Double the mouths to feed, double the feeding troubles? Not necessarily.
You just gave birth to two new humans, and just like that, it’s time to feed them. The fundamentals of breastfeeding remain the same whether you have twins or not, but nursing multiples comes with its own set of questions and particulars. After all, you’ll be juggling two babies with different breastfeeding schedules and abilities; and if, like most twins, they’re born prematurely, they’ll need extra help to learn how to latch. So what does it take to breastfeed twins?
“No one knows how to breastfeed twins overnight,” said mother of twins and founder of Twiniversity, Natalie Diaz. “Set small goals for yourself. Preparation is key -- not just having the right supplies, but also having extra hands to help you when you begin and finish breastfeeding sessions.”
There's no one way to go about nursing twins -- every baby is different. As a lactation consultant and founder of the on-demand breastfeeding consulting service boober, I know that there's a steep curve with breastfeeding twins. So here are 7 tips to set yourself up for success.
1. Start breastfeeding very soon after the birth.
One of the biggest concerns for twin parents is getting a milk supply big enough for two. To do that, our breasts require frequent, regular stimulation to make the right amount of milk for our babies. So if you can, initiate breastfeeding within the hour and allow the twins (either one or both) to suckle at your breasts whenever they show signs of hunger.
If your babies require time in the NICU and you are unable to room with them, you'll need to stimulate your breasts by hand expression or with a hospital-grade pump, which the hospital should provide. Also keep in mind that many twins are born prematurely and can thus need more time and help to learn how to properly latch -- all the more reason for you to pump or hand express to keep stimulating your breasts.
2. Room-in at the hospital if you can and sleep near your babies at home.
If you can, keep your babies very close to you at all times as you are learning to breastfeed and building milk supply. At home, you can use a co-sleeper or nearby bassinet so you can hear and respond to your babies’ feeding cues as quickly as possible.
3. Try tandem nursing early on.
Tandem breastfeeding means breastfeeding your babies simultaneously (one on each breast), which may actually buy you some time to rest and take care of yourself in between feedings! For most new parents of twins, this requires latching one baby on first and having someone else position the other baby on the opposite breast. If tandem is not working for you in the beginning, that’s ok. Practice really does make perfect. So take the time to work on the latch individually with each baby; and once individual latching and feeding is feeling easier, try tandem nursing again (somewhere in the 2- to 6-week mark).
4. Get support early on.
No one is meant to take care of just-born humans alone. As psychotherapist and parent coach Olivia Bergeron, LCSW, the founder of MommyGroove and mother of twins, says, “keep in mind the ratio is usually one breastfeeding parent to one baby. Nursing two infants while recovering from birth and getting your bearings as a parent can be particularly tough.” So if you really want to breastfeed, rally all the help you can get -- whether it’s a family member coming to help during the day or a postpartum doula bringing overnight support.
5. Hire a lactation consultant with twin experience!
Expert support can really make the difference when it comes to feeding twins. A lactation consultant who’s versed in breastfeeding multiples will give you all the tools you need to find the right nursing position, to help you make enough milk for both babies and to ultimately succeed in your breastfeeding journey.
6. Remember that each baby is unique.
Twins are two different people who happen to have been born at the same time. Your babies’ breastfeeding styles and needs may be quite different, so allow yourself the time and patience to get used to each one.
7. Be gentle with yourself as you learn how to feed your twins.
Breastfeeding does not have to be all-or-nothing. With support, practice, and flexibility, you will learn what is right for you and your babies.