them on a feeding schedule. Instead you need to feed your babies on demand or cue. Keep in mind that twins are often born prematurely and therefore eat smaller amounts, but need to eat more often than most full term infants. In addition, twins, even identical twins, are individuals and therefore may not want or need to eat at exactly the same time. By feeding your baby as they demand food you can better meet their individual needs.
- Start Out Nursing Only One Baby at a Time- It often takes time for an infant to learn to latch onto the breast properly. Therefore it is essential that you only feed one infant at a time until you are sure that one infant is latching onto the breast properly before trying to breast feed both infants at once. If possible, have someone to offer support during the first three or four months that can offer to hold the other twin and comfort them while you feed the other infant. This will allow to concentrate on each individual infant while feeding your child.
- Breast Feed or Pump to Encourage More Milk Production- If you are having difficult producing enough milk to breast feed exclusively, you still need to breast feed or pump 8 times during a twenty-four hour period. Make sure that pump or breast feed during the night to help keep up your milk supply and encourage more milk to flow.
- If Supplemental Feedings are Needed Alternate Between Infants- If you find that you need to supplement feedings in order to supply both babies with enough milk to stay healthy then alternate those supplemental feeding between infants, breast feeding one infant one time and the other twin the next so that both babies get the benefits only breast milk can supply.
- Get Additional Support For the First Few Weeks or Months- Raising twins especially during the first few weeks or months can be physically and mentally draining. Having additional help and support during the first few weeks or months can result in your getting more rest and feeling more relaxed. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be for you to care for your baby and the easier it will be when feeding time comes. The support you get, can be help with house work, or someone to watch the babies while you get short naps. They may simply be someone who sits with you when you are feeding and encourages you while keeping you company.
Should I follow a rigid or flexible nursing schedule?
For the first few weeks, infants need to breastfeed eight to 12 times per day. That breaks down to about once every two to three hours, day and night. Each session should last about 20 to 30 minutes—but wait for each baby to signal he or she’s done before calling it quits (the suck-swallow pattern will slow down to about four sucks to one swallow). A flexible schedule is best, and feeding your babies at the same time is the most economical use of your precious time. However, babies are individuals, so one twin may want to nurse every three hours, and the other, every two hours. Some mothers find that letting the hungrier baby dictate the time of the next feed for both works best. Some mothers nurse on demand during the day and follow a schedule at night.
How can I hold two babies to nurse at the same time?
Use rolled-up towels or a nursing pillow to support your babies. You can buy nursing pillows designed specifically for nursing twins .
With the help of a pillow, you can vary your nursing positions. For example, you can rotate from the cradle hold (across your chest) to the football hold (along your side), or you can use a combination of the two. It’s a good idea to alternate breasts with every feeding, especially if one twin is a stronger feeder. If it’s hard to keep track of who was on each breast last, try alternating breasts every 24 hours instead of after each feed. Switching back and forth regularly helps produce equal amounts of milk in both breasts and lessens the chance of blocked milk ducts. Alternating breasts also helps your babies’ eyes get equal exercise and stimulation.
If you have preemies, and one has to stay in the hospital longer than the other, you can simultaneously breastfeed on one side and pump on the other to keep up your milk supply.
Can I produce enough milk to nourish more than one baby?
The law of supply and demand applies to nursing mothers of twins and multiples. If you breastfeed when your babies want to eat, you can trust your body to supply enough milk. A low milk supply can almost always be corrected by nursing more often. If your babies aren’t emptying your breasts, you may need to pump.
Keep lots of water nearby, have a Lactation cookie and Muffin. The oxytocin your body releases when you nurse can make you very thirsty while lactation muffin and lactation cookies will help boost your milk supply.
What if I bond with one baby more than the other?
This can happen, especially if one of your babies has to stay in the hospital longer than the other. You’ve had more time to get to know the at-home baby, and you’ve developed a stronger attachment to that twin. Or, if you have one sickly baby, you may find you’re giving that baby more attention. The important thing is to be aware of your feelings and work to give your babies equal love and attention. Happily, breastfeeding brings you in close contact with both babies and can help speed up the attachment process.
Do I ever get a break?
You don’t have to be on the job at all times. In fact, you shouldn’t be. Sleep when the babies sleep, if you can. Call in your support teams when you’re feeling frazzled, beginning with your mate. Let him take over while you take off, even if it’s for only 15 or 20 minutes. Get out of hearing range of the babies by going for a walk, taking a hot bath, or reading a magazine in another room. Once your feeding routine is well established, enjoy a night out with your partner or a friend. Remember, you had a life before you became a parent. It’s time to continue where you left off.
Following these tips and those from your doctor or lactation specialist can make breast feeding your twins more successful and enjoyable for both you and your twin infants.