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Breastfeeding Twins



By Meredith O'Brien
Many moms are tentatively nervous about the prospect of nursing. For expectant moms of twins, it’s double the anxiety, particularly in the face of naysayers who can’t imagine how a woman could breastfeed twins and not wither away. A mom who's been there shares some tips for successfully breastfeeding multiples.

Two babies.
Two breasts.
Enough said.
Well, not exactly . . .


We’ve all heard the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics urging new moms to breastfeed their babies for at least a year. In reality, most moms try for a few weeks, but only about 30 percent make it to six months.

And that’s with just one hungry baby.


Many moms are tentatively nervous about the prospect of nursing. For expectant moms of twins it’s double the anxiety, particularly in the face of naysayers who can’t imagine how a woman could breastfeed twins and not wither away into a shell of a human being. But with a little advance planning, a lot of patience and a supportive friend or two, nursing twins won’t seem like an impossible fantasy. Here are a few tips:


Take a class. OK, so this sounds counter-intuitive, taking a class to learn how to do something that’s supposed to come naturally. But believe me, taking a breastfeeding class will not only leave you feeling empowered, but it will provide you with helpful tips you might not have thought of on your own. Check with local hospitals to see if they offer breastfeeding classes, or, even better, if there are courses on having multiples.


Buy a pillow. We’re not talkin’ a regular, run-of-the-mill nursing pillow. We’re talkin’ a specially made twins nursing pillow. They’re thicker, sturdier and can simultaneously hold two newborns. In the early days of my twins’ lives—when I felt like my entire life was consumed by mammories, spit-up and diapers—the twins' nursing pillow was a life-saver. I was able to breastfeed the babies at the same time and cut my nursing time in half. Because the pillow was so thick, it brought both babies up to my breasts, rather than having me hunch over to reach them, and spared me backaches.


It took a while to get coordinated and arrange the teeny preemies on the pillow without having one baby’s head flop around while the other kid rolled onto the floor. But once I got the hang of it—and got over feeling bizarrely exposed by nursing from both breasts at the same time—it worked amazingly well. By the time the twins grew too tall to simultaneously nurse on my lap, I was much more confident in my breastfeeding skills.


Learn the positions. The “football hold” and the “crossover” aren’t sports plays, at least, not in this context. The position that worked well for me and my two babies was the “football hold.” In this position, you wrap your babies’ legs around your sides so that the infants’ heads nearly touch in the middle of your belly. The football carry was effective, even once my babies started to squirm and kick their legs. This way they were only kicking me, not each other.

The crossover position—which works for younger, less mobile twins—is when you cross the babies’ legs over each other in front of you while they breastfeed.


Switch sides. When breastfeeding twins, keep in mind that each baby has a different style of nursing. To avoid getting blocked ducts and failing to drain all the milk from your breasts because one kid nurses in a particular way, try to remember, if you can, to put a different child on each breast every time. If you simply can’t remember which side little Gracie and little Georgie nursed on last time, don’t worry about it. As long as you don’t have one dedicated breast per kid, you’ll be fine.


Wake them up. Despite the time-tested adage about never waking a sleeping baby, in this case, the kiddo is getting up. Our twins were on a four-hour feeding schedule. Overnight, one baby would typically awaken at about the four-hour mark, while the other slept soundly. I would nurse the one who’d just woken up, followed by the other baby, even if the second baby wasn’t really interested in eating. Usually, the child who had been asleep would get hungry and be up first the next time around. This helped us get through the night with a modicum of sleep.


Get support. Try to find at least one personal cheerleader to motivate you. It could be anyone from a lactation consultant, a doula or a close friend, to La Leche League members or folks from your local mothers of twins club chapter. It’s hard enough to breastfeed one baby when so many people are still squeamish about the topic, but when you announce plans to breastfeed two babies, be prepared to hear discouraging comments from people who can’t imagine how this is humanly possible.


Try a bottle. (This one may rattle some folks who believe that it is a recipe for absolute disaster to introduce a bottle to a breastfed baby. Only try this if you are comfortable with your nursing, and your lactation consultant and/or pediatrician are on board.)


I bought a top-of-the-line, dual breast pump and pumped enough milk daily for one feeding for both infants. I’d sleep through one feeding time in the evening while my husband got some bonding time and bottle fed the twins. The fact that the kids would take a bottle afforded me opportunities later on to get out of the house without the babies and take a well-earned break. It helped keep me on track and quasi-sane during the year I nursed my twins.

About the Author
Meredith O’Brien is a freelance journalist living in the Boston area. She has written for a variety of well-respected news organizations and websites on topics ranging from parenting and pediatric development to politics and journalism ethics. She was a co-author of the 1996 book The Buying of the President. O’Brien currently teaches media criticism at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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The people at Breastfeeding101 are not medical professionals. We are moms here to show support. Please consult your physician or LC for any medical questions you might have.