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From the moment you find out there are two babies in there instead of just one, you might hear from a LOT of people that breastfeeding twins is just not possible. You may even be having your own doubts that it’ll be possible. But, the truth is, many twin moms breastfeed! For me, breastfeeding definitely didn’t start OUT easy. But once my babies and I got the hang of it, it was the EASIEST thing.
After nursing my twins for 2 years, struggling, and learning, I have a few tips and tricks that might just help you as well.
And just a note, if you don’t actually WANT to breastfeed, or you just aren’t making milk, babies aren’t growing or WHATEVER, there is absolutely no shame in feeding your twins formula.
Preparing for Breastfeeding your Twins
Your breastfeeding journey CAN start the first day your babies are born. But here’s an important truth. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO! Sure you want to do what you can, pumping and attempting to breastfeed if your babies are able. But even if you can’t breastfeed day one, you might be able to eventually.
I was lucky to be able to PARTIALLY breastfeed from the beginning. One baby was strong enough to attempt breastfeeding most of the time, and the other was trying just once or twice a day.
1. Nipple Confusion is not (really) Real
There I said it. As a new mom, you are constantly being bombarded with this nipple confusion business. But studies show that early pacifier and bottle use don’t cause early breastfeeding problems. So if your babies need to be tube fed, or bottle-fed in the early days, and you WANT to breastfeed, don’t panic.
In fact, as a working mom that NEEDED my babies to bottle feed, I think giving bottles early is a huge benefit for baby and mom. If anything, I wish I’d given my babies more bottles early on. I NEEDED them to take a bottle. I did not need them to nurse. My kiddos hated bottles the first few weeks I was at work. They seemed to be always holding out for the breast. They’d only take a tiny amount at a time from their bottle.
Also, pacifier use is shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. As a parent of premature twins, you will probably want to do everything you can do to reduce that risk. So rest assured knowing that pacifiers are ok, and won’t disrupt your breastfeeding journey.
2. Ask for a Pump at the Hospital, or Rent a Hospital Grade Pump for Home
Not all pumps are created equal. Hospital-grade pumps are great for establishing milk in the early days. They can help you get set up for breastfeeding, even if your baby isn’t yet able to nurse right away. So if a lactation specialist hasn’t come to you at the hospital, ask for one. Ask for a hospital-grade pump there at the hospital. These things are typically covered by insurance, and can make a world of difference in getting you set up long term to breastfeed.
If you weren’t able to get a hospital-grade pump at the hospital, look into hospital-grade pump rentals. Insurance will often cover the costs, or there may be a reasonable out-of-pocket rental fee for a shorter term rental. If everything goes well, you’ll only need the hospital-grade pump for a few days or weeks, depending on the situation.
3. Get early help if you can
A great lactation specialist can assure you that you are on the right track (even if it doesn’t FEEL like it), help you start supplementing with formula, or even switch to formula. They are experts in breastfeeding and can help SO much.
I was lucky enough to have a fantastic lactation specialist in the hospital. If one doesn’t come to you, ask! Typically, the hospital employs one or more. So make sure and use this service if you can. It’s a great head start in your breastfeeding journey.
In the hospital, my lactation specialist taught me SO much. She let me know that I needed to be pumping from the beginning since my babies were small. She recommended we try nursing for just a few minutes each session. That way, the babies would build up the strength to eventually be able to breastfeed, but would not get overtired. And she set up a schedule for supplementing my smaller twin to make sure he got enough to eat.
A lactation specialist will give you recommendations specific to you and your babies, and can get you on track for a successful breastfeeding journey.
3. Get the Right Gear
Breastfeeding twins is hard work! Don’t be afraid to use any tools that might make your job a little bit easier. These are my favorite breastfeeding necessities.
Once you HAVE milk, it’s probably going to be squirting like a volcano at random and inconvenient times. Breast pads keep your bra and top dry, at least some of the time. I love these reusable breast pads because they are WAY more comfortable than disposable pads, easy to toss in with the rest of the laundry, and I never had to worry about running out. I found the stickers on the disposable pads never stuck where I wanted them, and always stuck everywhere I didn’t want them.
