By Krystal Workman
When my twins were 10 weeks old, an acquaintance asked, “How do you feed two babies? I’m sure you can’t breastfeed them.” I simply replied, “Two babies, two boobs. It’s totally possible to breastfeed them.”
Although I appeared confident, inside I was actually struggling with confidence due to our rocky start. My premature twins began life being fed through the nose in the NICU, one twin couldn’t be held for the first 7 days, and the NICU staff only permitted 5-minute “practice” breastfeeding sessions toward the end of their stay.
My twins came home preferring the bottle, but I slowly weaned them to the breast and built up my milk supply through pumping to match demand. To hear someone say “I’m sure you can’t breastfeed them” was highly discouraging, but I resolved that moment to take one day at a time and I continued to work as if it were possible. Now that my twins are older, I wish I could reassure my inexperienced self during those early days that I was on the right track to successfully breastfeeding twins.
Chin up, twin mamas! Here are a few tips for tandem breastfeeding twins based on my experience…
Before the twins are born
Get the gear.
Having gear that enables you, keeps you organized and saves you time is essential for breastfeeding success! Check out this list of 15 essential items for breastfeeding twins.
Watch “How To” Videos to learn logistics.
Search online tandem breastfeeding videos to observe what other parents include in their “breastfeeding station” and familiarize yourself with the logistics of moving two babies to the station and tips for propping, positioning, and burping. Latching may be difficult to understand until the babies arrive.
Build Your Support System.
Logistics and emotions are two different elements of breastfeeding and both should be addressed when building your support system.
Emotional Support. Feelings of guilt, fear and shame are the top emotions that can cause you to not meet your breastfeeding goals. Filter out sources that result in negative feelings and invite family and friends that are willing to provide positive emotional support. Seek out parenting support groups where members treat each other with respect.
Logistical Support. Building milk supply requires dedication and consistency. As a result, there isn’t a lot of spare time in the first few months to make meals, do laundry, clean, etc. Identify a support network that can assist you for this period of time with chores and allow you to eat regular meals and sleep as much as possible. Brainstorm ways to communicate your needs with your network.
Next comes the after-baby part
Meet with lactation consultants at the hospital.
If your babies are in the NICU, there will be a specialized team of consultants. The consultants teach how to use a hospital-grade breast pump, assess proper latching and teach various positions. Consultations are usually free during your hospital stay so ask a lot of questions, request daily visits, and insist on trying tandem positioning at least once before you leave.
Master feeding one baby at a time, then practice tandem.
Learning to breastfeed one baby is quite the undertaking – both mentally and physically – so expecting to tandem feed from the start may feel impossible. Staggering feeds by one hour will allow enough time to focus on each baby individually and learn their unique personalities. Go easy on yourself; it may take several weeks. Once each baby is feeding efficiently, start tandem breastfeeding. This will save you so much time!
Build milk supply.
Babies need to feed every 2-3 hours (approximately 8-12 times per day) during the first few weeks. If your babies are in the NICU, you will need to pump the same amount of times to build supply. One way to combat discouragement is to understand that milk supply is naturally very low during the first few days/weeks. The consistent sucking and extraction process – whether by baby or pump – will signal the body to produce more milk. If your babies have trouble feeding and you choose to supplement with formula, they will likely take in more milk than you are producing. Fear not! Just keep pumping on a consistent schedule and your supply will catch up.
Establish your breastfeeding station.
Get your gear and create a place you can comfortably sit for upwards of 1-2 hours. To avoid feeling trapped, make sure you have all the things you need within arm’s reach, including entertainment (phone, tablet, laptop, TV, etc).
Eat, hydrate & rest
Producing milk for two results in burning up to an extra 1,000 calories per day. On top of that, your body needs rest to recover from delivery and to make more milk. Tap your support network to meet your basic needs so you have the mental and physical energy required to continue breastfeeding. Photo credit: iStock
Out-of-the-box thinker, Krystal Workman, gets creative under stress…and life with twins happens to be full of it! In order to soothe her crying babies while alone, Krystal invented the first ergonomic twin baby carrier – TwinGo Carrier (www.TwinGoCarrier.com) – to cuddle both her babies at the same time. TwinGo now empowers thousands of parents worldwide to keep their babies close. As former President of one of the largest twins clubs in the USA, Krystal assists new parents with babywearing, breastfeeding, sleep coaching, healthy routines, positive discipline, and couple’s therapy. You can get more twin-related information on the TwinGo Blog.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.