I am over halfway through the newborn the stage now, and while I’m sure the logistics of nursing twins change as they get older, I thought I would offer up what I have learned about breastfeeding two babies still in the floppy stage.
Let me just start out by saying that a) nursing twins isn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be and b) there’s no way I could have nursed twins if they were my first. Those are somewhat contradictory, but I think the fact is that breastfeeding is hard (at least it was for me the first time around). Throwing twins into the mix complicates things even more, and realistically I just don’t think it would have been possible for me if I hadn’t already had the fundamentals down (positioning, latching, etc.). That said, many first time moms of twins DO successfully breastfeed, so it is certainly possible.
The 4 things I would deem desirable (maybe even necessary) for nursing twins are:
1. A twin nursing pillow
2. A couch in the baby room
3. A schedule
4. A large (32oz+) waterbottle
A Twin Nursing Pillow:
I did not use a nursing pillow with my first or second children. I never really saw the point. It was easy enough to hold them in one arm and use the free hand to assist in latching. Nursing twins is different because after you latch the first baby, you can’t just let them go to work on latching the second – they need to be held in position. This is where the pillow comes in: it takes care of the positioning for you so all you have to focus on is latching. And bonus! Once you get them latched on, you have both hands free to poke/prod sleepy babies into nursing longer without falling asleep or to post on your blog about how you’ve mastered multitasking.
Initially I wanted the Twin Z Nursing Pillow because it seems to get the best reviews, but I was unable to find one used and since I didn’t know at the time how necessary a twin nursing pillow would be, I didn’t want to drop $100 on the thing. I went with the My Brest Friend Twin Plus because someone from a moms-with-twins Facebook group I’m a part of was selling hers (BTW, if you haven’t joined a moms of multiples Facebook group yet, DO IT). I snagged it for $20, which I figured I could resell it for if I never used it. But as it turns out, I use it ALL THE TIME, so it was money well spent.
As huge and cumbersome as it is, and as ridiculous as you may look walking in with it, I highly recommend that you bring your nursing pillow to the hospital with you. It would have been helpful to have mine to practice with when I actually had lactation consultants and nurses around to assist in positioning it. As it was, I nursed them separately in the hospital and then had to figure out using the pillow on my own. What’s there to figure out? Well, unfortunately, some nursing pillows (the My Brest Friend Twin Plus but potentially others) are made for short torsoed women. I am not particularly long torsoed, but I am relatively tall, so the pillow isn’t designed properly for me to use it on its own. To illustrate, if I put the pillow around me and then lay the babies down directly on the pillow, their mouths are at about a height level only 2 inches above my belly button, which is about 5 inches below my breasts. Good luck getting a baby to suck on a breast that is 5 inches higher than their mouth. So in addition to the nursing pillow, I use 2 long, skinny throw pillows, which prop each baby up high enough to be at the proper level for breastfeeding. It took me like 5 days to figure this out, which I assume could have been avoided if I had just brought the thing to the hospital with me. Or, if the manufacturer of the pillow had ever actually nursed twins himself.
Anyway, it is possible to just arrange pillows around yourself in place of using a nursing pillow, but it’s much, much easier to have the pillow. It’s also possible to nurse twins pillow-free, but not newborn twins. You will need to wait to do that until they have latching mastered on their own and you do not need to assist in any way.
You need a couch (I have a love seat) in the baby room unless you plan on nursing on the floor (which is possible – and I think the twin Z pillow is made to facilitate that). Nursing can be done in a chair or rocker of course, but unless you have someone getting up with you in the night just to hand you the babies (which would me mean! don’t make someone do that!), you need a place to set one baby down while you are getting the other baby onto the pillow. I have mastered picking both babies up at once, but it is more difficult to set them down, and I don’t think I could do it safely sitting down in a rocker. It is better to pick one up, put them on the couch, pick the other up, put them on the couch, and sit down and arrange your pillow(s). Then pick one up, put them on the nursing pillow, pick the other up, and put them on the nursing pillow. I sure do miss my comfortable rocker this time – I used to be able to fall asleep nursing in the night – but it’s a small price to pay for the ability to handle night nursings myself.
