17 September 2006

A guide to nursing twins, from a mom who's done it

Laura has written up her tips for nursing twins. Here's a glimpse:

Breastfeeding is a challange and a huge number of twin moms are scared to try it. I've posted a guide to doing it successfully. The nurses will tell you to wait 3-4 hours between feedings- that is crazy for newborns who are tiny and hungry! Instead of listening to them cry, put them on the boob! And most important- the two items you need to be successful- a giant twin nursing pillow and some serious determination.

More twin mamas' hacks: Irene Nam's tips and favorite book suggestion, and Jenness's bathtub procedure.

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She is right on. The pillow she recommends is excellent, and as for feeding on demand: I found that if you just feed them when they ask it's a lot easier than listening to them scream and they fall into a kind of schedule ANYWAY. And tandem feeding--yes, yes, yes. If you feed them seperately you'll be doing nothing but nurse all day and night, and you'll be wasting perfectly good let-downs to boot.

Since I nursed my first child without any issues, I just assumed I would nurse my twins without incident. In fact, I was looking forward to all the extra calories I was going to burn making all that breast milk. I figured I would have all that twins maternity weight off in no time. However my boys came early. Five and a half weeks early to be exact. As a result of some of their pre-maturity issues, they weren’t strong enough to nurse immediately.

I spent the first 10 days after they were born pumping and pumping and pumping in the hospital to ensure my milk would be ready when my boys were strong enough to nurse. However those 10 days quickly turned into 2 months of pumping. Since our priority was to leave the hospital with our boys as soon as we could, we opted to give them bottle feedings. As a result, the boys never really got the nursing concept. But I was still determined.

I went to see a lactation consultant that was wonderful. She advised me to use a nipple shield to help with the transition from bottle to breast and within a week or two both boys were nursing. However try as I might I just couldn’t make enough milk for those two little (although quickly growing) guys. So the wonderful vision I had of nursing my twins was clouded a bit by the fact that each breast feeding was followed by a bottle feeding. But I was still determined.

I began pumping after each feeding to try and further increase my milk production. I was staying hydrated by drinking water from a fire hose (so it seemed) and taking some medication prescribed by my doctor to help increase my milk production. And it might have helped a bit, but the bottle feeding supplements had to continue. My body just couldn’t keep up. But I was still determined. After all, I had nursed my first child and I was sure as heck going to nurse these two……..that was my plan and that was what I was going to do!!!

I think it was about my 6th trip to the lactation consultant (Polly) when a good old shot of reality hit me. As I said previously, my lactation consultant was wonderful and a very practical woman. By this time my twins were 3 months old. And, as I was sitting in her office, getting very emotional about my inability to nurse my twins without bottle supplements, she very sweetly put her hand on my shoulder and said, “you have already done great things for your babies. They are 3 months old, they are growing and thriving and healthy boys!” And then she said something that I will never forget. She said, “You need to enjoy this time with your babies. Treasure it because they will only be this age for a short time. If you get your self all stressed out and emotional about nursing them, then you won’t enjoy them. You don’t want to look back at this time in a couple of years with any regrets. Enjoy every minute of it and know that you’ve already done great things for your babies.”

WOW!!! What a liberating feeling. Although I had already had friends and family tell me just about the same thing, it was somehow much more powerful for me to hear it from a medical professional. I thought, this woman makes her living helping and encouraging people to nurse their babies. And when someone like that gave me “permission” to use a bottle, it somehow carried a lot more weight in my mind.

Now when I look back at the whole experience, I’m just so thankful for Polly and her practical advice. I’m glad I gave it my all (regarding trying to nurse my boys) but I’m also very pleased that I listened to the voice of reason and stopped beating myself up about it. Instead of stress and regrets, I have very fond memories to cherish forever.

Great advice. I wrote up mine, and much is the same. http://twinkies.bastetweb.com/2006/12/01/breastfeeding-twins-tips/

I had identical twin boys who seemed to be on pretty much the same wavelength -- it was (and is) impossible NOT to feed them together as they both get hungry at the same time. In fact, if I feed them sequentially (like when we're out shopping) they don't relax and get on with it nearly as well, and the whole procedure takes much longer than just finding a couch somewhere and parking myself for a double feeding. However, some mothers (especially with non-identical twins) found that their babies had naturally different schedules and/or nursing abilities, and they said they appreciated the individual one-to-one time of nursing one baby at a time. But I don't know how they found the time!

Like twinzmom above, I had nursed a single baby successfully before having the twins, so had the confidence to breastfeed the two of them. Unfortunately, it did come down to sheer steely determination. For about 2 months, from about 6 weeks old, the boys started having
feeding frenzies in the evening, where between the two of them they would stay feeding for literally 6 hours straight. With support I managed to get through it, but there were times when I had simply Had It.

To save my sanity, after awhile I limited them to 45 minutes' feeding in every 2 hours, but unfortunately they would simply scream for the rest of the 2 hours, non-stop. You'd think they'd have cried themselves to sleep, but no.

All the lactation consultant-type people have told me I'm wrong about this, but I wonder if they were at it for so long at a stretch because I simply couldn't get enough liquid into one breast to fill them up in one sitting when they had that first big growth spurt. If it had been one baby, maybe I could have given him both barrels and been done with it.

I don't know if you allow plugs on Parent Hacks, but I used a My Brest Friend pillow (propped up on another pillow on my lap) when the boys were very small, and then moved up to an EZ-2-Nurse pillow when they were about 4 months old (because they kept rolling off the edges of the My Brest Friend once they got bigger). Whatever brand you go for, definitely arrange for some kind of stiff-but-yielding pillow that is as wide as your chest and as long as at least the babies' torsos, to make it safe to feed them both at once. Soft pillows are no good because their heads sink in and it's hard to keep them in the right position. Now that they're bigger, I can feed them with their heads on my thighs in a pinch, but the pillow brings them up to a height that is more comfortable.

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