03 Aug Breastfeeding Twins
Breastfeeding twins is perfectly possible. Here is how…
How to establish breastfeeding with your twins
Breast milk is the best food for all babies and giving it even for a short time will be beneficial to their health. Breastfeeding twins is perfectly possible. Women can produce enough milk to feed two babies and you can feed them simultaneously or one at a time – whatever suits you and the babies best.
Breastfeeding is the natural way for mothers to feed their babies, but it is a skill that needs to be mastered by both you and your babies. It is good to start thinking about your choice for feeding early in your pregnancy.
Information on breastfeeding is given in antenatal classes, but will not necessarily address the specifics of feeding twins. One of the key issues for mothers of twins is how to manage the practicalities of feeding more than one baby, and you should be given advice as to how best to do this. If midwives are very busy, maternity support staff can be an excellent source of help.
Many hospitals offer the services of an infant feeding specialist. These are specially trained lactation consultants who are there to advise and support mothers who wish to breastfeed. Your midwife or health visitor should continue to guide you once you are at home, or you can contact one of the organisations that specialise in supporting mothers with breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding can take a little while to establish, so don’t expect too much of yourself at first.
In the early weeks at home try to organise as much help as possible with domestic chores so that you can concentrate on feeding your babies. Fairly soon a pattern or routine that suits you and the babies begins to emerge, and you will find that breastfeeding can be fulfilling and enjoyable. Establishing your milk supply and confidence in breastfeeding in the first few weeks will enable you to make choices about how you will feed your babies as they get older. Early introduction of formula and feeding from a bottle can interfere with the establishment of breastfeeding. Later, some mothers may choose to give some expressed breast milk or formula by bottle, known as ‘combined’ or ‘mixed’ feeding.
The special benefits of breastfeeding twins
- The physical contact helps develop the unique, close bond between mother and baby. For mothers with twins, the opportunity to have one-to-one time with each baby is very special.
- Breast milk is free, so is a financial saving for all families, but is especially helpful with twins.
- It saves time: there is no need to sterilise bottles, make up feeds and wait for the formula to cool several times a day, leaving you with more time to spend with your babies.
- Less preparation is needed when going out (already very time-consuming when two babies are involved).
Feeding separately and together
You have the option of feeding your babies one at a time, or simultaneously, with one baby attached to each breast at the same time.
Advantages of separate feeding:
- It allows you to give one-to-one attention to each baby, something mothers of twins often feel they have little time for.
- You have both hands free to attach and position one baby.
- Once attached, you have a spare hand to rock the other baby, cuddle another child, have a drink etc.
- Some women feel more comfortable and less conspicuous feeding one baby rather than two, especially in public places.
- It avoids the problem of what to do when one finishes feeding before the other.
- It allows you to find the best position for each baby (one baby’s ideal feeding position may not be the same as that of the other).
Benefits of simultaneous feeding:
- It saves time and gives you more time to rest, especially at night.
- If one of your babies has a stronger ‘suck’ than the other, this baby will stimulate the MER in the other breast, enabling the other baby to get more milk with less effort.
- It avoids the disturbance of one baby crying while waiting for a feed.
For the first week or so, it is usually advisable to feed each baby separately until you are confident about your feeding technique.
This is especially the case if this is your first experience of breastfeeding. Similarly, it can take a little while for your babies to learn how to latch on properly, particularly if they were born early, and you may find you need both hands to help them. Your other baby can be placed in a baby chair or beside you until it is their turn to feed.
Once you have established breastfeeding, it is up to you whether you feed the babies together or separately. You might choose to feed them one at a time on some occasions, but simultaneously on others: if you are alone, you may prefer single feeding, but find you can feed simultaneously if there is someone around to provide an extra pair of hands. You may also change what you do over time, as your babies get bigger and heavier. Try to involve your partner from the beginning and ask visitors to come at feeding time, so that they can help you.
- Pass you the second baby if you are trying to feed two babies at once
- Wind and settle the other baby if you are feeding them separately
- Get you a glass of water or a snack.
Different positions for simultaneous breastfeeding
There are many different positions for breastfeeding two babies at the same time. There are no rules, and you should try out different positions and do whatever is comfortable for you and your babies. You may find that one position works really well to begin with, but another is better when the babies have grown a bit, or when you have recovered from the delivery.
Don’t forget that you can use a combination of positions, too (i.e. you don’t have to have the babies in identical positions). For example, you could have one in the cradle hold and one in the underarm hold. Ask your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding counsellor to help you try some of the various positions. Speak to other mothers who breastfed twins, as they can offer helpful information about positions that worked for them.
Excerpt from Expecting Twins? by Professor Mark Kilby, Jane Denton and Debbie Beckerman, published by Hardie Grant Books, $34.95.
Words by Debbie Beckerman