Breastfeeding twins is like breastfeeding “boot camp”–and I’m so glad I had some knowledge and experience beforehand! For many moms, breastfeeding is a unique, incredible, and worthwhile experience–but that does not mean it is without its challenges. Preparing ahead of time is the best way to face those challenges and make them so much more manageable, though!
There are so many little lessons, often learned only by experience, that will make breastfeeding much easier and more enjoyable.
Reading these tips now will make you a few steps ahead already, and might even make the difference between quitting nursing early, or having the knowledge to help you keep it up for as long as you want!
1. Breastfeeding twins has a learning curve!
My twins were my second pregnancy, and I’m glad for that! While some say it’s better to dive into twins when you don’t know the difference from a singleton (hah), I think having prior experience breastfeeding was immensely helpful to my success breastfeeding twins.
One of the best things you can learn is how to get a good, deep latch. Find more help with that here.
Breastfeeding may be natural, but the truth is that whether you have one baby or two, it’s a pretty big learning curve to figure it out at first! Even the moms who seem like seasoned pro’s now, I can guarantee they started out with challenges and wondering if they were doing it right.
I don’t say this to intimidate you, but to encourage you that if you face challenges or find yourself in pain or tears, we’ve all been there too! Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help, whether from other moms or trained lactation consultants. (Also, be aware that not all doctors are knowledgeable about breastfeeding… so in this area, take what they tell you with a little grain of salt and check it against science-based breastfeeding info from sources like kellymom.com.)
Even if you don’t have experience breastfeeding yet, having a book like the one below can make all the difference in helping you succeed. I read over some of it a bit before my first baby was born, but I found myself turning to it again and again for help in my first months of motherhood. But eventually it became second nature and with my twins, I didn’t need it as much at all.
This book was a fabulous resource that set me up very well for success! Find it on Amazon by clicking the photo above.
2. It’s all about supply and demand
“Am I producing enough milk?” “How do I increase my supply?” These are probably the two most common questions–even more so for those breastfeeding twins. While there are plenty of herbal remedies and wives tales about boosting milk supply, there is one best simple answer.
The more milk you use, the more milk you produce. The best secret I’ve found to boosting supply is to “nurse on demand” and let baby nurse as frequently and as long as he or she is willing to. Even if he or she “just ate a little while ago!”
When your breasts start to feel “empty,” this sends a signal to your body to increase milk production. It won’t happen immediately, but within a day or two if you keep it up, you’ll realize that it worked!
3. “Growth Spurts” are real–and predictable!
I can only imagine how many moms get discouraged in their first couple months of breastfeeding, thinking that they are not able to produce enough milk–when actually, for many, this is not the case at all! Your baby’s appetite changes as they grow, and your milk production generally follows–if you know how to let it.
According to Kellymom.com, “Common times for growth spurts are during the first few days at home and around 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months and 9 months (approximately). Babies don’t read calendars, however, so your baby may do things differently.”
I’ll always remember my firstborn’s first major growth spurt at about two weeks old. I nursed him, burped him, and he fussed to be fed again. So I switched sides, burped, still hungry and “searching” for milk. My family probably thought I was crazy, but I burped and switched him nearly ten times before he was finally content!
Such a scenario so often makes new moms think “I’m not producing enough, my baby is still too hungry!” While occasionally this can be the case and supplementing with formula after a breastfeeding session may be necessary, the truth is that your breasts are never truly “empty.” You will often find that if you stick it out, ignore the silly “schedules” if you need to, and let baby nurse until satisfied, within a day or two your body will reward your perseverance with increased milk supply! These phases are short lived and often mean baby will sleep better after you get through them, too!
Don’t worry though, not every growth spurt will be quite that extreme. Especially after the first ones, each growth spurt gets much easier until they’re almost unnoticeable.
4. Each Breast Produces Independently
This is a funny little fact that moms of single babies don’t always notice, but is pretty obvious (and useful!) when breastfeeding twins! Some other nursing mom friends of mine were surprised and couldn’t help but laugh when I told them that my twins each had their own “side” that they nurse on almost exclusively. But why?
You might notice that one breast gets fuller faster than the other, especially if your baby nurses from it more often. It’s true, each one functions independently and determines its own supply based on demand! For instance, if your baby feeds from your right side every one two hours, but only uses your left side every four or five hours, you will notice the right side fills back up faster. If the baby only drinks half of the milk that is stored up in one breast, it will slow down production a bit. If baby “finishes” the meal and keeps sucking at a seemingly-empty breast (which is actually not completely empty), your body gets the signal to crank up the milk production!
For me, this meant that each baby’s supply was personalized to their appetite–so I wouldn’t end up looking “uneven” based on which of my twins was hungrier. It also helped me remember (with a quick squeeze) which baby had eaten last–laugh if you will, but it’s easier said than done when you’re breastfeeding twins!
