Breastfeeding: Rewards and challenges of nursing twins

I am 32 weeks pregnant with twins. I am planning on nursing my babies. Do you have any advice?

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Congratulations on your upcoming birth! Breastfeeding twins can present special challenges, and special rewards (for you and your babies)!

Breastfeeding twins can be a real timesaver, once nursing is established. Many moms of twins like to nurse their babies at the same time. It can be a lot easier to breastfeed two hungry babies simultaneously than to coordinate preparing and feeding bottles to both at the same time.

Simultaneous nursing increases your prolactin levels. Prolactin, the "mothering hormone" relaxes you while increasing your milk supply.

Breastmilk is the perfect food for your babies, even if they are born early. Preterm milk is higher in certain nutrients and infection-fighting antibodies than the milk of mothers of full-term babies. This protection is particularly valuable to premature babies.

Breastfeeding twins results in dramatic savings. In formula savings alone, you will save over $1500 during the first year. Even more important, breastfeeding saves health care dollars. Breastfed babies are sick less often.

It is important for all new moms to set up a support system for after the birth, but especially so for moms of twins. Find people who are supportive of the choices you make. You don't need any criticism of your mothering. Your husband, relatives, friends and neighbors can provide the support you will need. Other nursing mothers can be wonderfully supportive. If you don't have already have friends who nurse their babies, you might want to visit a La Leche League meeting in your area. To find the phone number of a leader near you, look in your local phone book or call1-800-LA-LECHE.

To help get breastfeeding off to the best start, I would highly recommend working with a Lactation Consultant. To locate an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) you can contact the ILCA (International Lactation Consultant Association) office. You will bereferred to three IBCLCs in your area. You can reach them at:

ILCA
200 N. Michigan Ave, Suite 300
Chicago IL 60601
phone 312-541-1710
fax 312-541-1271
email ilca@erols.com

Once you find a Lactation Consultant in your area, give her a call before the birth and tell her about your situation. Then take her phone number along with you to the hospital. Many Lactation Consultants will visit you there if you need specialized help at that time. (Though many hospitals do employ wonderful Lactation Consultants, they may have time constraints and be unable to spend the amount of time you need getting nursing off on the right foot.) Many Lactation Consultants in private practice also provide home visits. This is especially helpful for moms of multiples.

After the birth, allow your babies access to your breasts as soon as possible. If both babies are healthy, rooming-in will allow you and your babies lots of practice time nursing. Even if your little ones are not yet too efficient at nursing they will benefit from lots of skin-to-skin contact with you.

Many moms find it easier to nurse one baby at a time in the days following the birth. In the first few weeks it's a good idea to switch babies back and forth between breasts, rather than "assigning" breasts. Often one baby is a more vigorous nurser and switching breasts will help to even out your milk supply. (Later, it is common for babies to settle in to nursing on their preferred side.)

When breastfeeding, pay special attention to positioning and attachment. Though there are different tricks with positioning twins as they nurse simultaneously, basically positioning and attachment are the same when nursing one baby or multiples. Use lots of pillows to support you and your baby/babies comfortably. When nursing, your babies need to take in at least one inch of your areola. (Drawing only your nipple into their mouth will cause you to develop sore nipples and an insufficient milk supply.)

If you are separated from one or both of your babies following the birth, or if one baby isn't nursing well, you will need to express your milk as often as he would nurse (8 to 12 times during a 24-hour period.) Use a hospital-grade electric breast pump.

Optimally, avoid artificial nipples for at least the first four weeks of life. Your milk can be fed to your babies by cup or feeding syringe, if supplementation becomes necessary. (Some hospitals are now using cup feeding, even for premature infants.)

You will need help when you come home from the hospital with meals and household chores. Your time should be spent resting and becoming acquainted with your babies. Feeding your babies will initially take much of your time. Be sure to limit visitors in the first few weeks. If you are offered help, don't be shy, accept it. You might want to make a list ahead of time of things you can suggest, such as shopping for groceries, helping with your other children, preparing meals, helping with laundry, cleaning the kitchen ...

Setting up a good support system will make it easier for you to effectively mother your twins. Best of luck with nursing your babies-to-be!

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