Breastfeeding twins was one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life. Here are five things I learned along the way:
- You have 2 breasts for 2 babies – you CAN do it!
The first thing I researched after learning I was pregnant with twins was whether it was possible to exclusively nurse them. My heart wanted to and my mind was absolutely determined, so when I read the section on breastfeeding multiples in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding I felt empowered and convinced I could nurse my babies without supplementing. After they were born I received A LOT of pressure from the medical community to “fortify” my milk since my boys were preemies and both under four pounds. It was a hard and stressful time as I really felt like my milk was all they needed and yet, if something happened to them, it would be all my fault since I went against medical advice. In the end, I never had to supplement or fortify my milk, something for which I’m very thankful. Now that I’ve been able to read the current research about premature babies the dangers of formula I am honestly shocked that it was suggested I fortify my milk. On the other side of nursing my twins, I can attest they grew perfectly, were and are rarely sick, and I have no regrets about exclusively nursing them until they self-weaned. It’s true, you have two breasts for two babies. . . if you are blessed with twins don’t worry about nursing. . . just do it!
- Establish your supply in the beginning
In the first few weeks after having a baby your breasts are laying down prolactin receptors to tell your body how much milk to make. It is really important to nurse your babies on demand and, if they are preemies or unable to nurse for any reason, to pump often in the beginning. Since by boys were preemies I began pumping within four hours of their birth and pumped with a double-electric breast pump for 20 minutes on each side, eight times a day (read the complete story here). My body got the message too! At the height of my pumping I would get from 65-80 ounces each day. (To put this in perspective, a baby from months 1-6 usually eats around 26 ounces a day, so I needed about 52 ounces a day for twins.) My husband and I were surprised one day when we counted 13 gallons of frozen breast milk in our deep freezer!
- Nursing twins together saves time, but never wake both if only one wants to nurse
Looking back, it seems like I spent the first year of my twins’ lives nursing them. Now, I know I must have done other things, including taking care of their very active older sister – but I did nurse a lot. And I quickly realized that if they were both awake and wanting to nurse, nursing together was not only a fun way to bond together but an essential time saver. And it’s not just important for Type A multi-taskers like myself. As they grow and notice one gets to nurse and the other doesn’t there can be lots of tears too (something I found out in public once while trying to discreetly nurse one at a time). However, if one woke at night and the other didn’t, I never woke the second. I treasured the opportunities I had to only nurse one at a time and cherish those memories just as much as nursing them together.
- Nursing lying down allows all three of you to get rest
The extra oxytocin from two nursing at the same time always made it easy to relax! As a mom of multiples, you will need to catch ZZZ’s whenever you can and learning how to nurse them at the same time while lying down will allow all three of you to fall asleep together and catch a quick catnap.
- It’s doubly challenging . . . and doubly rewarding
Though it is different than nursing a singleton there are many amazing things you get to experience as well. Instead of just falling in love with one new baby, you get to fall head over heels for two – and watch their blooming relationship unfold as well as they discover one another right before your very eyes. Nursing two babies can be demanding, but really taking care of two babies is going to be extra work at times anyway. Nursing was my solitude, my relaxation, my peace, my time to think and compose love poems, my time to treasure memories, my time to reflect, be still, and know. . . know that I am so blessed by these two precious miracles, my twins.