How to best keep your babies satisfied, and yourself comfortable, when breastfeeding twins? Check out our top 10 tips for breastfeeding multiples.
Breastfeeding Twins: How To Breastfeed Multiples (Our Top 10 Tips For Moms)
More than one mouth to breastfeed at once? Welcoming twins or multiples is especially exciting! But if you're breastfeeding, this poses daunting challenges. How to keep your babies satisfied and yourself comfortable? With the right strategies, breastfeeding multiples is more than possible, and can be uniquely rewarding. After all, it gives babies the exact nutrition they need, helps boost their immune system, and assists in your individual bonding with each baby.
Here are our top 10 tips for breastfeeding twins and breastfeeding multiples.
1. Be proactive: seek advice before birth if you can
Once you find out you're expecting twins or multiples, seek out a lactation consultant who offers specialized advice on the techniques for breastfeeding more than one baby at once.
Finding other moms of multiples to ask for breastfeeding advice is also invaluable, because they've recently been through the journey you're about to take. You might choose to join a "parents of multiples" support group or discussion, whether in-person or online.
2. Treat each baby as an individual
It's best to start breastfeeding each baby individually, if possible. This will help you make sure that each baby develops the proper latch, and is comfortable in the position you hold them in.
Feeding each baby individually also helps you get an idea of their individual needs. For example, does one baby want to nurse more frequently? Does one tend to drink more milk than the other in a single feed?
Most importantly, the individualized attention helps you track how much and how often each baby feeds. Write down the number of times each baby feeds per day, and how long each feed lasts.
How often should your newborns be feeding? For the first few weeks, they'll need to breastfeed every 2-3 hours, or 8-12 times per day. Each feed should last 20-30 minutes. But a baby should show signs of fullness before you end a feed (such as slowed sucking and swallowing, or a loss of interest in the breast.)
Also, keep track of the wet and dirty diapers each baby produces. They should produce at least 6 wet diapers and one dirty diaper apiece, per day.
3. Remember supply and demand
Many moms of multiples worry that they won’t produce enough milk for their babies. But regardless of how many babies you're breastfeeding, remembering "supply and demand" is key. You'll have enough milk for both (or all) of your babies as long you let them nurse as often as they're hungry. The more they feed, the more milk you'll produce. Your body will adjust to their feeding needs!
How to know when your babies are hungry? Look for these early hunger signs, and feed right away when you notice them:
- Turning the head (towards the breast, or to search for the breast) and opening the mouth
- Sucking the hands
- Poking the tongue out
- Becoming more alert, especially if they were sleeping
- Smacking the lips
4. Pump to increase milk supply, free you up, or both
If you’re feeding your babies on demand and still have low milk supply, pumping will probably help you increase your supply.
Plus, regardless of your supply, pumping frees you up to let someone else feed your babies, so you can get more sleep or have more time to yourself.
Choose a double-electric or hospital-grade pump for the most efficient pumping. (You’ll likely be able to get a double electric pump for free via insurance.)
Pumping in several shorter sessions may be more effective than fewer longer sessions, since the most milk comes towards the beginning of a feed or pumping session. Try to pump between feeds, around four times a day.
And if one or more babies are unable to breastfeed (such as if they’re born premature, or need an extended hospital stay), you can also use pumping to build up and maintain your milk supply for when they are finally able to drink from the breast. In this case, you’ll need to pump as often as baby would breastfeed --- 8-12 times a day for newborns --- to maintain the right supply. You’ll likely be able to give them some breastmilk through a feeding tube, if that’s how they’re feeding.
5. Consider tandem nursing
After your babies are acquainted with the breast, there are four main patterns for breastfeeding multiples:
- Feeding each baby on demand
- Letting the hungrier baby dictate feeding patterns for their sibling(s)
- Feeding one baby first, then waking up the second to feed immediately after the first
- Tandem nursing, where you breastfeed two babies at once
Finding the right nursing pattern is a matter of your and your babies' preference. But if it works for you, tandem nursing will help you save time, especially if you have more than two babies. Feeding multiple babies at once means you won't spend all day alternating through nursing. But be sure to let each baby latch one at a time, so you know that both have latched on properly.
Like with all methods, finding a comfortable position for tandem breastfeeding is essential.
Try these positions and see what works best:
- Double football hold, also called the double rugby hold or double clutch hold (position each baby on a pillow under each arm, then hold them under each arm, supporting their heads with your palms and their backs with your inside forearms)
- Laid-back position (have both babies lie on your tummy)
- Cradle-clutch combo (hold one baby in the cradle position and the other under the arm in a clutch position)
- Parallel hold (position both babies across your body in the same direction)
- Double cradle hold (position each baby in a cradle hold, so their legs overlap and form an X across your lap)
Lactation consultant Kathryn Stagg, IBCLC, provides more tips on finding a comfortable tandem feeding position:
If you want or need to tandem feed in public, and would like more privacy, special tandem feeding covers are available.
6. Get pillows ready
If you’re planning on tandem feeding, investing in a nursing pillow designed for twins may be well worth it. If you choose not to buy a nursing pillow, be sure to set aside two regular pillows, or two rolled-up towels, near your preferred breastfeeding spot. This will make positioning much easier, and help you protect your wrists, arms, back and shoulders from strain.
7. Alternate breasts for each baby
Remember that breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. That's why it's best to alternate breasts instead of giving each baby a dedicated breast. If you have one baby who drinks more milk than the other, having them alternate breasts lets the stronger feeder encourage more milk production --- in both breasts. This way you'll continue to have a sufficient and equal milk supply on both sides, for both or all your babies.
And if you have an odd number of babies, make sure to switch up which babies tandem-nurse, and which baby gets a solo session.
8. Nourish your body well
Breastfeeding one baby burns up to 500 calories per day --- so that's up to 1,000 extra calories burned per day if you have twins, and even more if you have more babies.
This means that, to keep yourself healthy and fueled, you'll need to eat 450 to 500 more calories per day for each baby you're feeding (relative to your healthy eating patterns prior to pregnancy).
Eat a balanced breastfeeding diet, with a variety of nutritious foods. Also, stay well-hydrated --- drink a big bottle of water after every feed. And make sure you're taking in enough calcium (at least 1,000 mg per day).
This will help you make sure you have the energy you need to breastfeed.
9. Manage expectations, and ask for help
It takes time to acclimate to breastfeeding multiples, and to fall into a rhythm. Initially, most of your time will be taken up by feeding, and sleep will be hard to come by. So, be sure to line up help, ideally before your due date. Ask your partner, other family members, and friends for help with other household responsibilities, like cooking, cleaning, and taking care of any older siblings.
You might also ask someone for help with positioning babies for breastfeeding, especially while you’re still learning the best positions for you and your babies. If you choose to tandem feed, consider letting someone hand you each baby as you get into position.
If you’ve pumped breastmilk, don’t be afraid to take a break and ask someone else to bottle-feed them using the milk you’ve expressed. Just remember that you’ll need to pump in place of the bottle feed to keep your milk supply up.
And after a feed, have someone else take care of your babies so you have some time to rest. After all, nursing more than one baby is extra tiring, even though it’s also extra rewarding.
10. Do what’s best for you and your babies!
Don’t worry if your babies won’t tandem feed, or if you need to alternate bottle and breast. Do what’s best for you and them! Pay attention to your babies’ needs, and listen to your own body. And remember --- even if things are tiring and frustrating, you’ll eventually find your rhythm. Enjoy this precious time of bonding with your little ones!
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