Breastfeeding Twins- Can I Do It? Tips I Learned Along The Way

Monday, January 6, 2014

My sleeping beauties-after a nursing session
A big topic among expecting moms in my multiples club is that of breastfeeding.  The questions are usually the same. Can I do it?  How do I do it?  What do I need? I wanted to share my own personal experience.  But reader beware:  I'm not a lactation specialist or even a breastfeeding guru...I'm just a mom of twins.  This is not a tale of joyful bliss or perfection!

My Story

When I was pregnant I was determined that I would nurse the girls through their first year of life.  I knew the benefits of breast milk- often called "liquid gold"-the antibodies, nutrients, proteins, immune defenses...Oh my! How could I not want that for my babies? Coupled with the high cost of formula for feeding two, I had made my decision months before my girls were born.

But then reality set in...

After 3 months of constant challenges, I changed my original plan from one year of breastfeeding to 6 months.  My mantra was... Just get through it.  I literally counted down the days.

But then surprisingly, the 6 month mark came and went. I would constantly move my self-imposed ending date back one more month at a time.  Despite my own difficulties, I wanted the girls to get all the benefits of breast milk.   Sheer determination kept me going.   I made it to 11 months, but it wasn't easy for me!  I had over a dozen cases of blocked ducts, a bad case of mastitis that required a trip to the hospital and antibiotics, and I constantly fought a low milk supply.  It's the low supply that did me in at the end.  Not to mention the trials of feeding two crying/SCREAMING babies at one time.   Oh yeah.. and then when teeth came in, the biting began.  Things were far from perfect.

When I was in the midst of all my nursing woes,  I enjoyed talking with other moms of multiples about their experiences.  I think those conversations helped to give me the courage to continue. Some moms, like my friend with triplets, had no problems nursing (other than getting into the groove of nursing three babies). She could even pump and freeze tons of milk.  Amazing!  But, still MANY more who had planned to nurse, weren't able to nurse at all.  For reasons like the stress of having babies in the NICU, surgery complications, finicky eaters, milk supply issues, and just the overall stress of nursing more than one baby taking it's toll on a new mom.  Then, there are also a lot of moms like me, the ones who nursed for as long as they could, but faced a number of challenges.
From all of these conversations, I learned that I needed to relax!  To enjoy spending time feeding my little ones, and that every day I was able to nurse was one more day that my girls were benefiting from breast milk.

That being said, I wanted to share some useful tools that helped me through my nursing experience.

Can I do it?

Yes, you can! If you want to try nursing your twins, then go for it. My first piece of advice... prepare yourself before the babies are born! 

I was fortunate that the hospital where I delivered my girls offered a breastfeeding class that I went to while pregnant. They also have a nationally recognized lactation team that would visit me in the hospital providing instruction and answering questions.

My advice is take advantage of any lactation support while in the hospital!  If your hospital doesn't have a lactation consultant check out http://www.gbmc.org/lactationservices.  They offer online and telephone support to all breastfeeding moms.

I also spent time searching the web for videos and blogs on nursing twins.  One of my favorites on tandem feeding was http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wPsO8o9G4s.  I'm a visual learner and this mom really helped me get a grasp on the logistics of nursing two babies.

How do I do it?

After I got the hang of nursing one baby at a time, probably around 2-3 weeks.  I moved onto the tandem shuffle (the video link above was my starting point).

The amount of stuff I needed to support nursing was crazy, so until the girls could sit up on their own I would feed them in 1 of 3 places.  I would either sit on my bed with my back against the headboard, the day bed in the guest room (also had a nice hard back), or on the sofa.
I would have a tall glass of water nearby, something to read or watch on TV, and a basket containing necessities such as nipple shields (we had to use these for about 3 months to help with latching), lanolin, tissues, snacks for me, breast pads, and burp clothes. 

I started using the My Breast Friend Twins Plus Nursing Pillow.  It just didn't working for me. I had trouble with the height of the pillow and the back.  So, I switched to the Double Blessings EZ 2 Nurse Twins Pillow.  I would have each girl on either side of me in their bouncy seat or a boppy. I would sit cross legged with the nursing pillow wrapped around me.  Crossing my legs allowed for extra support when the girls were tiny and needed a little lift.  One large pillow under each side of the nursing pillow for added support and one or two more bed pillow behind my back. I would carefully pick up one baby lay her down on top of the nursing pillow with her head towards my front and her legs under my arm, then position the second the same way.  Latch one, latch two and nurse.

Until the girls had better control of their necks, burping was a challenge.  If you are lucky enough to have an extra set of hands, this is where that would be helpful. But if not, I found that sitting the girls (one at a time) up on the nursing pillow with their chin supported in one hand, my other hand patting/rubbing her back worked for me.  I couldn't bring one up over my shoulder and still nurse the second.

When we were finished, I would transfer one to her bouncy seat or boppy, then the other.  In the beginning, the girls would often fall asleep when nursing.  When I was by myself, I wasn't able to transfer a sleeping baby without waking her or her sister.  So, that's why I had my i-pad, a book, or the TV near by to keep me entertained.  Although, often I would just sleep right there with them.

A few tools of the trade...

  • Nipple shields-  I used Medela Nipple shields to help the girls with latching.  My lactation consultant at the hospital recommended them.  I didn't have any trouble transitioning the girls away from the shields.  I just kept trying to not use them at each feeding, until one day J didn't need one and then a few weeks later, G didn't need to use it. 
  • Home visit from a lactation consultant- Can be pricey, but super helpful when I was trying to tandem feed on my own.  She also helped to fit me with better nursing bras and taught me more efficient ways to use my pump. 
  • http://kellymom.com/bf/concerns/mother/mastitis/-  This page was my go to when trying to solve the problem of blocked ducts and prevent mastitis.   Blocked ducts are SOOOOOO painful!
  • Lecithin- Under the advise of my lactation consultant, I would take about 3600mg of Lecithin daily to help with blocked ducts.  Just wish I would have started taking this sooner.  http://kellymom.com/bf/concerns/mother/lecithin/
I know there is so much that goes into nursing twins.  I would be glad to try and help answer any questions.   
Thanks for visiting!  Let's talk again soon:) 
Christina 

6 Comments »

6 Responses to “ Breastfeeding Twins- Can I Do It? Tips I Learned Along The Way ”

  1. YOU GO GIRL! My longest stent with breast feeding was 4 months, and I had singles!! Amazing. Low supply for me--hormonal imbalance, which I should have been treated for I think. Great resources. And its good of you to be honest with people about how hard it was for you at times. For me at least, I always felt so much shame in not being a good breast feeder. That's silly. People like you help all those that struggle know that they are not alone. Great post! Saw you on HDYDI

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  3. I am sorry you had such a hard time with it! OUCH!! But, I hope you are glad you did in the end.

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  4. This is a great post! I've been bf'ing my boys for five months next week. If it were the first time around I don't know if I would have been so willing to do it. But, I knew if I set my mind to it I could get through it. I think it's really easier than making bottles...lol. Any bf'ing at all is an accomplishment in my opinion. :)

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