A common problem with breastfeeding twins is supply (the mother either feeling like she isn’t making enough or actually not making enough for both babies). My guess would be that many supply issues are caused by not having a schedule in the beginning when your milk supply is being established. Ever heard the phrase “Never wake a sleeping baby?” That does not apply to twins, for two reasons: First, twins are often times born early, often times jaundiced, and therefore often times extra sleepy. If you let them sleep long stretches (especially during the day), they will. If you let them fall asleep while nursing, they will. Both of these things contribute to the babies not drinking enough milk, which of course translates to you not making enough milk. Feeding your babies on a schedule enables them to drink more, leading you to make enough for sufficient weight gain.
From the beginning, I would aim to feed your babies every 2.5-3 hours during the day, and no more than 4 hours at night. This means if your babies are fast asleep at the 3 hour mark (since the start of the last feed), you WAKE THEM UP. Probably you will wake them up and get them latched on only to have them fall asleep on you again, so you WAKE THEM UP AGAIN. Use whatever is necessary: a cold, wet washcloth on the forehead, tickling the feet, taking off all their clothes, whatever. Try your absolute best to get them to take a full feeding – meaning, to transfer as much milk as their little bellies can handle. Once you’ve accomplished that, let them sleep again, but only until the 2.5-3hr mark, when you go through the process again. Obviously, if they are hungry at only the 1.5-2hr mark, FEED THEM. The 2.5-3hr cycle is only an upper-limit to the time between daytime feedings. This will provide the best foundation for establishing a good milk supply.
A Large Water Bottle:
I read on another blog that a mother nursing twins needs to drink a minimum of 270 ounces of water a day. I don’t drink quite that much, but it’s also not too far off. I have a 33oz water bottle what I fill and try to drink in between every daytime nursing session and once overnight. That’s about 200 ounces of just plain water. When I drink less than that, I don’t necessarily notice a drop in milk supply, but I do get headaches and really (really) hard poops. The water bottle is necessary because it helps me gauge the amount of water I’m drinking. It’s much harder for me to keep track if I’m drinking from a cup and I usually end up drinking less, which I don’t realize until I’m on the toilet trying to push a rock out of my ass. Save yourself the anal fissures and just buy a big water bottle – and then drink it.
So that’s my own little “must have” list. I’ll add a few other tips below, but keep in mind that I’m not a lactation consultant and seriously, I only had twins six weeks ago.
1. Nurse together. This isn’t just to save time. If you have one baby that is a weaker nurser, they can “draft” off the stronger nurser. Only one baby needs to suck to stimulate a letdown, but the milk will flow from both breasts. The weaker nurser pretty much just needs to swallow.
2. Both babies in football hold might be the most natural position to your, but sore nipples benefit from changing positions, so one baby in cross cradle and on in football is worth a try. Or any of the other positions illustrated here:
3. Speaking of sore nipples, if you have them past the first couple of days, make sure you check for lip and tongue tie. Don’t let a lactation consultant tell you the lip tie is fine because it’s very “stretchy.” If they have a tie, just fix it. Then you won’t spend weeks worrying about whether your soreness is caused by the tie or not.
4. Get a strong, bright night light for the baby room. Nursing in the dark is bound to give you bloody nipples because you won’t be able to see how well they are latched and make any corrections. Turning on the overhead light will wake them up too much and you’ll then have to deal with trying getting them back to sleep after you’re done.
5. Unless there is a real need (like NICU-time or falling down on the WHO chart), resist the urge (and pressure) to pump in addition to nursing. Not only is pumping unpleasant, but in my experience, the awareness of how many ounces you are pumping only serves to increase anxiety about production and supply.
I am certain once you are 7 weeks into nursing your twins, you will have your own unique how-to and list of must-haves, but oddly none of the things I just detailed were covered in any of the breastfeeding multiples books or blogs I read prior to having my babies. I hope some pregnant lady reads this at some point and finds it prepares her better than I was!