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Photo: James & William courtesy Lena Ostroff
Mother’s Situation: Double trouble?
I recently learned I am pregnant with twins! I breastfed my first baby only for a couple of weeks because of the toe-curling pain that I now realize came from poor attachment to the breast. He was nipple-feeding rather than getting a deep enough latch. I feel far more prepared to give it a go this time, but with two?! Won’t this mean it will be two times as hard and painful if I get it wrong? Have other mothers managed to breastfeed multiple babies? Can you share some of your practical tips for coping as a mother of two, please?
I am currently breastfeeding six-month-old twins after successfully nursing my oldest daughter until she was 27 months. It helped that we had overcome obstacles of plugged ducts and painful latch, because when I encountered issues with my girl twin, I had more experience under my belt. My son has been a champion nurser from minute one, but my daughter acted like she couldn’t feel the nipple in her mouth and continued to root around looking for it.
After many checks, at my insistence, we found a mild tongue-tie and clipped it. It took about a month of stagnant weight (around 6.5 lb) for her to really get going with nursing. We tandem fed, pumped for her, and bottle-fed after putting her to the breast. Both are now excellent eaters, even if my boy outweighs her by 5 lb.
I have every intention of nursing both twins for as long as we all want to. Some of the best moments are when they are nursing together holding hands and looking at each other. I hope they will remember, even if only subconsciously, these times of love they shared as babies.
Amanda C., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
My twins are two now, and I still remember how shocked and worried I was when I found out I was carrying a pair! Everything with twins is more work than with one baby, but it’s doable. I nursed mine exclusively, and we all did really well.
My best suggestion is to line up your support system now. Find other twin moms who have nursed (reach out to your local LLL Leader for help), a good IBCLC, people willing to entertain your older child, and help around the house in the early months.
I love the book Mothering Multiples. The best thing about it is that the author Karen Kerkhoff Gromada recognizes that not all families are the same so offers a real variety of ways to manage. So much of the information I found elsewhere that was geared to twin moms seemed to say “do xyz or you’ll be sorry” and that’s really not helpful.
The first months were challenging but now, I am so grateful to have twins. It’s a really special relationship and totally worth all the extra work.
April Vanco, Monroe NJ USA
I’m a mom of five, including two sets of twins. Nursing has been the best tool I have for handling life with multiples. Nothing soothes or helps them fall asleep like nursing. It’s challenging; after all, there are two babies. But hang in there, it gets much easier!
My first set of twins was born at 35 weeks, when I developed preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome (a life-threatening pregnancy complication usually considered to be a variant of preeclampsia). They were 4lb 10oz and 4lb 14oz. They had difficulty eating and spent time in the NICU learning to coordinate sucking, swallowing, and breathing. I was given magnesium sulfate and was completely out of it for the first 24 hours.
No one came to offer any assistance with breastfeeding, and my twins were 24 hours old before I was alert enough to ask for a breast pump. Unfortunately, I only breastfed a few times while they were in the NICU. My babies came home after two and a half weeks. I focused on pumping and building a milk supply and they had pumped milk until they were eight weeks old. At that point, we were able to transition from bottle to the breast. It was difficult for a few days, but once they figured it out, we never looked back!
I wish I had discussed with my husband prior to the birth the importance of getting a breast pump right away. Fortunately, I was able to build an ample milk supply even given the setbacks.
When we found out we were having another set of twins, I knew I was at risk for preeclampsia, so I made sure my husband knew how to help me. Unfortunately, I did develop preeclampsia again, and my second set of twins was born at 36 weeks. They were 5lb 12oz and 6lb 3oz but they did not require any time in the NICU.
Once again I was out of it and vomiting, but my husband was awesome! He brought me a baby to nurse whenever either had the need. He was bringing babies, changing diapers, and emptying my basin all night long. I don’t know how I would have made it through that first night without his help.
The biggest hurdle I had early on was the twins’ sleepiness. All they wanted to do was sleep! I had to wake them to feed for the first couple of weeks, and keeping them awake to nurse more than a few sucks was also a challenge. Sleepiness is common among preterm babies, but it could be frustrating. Oftentimes, I undressed them down to the diaper and tickled their feet while they breastfed in order to keep them awake.
They fed pretty frequently those first few months and I found it very helpful to have a couple of nursing stations set up, one in the living room on the couch and the other in the master bedroom so that I could sit on the bed. I used a nursing pillow designed for twins and was able to tandem nurse them most of the time. I made sure to have water and snacks ready to go, and I also made sure to use the bathroom before I sat down!
