Twins and higher order multiples (HOMs) have the same needs for breast milk as a singleton. Every major pediatric association in the world recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life with complementary solids offered alongside breast milk thereafter. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding to continue for up to two years or beyond. No matter how long you choose to breastfeed your babies, breast milk continues to have benefits for both mother and babies.
Though your babies may have been preterm, you may have struggled to build your milk supply while you were separated from your babies in the early days, and/or transitioning to breastfeeding was challenging, if you were able to overcome these obstacles and find yourself nursing your babies there will come a day when they will wean. Worldwide, taking cultural norms and values out of the equation, human babies will typically wean between the ages of 2 ½ – 7 years old. 1 This is not to say that your babies have to self-wean, or wean between these years though.
There are several approaches to weaning twins: mother-led, baby-led, or a combination of both. Mothers may need to wean abruptly, though if this isn’t required then it is easier on a mother’s body and for her baby for weaning to take place gradually. Baby-led is directed by the baby and his cues, rather than directed by the mother. Most twin moms use a combination of both approaches – with the mother watching her babies’ cues but sometimes dropping a feed when necessary. There is no right or wrong way; nursing should be enjoyable for both mothers and babies and if either of you are unhappy then the nursing relationship could cause more harm than good by forcing it to continue.
Physically, your babies need breast milk for the first year of life and if you wean before this time then your milk must be replaced with a substitute (either artificial milk or donor milk). After this time, breast milk can be replaced with foods – which could be foods that the rest of the family already enjoys. If your babies seem to “wean” before a year, it is actually a nursing strike and you can use strategies for resolving a nursing strike to get through the situation.
It is also important to remember that your babies are individuals and it is completely normal for one baby to self-wean while the other baby continues to nurse – sometimes for months, other times for years! Watching and responding to your babies cues in this fashion will truly allow you to meet each baby’s unique and individual needs.