5. Supply–and baby’s appetite–changes throughout the day
You may notice that your breasts are fuller in the morning, and that your baby tends to have a “marathon” nursing session at night before bed, where they eat and eat at closer intervals than the rest of the day. The first time I experienced this, it felt as though I was nearly empty (both of milk and energy) yet my babies’ hunger persisted! I
During these bedtime feeding sessions, as my babies’ hunger signs persisted and my breasts seemed to get emptier and emptier, I began to fear–as many moms do–that my supply would not be able to keep up. I was so close to giving in and offering formula, but I knew from previous experience that this is exactly how supply is built. I reminded myself that the persistent sucking even when I felt empty is a hugely important step to building a good milk supply.
What I did instead was pump a little in the morning, when my breasts were full but my babies were satisfied. Then I could use that extra milk if i needed it at night time, if the babies and I got frustrated and just couldn’t do it any longer. I really believe this was one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome while breastfeeding twins. While I don’t frown on anyone for supplementing with formula, using this strategy ended up being the best long term decision for my milk supply.
6. Healthy Habits Matter
Drinking enough water and eating enough healthy food are key for good supply
This is probably something you’ve heard before, but it’s easy enough to forget, and it really makes a big difference! As with other nursing lessons, it has been more obvious for me while breastfeeding twins. My milk supply is noticeably lower on days when I don’t drink as much, especially during summer.
You may be tempted to fast-forward to the post-baby-body you want by restricting your calories or jumping into a new diet or big exercise routine. But as a friend of mine realized when she started the Keto diet, cutting carbs can lower your milk supply pretty quickly!
Don’t forget! Carbohydrates, fat, and protein are all essential building blocks of your little one’s rapidly-developing brain and other body systems, so please be very cautious when limiting them.
As far as calories, the common estimate is that breastfeeding burns an extra 600 calories per day. So breastfeeding twins meant about 1200 extra calories burned for me! Yep, it was pretty awesome, but also tough to keep up with eating enough when my babies kept me so busy!
Vitamins and Nutrients
You’ve probably heard about postnatal depression, but what about postnatal depletion? Turns out that run-down feeling you feel as a new mom actually has a name–and it’s not necessarily just lack of sleep! Growing and birthing a baby uses a lot of your body’s nutrients, even if you took prenatal vitamins. It’s important to take a good quality vitamin while breastfeeding as well. As it turns out, many store brand vitamins don’t even dissolve and absorb into your body well.
After my first few months of breastfeeding twins, I convinced my cheap self to “splurge” just a little on a better quality vitamin, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. After taking it for a while, I felt even better than I did when I only had one baby (my first son)!
7. Recognize Challenges that are NOT Typical
My own breastfeeding experiences have been pretty smooth, but I have known plenty of others who had some obstacles to overcome.
Its pretty typical for breastfeeding to be tricky and uncomfortable at first. However, if you have significant pain that lasts through the whole feeding, or any bleeding, you should probably see a lactation consultant or doctor to make sure the latch is good. Lip and tongue ties are a common reason that babies don’t latch well, and are often missed even by professionals. A pediatric dentist or ENT can typically tell if your baby has a lip or tongue tie and let you know if it needs any correction (it’s not too scary)!
-Look Out for Mastitis & Other Issues
Many folks who haven’t breastfed may not have even heard the term mastitis. But for those who’ve experienced it, it’s an infamous term filled with dread! Becoming “engorged” or overly full of milk can be common in the early days, but if it becomes super painful or you get feverish, definitely consider a doctor visit and catch that mastitis early.
Mastitis is a breast infection that can happen while nursing, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere. Typical symptoms are breast soreness, sometimes redness or lumps, fever, and just feeling overall horrible! High fever, aches, and exhaustion may even be the only symptoms.
Most people find it happens when they are just feeling run down, have “overworked” themselves. But it is typically preceded by a blocked duct, often brought on by improper nursing, oversupply, wearing a bra that is too tight or has uncomfortable underwire, or if baby suddenly skips a feed or has a lower appetite than normal. These things can cause milk to clog in the ducts and get backed up, causing a painful spot and eventually mastitis.
There are a few ways that you can prevent mastitis, or help ward it off once you feel it starting. Get some rest, but DON’T stop nursing or pumping! If you feel a clog forming (a painful spot or small lump) allow your baby to keep nursing on that side to empty it out. It sounds silly, but one very helpful strategy is to allow gravity to help. Lay baby on the bed and try nursing on your hands and knees–some humorously call this “dangle feeding.”
If you find that you struggle with plugged ducts often, Lecithin is a good supplement to have on hand. You may also want to consider getting better quality vitamins since mastitis can also happen from your body just being run down and worn out. I have had good luck warding off mastitis with this product below (and some fresh raw garlic), even though it tastes pretty bad.
Any time you are trying to wean or drop a feeding, make sure to do so gradually. Only skip one feeding at a time, and try to wait a few days for your supply to regulate before skipping another. Weaning was definitely more tricky for me after breastfeeding twins!