A Breast Pump
A breast pump is super important to keep supply going whenever you can’t breastfeed. If one or more babies are not yet strong enough to breastfeed, or if you are lucky enough to have babies that sleep longer than 3 hours early on, pumping is so important to keep your supply from disappearing. I had the Medela Pump, provided by my insurance company, and it worked great. But the Spectra is the number 1 pump I see recommended in mom groups.
A Twin Breastfeeding Pillow
A great twin breastfeeding pillow is a total game-changer when it comes to tandem feeding. MyBreastFriend twin nursing pillow was my number 1 breastfeeding tool, and an absolute necessity for months (and I continued to use it most of the time for 2 YEARS). MyBreastFriend has a firm foam pillow, with a stable spot for baby to lie. It positions them in the right spot, and keeps them in place. So if you need to adjust baby A a little bit, baby A won’t get jerked off the breast. The surface is flat, with a lip around the edge, reducing the chance of a baby rolling off the edge. It even has a little pocket on the front for chapstick or a burp cloth. I LOVED that thing!
The Twin Z is another great breastfeeding pillow. The biggest plus of the Twin Z is that it opens up and can be used as a sit-up assist pillow, or for tummy time for babies who hate tummy time. As a breastfeeding pillow, I’d say it’s adequate, but for me, it didn’t compete with MyBreastFriend. Twin Z positions babies correctly, but the rounded top means you really need to work to keep them in the right spot. But, because it functions in a few ways, I think it’s still worth considering purchasing.
A Water Bottle You Love
A great water bottle is so important to help you stay hydrated when you are nursing twins. Also, I was always so hot, and always sweating, so a water bottle that actually keeps your water super cold makes a big difference. I love this humongous Hydroflask water bottle because it holds enough water to last for more than 10 minutes, and it keeps the water icy cold for hours and hours! It’s nice to not need to whisper-shout at your spouse in the middle of the night (trying to wake up your spouse without waking up the babies) because you are so thirsty and trapped!
This insulated straw cup is another excellent option. I loved my big water bottle, but I was always a little concerned that I’d drop it on one of the babies, and it was HEAVY. The straw cup is small enough to comfortably hold in your hand, and the straw makes it easy to hold. You might need a helpful spouse available to refill it for you when you are stuck, since it’s not huge.
4. Make a great breastfeeding spot for yourself
Here’s the truth – you are going to spend a LOT of time breastfeeding, especially with twins. And with twins, it’s extra important to have a breastfeeding station where you are comfortable and you have everything you need within reach.
Breastfeeding twins means spending a lot of time essentially topless, especially in the beginning when you and babies are still learning. For me, that was uncomfortable, and I felt much more comfortable being in a more private spot in the house. Then I could be away from visiting guests, and wouldn’t be seen from the window.
Set up a table that you can easily reach (even while nursing or nap trapped). You’ll want a spot for water, snacks, breast pads, nipple shields, clean burp cloths, chapstick, a phone charger, nipple cream, and anything else you might want.
It’s also really nice to have a TV within view from your spot. My babies spent so much time dozing, and I didn’t want to move them. They sleep through everything when they are tiny, so why not catch up on your favorite show while you are nap trapped.
5. Breastfeeding Twins is a Marathon not a Sprint
Breastfeeding twins has a lot of extra complications over breastfeeding a singleton. First, MANY many twins are born premature and may not be ready to breastfeed from day one. The time to feed two before you get the hang of it is a lot, making it feel pretty overwhelming. But tandem feeding adds another layer of complexity.
My twins were born at 36 weeks, and one was strong enough to breastfeed, but one was not. Plus, my nipples are less than ideal for breastfeeding. For close to 6 weeks, we struggled. They latch and unlatch 100 times, so I’d end up with milk spraying all over the place. There was a lot of spit up, and a lot of frustration.
But then suddenly, it was easy. SO easy. I could pick up both babies, pop them on, and get them fed in less than 10 minutes. I could do it easily, without help, and I didn’t need to wash any bottles, or do any prep. It FINALLY paid off.
So if you are a couple of weeks in, frustrated, crying because it takes so long, don’t give up! Any day now, the switch will flip and suddenly it’ll be easy! Learning from my lactation specialist that it is totally normal to take over a month to really get the hang of breastfeeding really gave me some perspective.