Twins are often a little smaller than their singleton counterparts. Their small mouths and sleepiness often made it difficult to get a good latch. I did develop sore nipples, but I continued to be diligent in trying to get them to open wide and take a large amount of breast. They tended to want to latch just onto the nipple (toe-curling pain!), but with diligence and time they got the hang of things. By about six weeks old, it was pretty smooth sailing.
I wasn’t able to get comfortable nursing both babies at once while lying down until they were older, but I recommend figuring it out as soon as you can. It is wonderful to lounge and rest while the babies are nursing. For me, lying back with two pillows behind my head and a pillow under each arm with a baby nestled along each arm has been most successful.
Have a contingency plan in place to start pumping as soon as you can, in case your twins go to the NICU. You will be building a supply for multiples, so you will need to pump more frequently than you would for just one baby. Make sure your spouse or support person knows how to help you. Ask for help from experienced breastfeeding support sources. Find an LLL Leader in your area who has experience with multiples. Get names of IBCLCs that do home visits. It will be much easier to get help with both babies in your own home.
You can do this! Some may say twins are “double trouble,” but really they are “double blessings” and “twice as nice.”
Megan Oggero, Houston, TX, USA
Congratulations on your twin pregnancy!
Lots of mothers do manage to feed twins and you are right that it’s important to get a good latch with both babies as you will be spending a lot of time with them on the breast.
Although some twin mums prefer simultaneous feeding to reduce the amount of time they spend nursing, my babies struggled to get a good deep latch (it turned out they were tongue-tied) and I found that feeding them separately allowed me to get them latched more deeply. Better positioning helped them transfer milk more efficiently, so I found it didn’t take much longer and was certainly kinder to my nipples! I introduced simultaneous feeding only when my babies could latch well and painlessly. Try to line up support in advance of your babies’ arrival, both in terms of lactation support and practical help.
All the usual tips about getting meals in the freezer in advance if you can and getting friends and family to do as much as possible to help is doubly valid with twins.
Make sure you have details to hand of whom you can contact (LLL Leader or lactation consultant) in case you do encounter any breastfeeding challenges.
I hope you enjoy this next, very special, breastfeeding journey.
Joanne Whistler, Skipton, North Yorkshire, UK
It’s understandable that breastfeeding may seem intimidating now. Mothers have an incredible gift to adapt to the needs of their children. Work on getting the latch right with each individually, then work up to feeding both at the same time. Try different positions, including laid-back, and see what works best for you. Don’t refuse any offers of help and don’t be shy about telling people what you need. If you start wondering why this is so hard, it’s because it is. Be patient while you are all learning. Find other twin mothers whom you can relate to. You will be amazed at your own strength!
Siobhan Calandrelli, Smithville, MO, USA
First off, you can do it! Second, it probably won’t be what you expect. Try to attend LLL meetings while you’re pregnant. Many groups have special resources for moms of multiples.
When the babies arrive, whether they’re identical or fraternal, early or full term, they are individuals. Each will have a different style. One may need more help. One might want to nurse more than the other. Take it a day at a time and be flexible.
I’m six months into exclusively breastfeeding my twins. Cuddling a breastfeeding baby is always special, but there’s something about the twin connection that is truly magical!
Jamie Holaday, Montgomery, AL, USA
I am a first-time mother of identical twin boys, and next week we will celebrate a year of breastfeeding! Nursing my full-term newborn twins was not painful, and has been the happiest time of day (or night). Breastfeeding is your most versatile tool in mothering. In the newborn stage, tandem nursing was my “home base” and a tangible experience of being “enough” mommy for both of my babies. Have confidence that you will be able to enjoy this gift, having two babies and two breasts!
Clare Hackney, New York, NY, USA
Mother’s New Situation
Wedding invitation: No children!
My best friend from school days is getting married and has invited me and my husband to her wedding. The invitation, however, is not extended to my six-month-old son. In fact, children are expressly excluded, with mention of babysitters at the nearby hotel.
My son is still breastfeeding frequently and I’m not at all happy at the idea of leaving him with anybody at this point. I have tried to explain this to my friend, but she clearly does not understand why I don’t want to be separated from him and she was noticeably hurt and offended.
I value our longstanding friendship but equally cannot contemplate leaving my child with strangers to go to the wedding. How have other mothers coped with a similar dilemma?
Please send responses for publication to Barbara at firstname.lastname@example.org by October 5, 2015.
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La Leche League for Moms of Twins/Multiples is a closed group on Facebook that you might want to join.