How to breastfeed twins
How to breastfeed your twins, prepare for each feeding method and keep going for as long as you want to
How to feed your newborn can be a source of worry for any pregnant woman, and when you’re pregnant with twins, the idea of feeding two babies successfully can seem overwhelming. Thankfully, it’s more than achievable, whether you choose to breastfeed, bottlefeed or use a combination of the two. The key is to be prepared and get support from your partner, healthcare team, friends and family.
It can be helpful to attend a multiples-specific antenatal group, which will offer advice on feeding. Ask if your hospital runs one, or contact Tamba (Twins and Multiple Births Association) or the MBF (Multiple Births Foundation) for private classes.
However you decide to feed your babies, be confident in your decision and rest assured you’re giving your twins a great start. For further advice, it may be useful to speak to other twin parents via the Tamba Twinline, or to a lactation expert via the National Childbirth Trust or La Leche League.
Mums have successfully breastfed twins for centuries, so banish any thoughts that your body won’t be able to produce enough breast milk. The supply-and-demand theory still works for multiples.
It pays to get as much support as possible, so tell your healthcare professionals you hope to breastfeed and ask what help will be available for you, both in hospital and when you get home.
It doesn’t matter if you deliver your twins naturally or via caesarean, you should still be able to nurse them straight away, or as soon as a general anaesthetic allows. If one or more of your babies needs neo-natal care, ask for help expressing milk to feed to them from a cup. Breastfeeding counsellors may be on hand in hospital and your midwife should visit once you’re home.
Everything you need to know about looking after your nipples and getting your babies to latch on is the same for twins as it is for breastfeeding single babies. When it comes to twins, the main differences will be routine and positions.
It’s important to feed on demand for the first few weeks to establish a healthy supply, so it may be easier to feed each baby separately, as and when he or she wants. However, in due course feeding them at the same time (in tandem) is practical and saves a lot of time. Because of this, many mums choose to take the ‘time to feed’ cue from the baby who seems hungry, but feed both babies, even if it means waking one. This may help your twins get into the same routine.
It’s best to alternate breasts at each feed or daily, to ensure an even supply. Some mums find it useful to write down the times and lengths of each feed, which baby had which breast, and how many wet and soiled nappies each baby has produced.
Breastfeeding positions for twins
When it comes to breastfeeding positions, you can try feeding with each baby across your body (in a cradle hold) as you would a single baby, with one crossing in front of the other. Or you could angle your babies, so their feet both go in the same direction. It’s hard to hold your babies in these positions, so most mums find the ‘rugby ball’ hold most useful, with your babies’ legs going under your arms.
Make sure your back is well supported and your babies are raised to nipple level. You can either use several pillows and your arms to hold them or buy a specially designed pillow for breastfeeding twins. A twin breastfeeding pillow is normally shaped like a C or three sides of a rectangle, and attaches around your back. It allows you to breast- or bottlefeed your babies and then wind them, while keeping your hands free.
If someone is around to pass each baby to you, that’s ideal. When you’re on your own, have one baby on the sofa or bed next to you while you latch the other on. Then you can easily pick up the other baby.
Twin breastfeeding tips
Breastfeeding takes time and is most successful when you’re relaxed, so try to enjoy that time to bond with your twins, or catch up on some TV and rest.
Feeding two can make you ravenously hungry and thirsty, so set up a ‘feeding station’ with healthy snacks, water or juice with a straw for easy drinking, your phone and the TV remote control all within easy reach.
If your midwife or local twins group is able to put you in touch with another twin mum who is breastfeeding, it can be really useful to meet with them and see what they do, how they do it and ask questions.
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Advantages of breastfeeding twins
- Breast milk provides the best nourishment for your babies, including antibodies and immune cells to protect against infection and allergy.
- It’s the cheapest option - apart from muslins and breast pads, and a breast pump and feeding pillow if you choose, there’s really nothing else you need to buy. This is great news for cash-strapped twin parents.
- It can be easy and uses up less time, because you don’t need to worrying about cleaning and sterilising bottles, making up and cooling/warming formula.
- It’s quick – if one of your babies is crying for a feed, you only have to unhook your nursing bra to silence them!
- It’s a wonderful way to bond with your babies and spend time in close contact.
Possible disadvantages of breastfeeding twins
- Breastfeeding two babies can be very tiring.
- It can take practice and some women worry about if they have enough milk to breastfeed twins. You do - your body is fantastic at producing the milk to meet the needs of your babies.
- If you’re tandem feeding, it can be tricky to do when out and about, so you may have to feed one at a time, which obviously takes longer.
- You won’t be able to leave your babies for long, especially in the early weeks when they’re feeding every couple of hours at times.
- You’ll need to do all the night feeds yourself so you won’t get a break.
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