It is important to learn as much as you can about breastfeeding before your babies arrive. Having Twins, by Elizabeth Nobles and Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More! by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada are two books that address the special joys and challenges of having and breastfeeding more than one baby.
Mothers of twins are in special need of support, and one of the best places to find that support about breastfeeding, even before you begin, is at a meeting of La Leche League or Nursing Mothers Council. You are welcome to attend these meetings in your community while you are pregnant, as well as after your babies arrive.
You will want to find a pediatrician who is knowledgeable about lactation. Some questions you may want to ask your baby’s prospective health care provider are:
- How do you feel about breastfeeding in general and about breastfeeding twins?
- Do you think it is possible to exclusively breastfeed twins, without using supplements?
- If one or both of my babies require special care, can I pump my milk to feed my babies?
- How do you encourage mothers and babies to spend time together even while in special care?
A negative response to any of these questions may alert you to a health care provider who may be less than supportive to your breastfeeding. Sometimes there will be a neonatologist present for the birth. It may be a good idea to know their procedures and routines ahead of time.
It is crucial for you to line up help at home. Find a person who will support your decisions and not someone who will be critical. Make it clear to friends and family that you will need help with meals and the housework, so that you will be able to devote all your attention to learning to take care of the babies.
Hiring a postpartum doula who is also a baby nurse who has extensive NICU experience will be one of the best things you can do to ensure you will be in the best position to breastfeeding your babies. Her help can make all the difference.
Learn about pumping your milk while you are still pregnant because you are at higher risk of having to spend a few days separated from your babies than if you were having a singleton birth. A good option is to have a hospital grade double pump available.
When your babies are born
It would be ideal for you to begin breastfeeding as soon as possible after the birth. When a mother is expecting twins, sometimes a surgical birth becomes necessary. In this case, some hours may go by before you can start to breastfeed. However, it is important that you nurse your babies as soon as you are able. Some twin births take place prematurely. If this happens and you are unable to initiate breastfeeding soon after the birth, you can still pump your breasts to initiate lactation. From the moment of birth, your body will begin the process of producing milk for both your babies and its important to express the milk that is beginning to be produced to establish a good milk supply. For this you can use a high quality breast pump that the hospital can make available to you.
Milk from mothers of premature babies is quite different from that of mothers of full term babies. It will have more fat and protein in it, as this baby will need more of these growth factors. If your babies are born early, they will especially need your milk.
If both babies are born healthy, the ideal setup is rooming in with your babies while you are in the hospital.
If it should become necessary that the babies receive a supplement, you may want to look into other methods of feeding such as cup feeding, finger feeding, or using a spoon, medicine dropper or syringe. Bottle feeding a newborn can sometimes interfere with lactation due to the fact that some babies develop a preference for the artificial nipple, making it harder to reestablish breastfeeding.
Once you and your babies are home, you will need to take care of yourself as well as the babies. Eat healthy food, and enjoy frequent snacks (such as low-fat cheese and crackers, vegetables, yogurt and fruit). This is your chance to be able to eat a lot without gaining weight as making milk burns up a lot of calories.. Be sure to drink water, juices, or milk to thirst. It is important that you sleep when the babies are asleep.
Develop a plan for getting the housework and other home management tasks done. Enlist any and all available help, and carefully consider what tasks are most important to you and your family. Assign priorities along with your mate. People’s needs come first, especially babies’ needs, then comes food, then housework and everything else.
Limit your visitors during the first weeks. If family members and friends do come to see the babies, have them be of help to you. They can bring you prepared meals, change diapers, give you a massage, watch the babies while you take a 15 minute walk or a shower, listen to you, or whatever you need. It is important that you ask for the help you need.
Sometimes, mothers of twins receive criticism from those around them who are not educated about breastfeeding. You might feel pressure to use formula or other foods before they are needed or to wean before you feel ready. Sometimes, questions such as “Are you sure you have enough milk?” or “Isn’t this too hard for you?” are enough to dampen a mother’s confidence. Your belief in your ability to produce enough milk for your babies is an important factor in maintaining a great milk supply. Remember always that milk is produced on the principle of supply and demand. The more your babies breastfeed, the more milk your body will produce for them.
Breastfeeding both babies together will save precious time. This works well during the first weeks. After this you may need to breastfeed them one at a time depending on their particular hunger patterns.
There are several different ways that you can position the babies in order to nurse them at the same time. One way is to place the babies in front of you with their legs overlapping, making an X across your lap. Another position is to place both babies in the clutch hold. You will need pillows at your side (and maybe one on your lap) and you will place the babies on the pillows with their legs going toward the back of the chair. Remember that if you are placing the babies in front of you, you must try to keep their whole bodies turned toward you, their chests against your chest. It is important their bodies must not be facing up. This is needed to get a good latch and that is very important to avoid nipple soreness and also to make sure that there is a good transfer of milk so the babies can get what they need to grow and thrive.
Use lots of pillows. There are special pillows available that help in positioning twins, or you can make a nursing pillow yourself.
- Alternate feeding each baby from both breasts. This evens out their particular needs and also gives them extra visual exercise.
- Learn different positions to breastfeed. Learning to nurse while lying down may be a little tricky to learn the first few weeks, but is worth it for the added rest you will get. Having a postpartum doula there to help you will make it easier.
- Prepare diaper changing areas in several different places in your home.
- Newborn babies do not need a daily bath. Just make sure the diaper area and their faces are cleaned every day.