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Breastfeeding twins

breastfeeding twins

If you’re about to be the mother of twins, you may be wondering how you can breastfeed two babies. Fear not – it is absolutely possible to breastfeed twins and, with the right approach, it doesn’t have to mean double the work.

Will I have enough milk to breastfeed two babies?

At some point every mum worries about milk supply but when you’re breastfeeding multiple babies, it’s easy to wonder how it’s possible to feed more than one human being (not including yourself). Rest assured, many mothers of twins, and even triplets, do exclusively breastfeed for the recommended six months.

When it comes to supply, remember the golden rule of breastfeeding: ‘the more milk you feed, the more milk you make’. Every time you breastfeed your babies, your body gets the message to produce more milk. If you are feeding two babies and ‘draining’ both breasts, your body will begin to produce enough milk to keep two growing babies happy.

Remember that your body has already spent nine months nourishing two developing babies – it is more than capable of doing so now.

When your babies are going through a growth spurt they’ll be feeding more often and you may worry that you won’t have enough milk to sustain them. But their insatiable hunger will only serve to help your body produce more milk.

If you want to be sure that your babies are getting enough milk, then check their nappies. After the first week, they should be feeding eight to twelve times a day and producing six to eight wet nappies each a day.

Is it exhausting breastfeeding two babies?

While breastfeeding in itself shouldn’t be exhausting, what can be tiring is that every feed takes longer and you’ll be doing it more frequently.

It’s also worth remembering that your twin babies might share many traits but it doesn’t follow that they’ll share a feeding pattern. You may find that when one is sleeping, the other wakes for a feed. If you want to maintain any sanity or energy, you’ll need a good routine and some support.

Try to see breastfeeding as an opportunity to sit down and enjoy the chance to bond with your babies, even if you have to snatch those moments when you can.

How do I breastfeed twins?

If you can, breastfeed your babies as soon as possible after giving birth. Lots of skin-to-skin contact will help get breastfeeding established.

As with breastfeeding a single baby, the most important thing is getting the latch right. Remember, your babies’ tummies should always face yours to prevent them from having to turn their heads to feed and they should take a good mouthful of breast rather than just suck the nipple. If breastfeeding ever hurts, get your latch checked by your health visitor or midwife.

You can then breastfeed twins either one at a time or at the same time with a baby on each breast. There are benefits to each approach.

Separate feeding

  • 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.

I'd always feed separately when out, as I couldn't find a way to tandem feed without basically being naked from the waist up in public.

  • Some women feel more comfortable and less conspicuous feeding one baby rather than two, especially in public.
  • It avoids the problem of what to do when one baby finishes feeding before the other (you don’t have to sit there with one boob hanging out, drawing a crowd).
  • Allows you to find the best position for each baby – what works for one baby may not work for the other.

Simultaneous (tandem) feeding

  • 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 let-down reflex in the other breast, enabling the other baby to get more milk with less effort.
  • Means your other baby won't be crying while waiting for a feed.

What positions should I use for tandem breastfeeding?

In the first few weeks you might find it easier to breastfeed your twins separately, at least until you have it established and you’re in a routine. If your babies were delivered by c-section, then it may initially be difficult to position yourself comfortably in order to feed both babies simultaneously.

Try to get the hang of tandem feeding as soon as you can – it made such a difference to routine in the first few weeks. When you do decide to feed your twins at the same time, there are several positions you can adopt. Before trying any of these, get yourself a large nursing pillow to help take the weight of your babies and extra pillows to prop yourself up. You can buy nursing pillows that are specially designed for feeding twins. twin breastfeeding positions
  • Double cradle hold: both babies in cradle position with your nursing pillow propping up their bodies and feet pointing towards each other.
  • Double rugby hold: one baby under each arm. You can also mix this up and have just one baby in the rugby hold and the other in the cradle hold.
  • Parallel hold: babies are angled in the same direction with the first baby held in the cradle position and the second baby held parallel to this.
  • Reclining: this can be a great position, particularly if you need some rest. Lay back slightly and place your babies on their fronts supported by your nursing pillow.

It’s a good idea to alternate sides when breastfeeding twins, swapping your twins between breasts. This will help to equalise your milk supply and it’s better for your babies’ development if they are not always lying in the same position.

What should I do if my babies want to feed at different times?

My babies were different weights and the smallest wanted to feed more often. The best thing I did was throw out all the advice books, trust my instincts and just go with the flow.

It’s quite possible that your babies will have different feeding patterns. One baby may be smaller or sleepier than the other. If one baby wakes, then you should wake the other and try to feed them both at the same time.

Different feeding patterns can also mean that one baby will wean from the breast quicker than the other. This is fine but just make sure you know that each is getting enough milk, even once you’re starting on solids.

Can I combine breastfeeding and bottle feeding with my twins?

Some mothers do find life easier when they mix feed their twins. Mixed feeding involves combining breastfeeding with bottle feeding.

Bottle feeding doesn’t necessarily involve giving formula to your babies. Instead, you can choose to feed them expressed breastmilk. That way they are still getting all of the benefits of breastmilk but other people can help with the feeding itself.

This can be particularly helpful if your babies have different feeding patterns, but it’s advisable to wait until your twins are at least six weeks old. A bottle requires your babies to use a different suckling action, so introducing one too early on, could confuse them and cause problems with latch when you are breastfeeding.

Can I breastfeed my premature twins?

Most twins are delivered at 37 weeks gestation (and triplets at 33 weeks), although some twins can arrive earlier than this and will be considered premature. Depending on how early your babies were born, you may be able to breastfeed them straight away or may need to wait a few weeks.

Babies born at 37 weeks are considered to be ‘full-term’ with a fully developed digestive system meaning that they should be able to breastfeed with no trouble.

Mine were born at 35 weeks and couldn't quite latch on initially, so I gave them bottles of expressed milk for the first few days.

Babies born earlier than this are likely to be kept in a neonatal intensive care unit for a period of time. Babies who have arrived very early have usually not yet developed the sucking action required to breastfeed but they can still receive breastmilk through a syringe, bottle or a tube.

If you want to breastfeed your prem babies, you’ll be encouraged by your midwife to express milk within an hour of your twins’ birth. Your first milk, colostrum, is packed full of antibodies that can help your premature babies fight any potential infections.

You will need to continue to express milk frequently – about eight times every 24 hours. This will help you to maintain a good milk supply, prevent your breasts from becoming engorged and, most importantly, provide nourishment for your babies while they are in special care. Expressing milk is also a good way for you to feel that you are contributing to your babies’ care even though you can’t yet take them home.

Where can I get advice on breastfeeding my twins?

There are several organisations that can provide further advice and support for breastfeeding and may even have meetings in your area.

  • TAMBA provides a support line called Twinline, open every day from 10am to 1pm and 7pm to 10pm. Its number is 0800 138 0509.
  • The Multiple Births Foundation is available on 0203 313 3519.
  • The National Breastfeeding Helpline is available 9.30am to 9.30pm every day of the year on 0300 100 0212.
  • La Leche League has a helpline that is run by specially trained breastfeeding counsellors. It's number is 0345 120 2918.