6. Keep Working with a Lactation Specialist
Because learning to breastfeed does take time, but you don’t want to keep going down the path if something really is wrong, keep working with lactation specialist. They are the expert and are just extremely helpful. You might need a few sessions with a specialist, or maybe just one more to get things on track. But it’s not a huge time or financial commitment, most of the time.
When I was still frustrated and just not getting it a couple weeks in, I was able to hire another one to come TO MY HOUSE! I did have to pay a bit extra to have someone come to the house. BUT it meant I didn’t have to pack up infant twins and get out of the house.
If the extra cost of having a lactation specialist come to you is not an option, don’t give up hope. My insurance covered a visit to the lactation specialist’s office 100%. Some lactation centers set up times for nursing moms to go in and breastfeed with an expert watching. They may have a station to do weighted feed, and more. Ask for pricing, because even if your insurance doesn’t cover, there may be low cost or free services to support you.
7. Focus on hydration and getting enough to eat
Even when I’m not nursing, I drink a LOT of water. Like 2-3 liters a day. While nursing twins, I drank even more. Obviously drinking enough water isn’t going to be the magic bullet for everyone, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. Plus, being properly hydrated is always beneficial and it’s a great time to focus on healthy habits.
Those first few weeks (or even months) is not the time to put yourself on a super restrictive diet. Your body needs a TON of extra calories to support breastfeeding twins, approximately 1000 calories per day above what you’d need if you weren’t breastfeeding. So let yourself eat! I kept a bowl of the super delicious and extremely high-calorie trail mix at my little nursing station, ate about 6 meals a day, and as many snacks as I wanted. My body craved lot of protein, and lots of fruit and vegetables. Salads have never tasted so good! But I ate plenty of high calorie, not so healthy foods as well. And even with all of that extra eating, the baby weight came off in 4-5 months. Obviously not everyone will have the same results as me, but the point is to remember that you are burning calories like crazy!
8. Try Nipple Shields
My letdown was so powerful it could probably spray milk across the room. It was a bit too powerful for my tiny babies. The flow would overwhelm them, and even choke them a little bit. Nipple shields can help regulate the flow making it so babies won’t be frustrated by the massive amount of flow they get right away.
Nipple shields can also help with latch if your nipple isn’t absolutely perfect for your babies’ mouths. However, they can also add one more frustration to the process. Trying to get them positioned just right is tough . Then once you get it, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your baby to latch before it falls off again. But, for me, they were only needed until my babies got the hang of breastfeeding. It helped them learn, but they were not necessary long term.
Because they are just one more thing you have to wash, I’d recommend buying at least 6 so you can make it through the night without washing.
9. Pump when needed, but realize that it’s not as effective as nursing
A regular double electric pump is great for keeping supply going when you can’t be there to nurse your baby, or when they decide to skip a nursing session in the night (if you are ever that lucky- I was never that lucky). And you’ll definitely want to stick with the pumping.
But, for me, a pump was just not as effective at completely emptying the breast. I had to go back to work at 12 weeks, but was able to work only half time. So while I did have to pump a LOT, I also had the flexibility to squeeze in some extra nursing sessions if ever my supply seemed to be dwindling.
10. Eat Lactation Cookies
Truth told, I have no idea if lactation cookies actually work. But I do know that these lactation cookies taste delicious, and that nursing twins is really hard so moms who do it deserve a cookie. Or a hundred cookies. Also, my husband was afraid to eat them so they were all MINE!
11. Don’t be afraid to quit if it’s not working for you anymore
I breastfed my twins for 2 years, and by the end, I was DONE! Like done done. I had such bad nursing aversion that I literally could not stand it another second. But I was so afraid that if I stopped, the boys would never sleep again, or they would scream until the end of time, or would suddenly start getting sick all the time, or SOMETHING. But none of that happened. They were totally fine.
And putting myself through that anguish was totally not worth it. If you don’t want to breastfeed anymore, YOU DON’T HAVE TO!
These are the things that worked for me, and helped me have a successful breastfeeding journey with my late preterm twins. But I really hope some of the things I learned will help you as well!
Also check out some of our other infant twins tips here.