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Is it Possible to Breastfeed Twins?

By: Susan M. Heim

In speaking with many moms of multiples over the years, one of the topics brought up most is whether it’s possible to breastfeed twins. Surprisingly, many moms-to-be of multiples are discouraged from breastfeeding by the medical community or members of their family, but they really want to give it a try. I won’t lie and say that breastfeeding twins is easy. It takes a lot of patience, determination and dedication. But if you possess all of these qualities (and a sufficient milk supply, of course), I strongly encourage you to go for it! Here are some things to keep in mind:

is-it-possible-to-breasfeed-twins.jpgGet support. Don’t hesitate to ask your husband, mother or friends to help until you feel comfortable doing things on your own. If you have a supportive pediatrician, don’t be shy about asking questions. Seek out other mothers who have successfully nursed twins. (You may be able to find them through a local multiples group or an online support group.) Consider contacting the La Leche League or a lactation consultant if you’re having problems. (Your hospital or doctor can provide you with contact information.) Make your preferences for breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding known to your doctors and the hospital before you give birth so they will support you in your efforts. If they are not supportive, you may want to consider changing doctors or hospitals.

Learn to tandem nurse. Breastfeeding twins can be time-consuming, so it’s very important to learn how to nurse both babies at the same time. At first, it can be difficult to place both babies in position to breastfeed, especially when they’re young and need head support, so don’t hesitate to ask for help in bringing your babies up to you. Many women find the best position for their babies is the “football hold,” with the babies lying head to head and their bodies stretching around the sides of your body. You’ll also want to position pillows or a Boppy under each arm to bring your babies up to your level so you don’t need to slouch to reach them.

Be organized. When you’re sleep-deprived, it’s hard to remember when you last nursed, which baby nursed on which side, and how long they nursed. Keep a running log with this information, plus a record of wet and soiled diapers. This may be especially important if your twins are premature and your doctor has instructed you to weigh your twins and record bowel movements to make sure they’re getting proper nourishment. This information is also helpful if others will be giving the twins a bottle of breast milk or formula.

Take care of yourself. For optimum milk supply, drink lots of fluids (especially water, not soda!), eat healthy foods and get as much sleep as possible (easier said than done, I know). Don’t wear yourself out by trying to keep up with cleaning and cooking. Let others help you out or let it go for a while. You’re the only one who can nurse your twins; anyone can do the housework. Make sure you check with your physician before taking any medications or alcohol that might be passed on to your babies.

Be persistent. When you’re dealing with the hormonal seesaw of emotions that follow childbirth, it’s easy to get frustrated or break down in tears. It’s okay to wallow for a bit, but don’t give up! Many mothers report that it takes a while before breastfeeding becomes second nature. Give yourself and your babies an adequate adjustment period.

Get the best breast pump you can afford. If you’re pumping your milk, mothers have told me that an industrial-strength double pump is a must for twins’ moms! It will pump your milk most efficiently and quickly, saving you a tremendous amount of time. Pumped breast milk can be refrigerated or frozen for later use, and this allows others to help you feed your babies.

Change the program for preemies. If your twins were premature, they may have more difficulty with sucking and swallowing. Don’t be distressed if you have to pump your breast milk for a while until your babies are ready to take to the breast.

Change the scenery for older babies. Babies over six months old may start to get distracted by the sights and sounds of the world around them. You may need to find a quiet place to nurse them, such as a darkened bedroom. Avoid nursing in front of the TV or in a room with lots of activity.

Breastfeeding twins is a huge commitment, but well worth the time and effort when you consider the rewards: the best nourishment for your babies, a great bonding experience with your twins, and the convenience of not having to prepare and heat bottles. But if you find that you’ve become a twenty-four-hour milk machine, talk to your doctor about using a combination of breast milk and formula so that others can help out with the feeding. (Or pump your breast milk into bottles.) This way, your babies still get the benefits of breast milk, and you reap the rewards of more rest and help!

About The Author
Susan M. Heim

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