Breastfeeding twins requires two babies to be fed optimally. However, feeding twins optimally without compromising the quality and quantity of breastmilk may be challenging for a mother. Nevertheless, this should not prevent a mother from breastfeeding both her babies.
Experts believe that most mothers can successfully breastfeed twins with proper guidance and prompt support. If you are a new mother to twin babies or are expecting twins soon, read this article to understand more about breastfeeding twins, appropriate positions for breastfeeding, nursing tips, and alternatives to breastfeeding twins.
Why Should You Breastfeed Your Twins?
Twins attain the same benefits by breastfeeding as a singleton. However, these benefits are increasingly prudent for babies born prematurely, which may often be the case in twin birth.
- Breast milk is an easy-to-digest food offering nutrients to grow and develop. It is crucial for premature babies who are mostly underdeveloped and likely to have an immature digestive system (1).
- Breast milk provides antibodies that boost immunity and help fight infectious diseases. Premature babies are more prone to infections than babies born full-term (2).
- Breastfeeding allows the mother to interact with the babies and have skin-to-skin contact, which boosts the baby’s overall growth and development. It is preeminent for premature babies who need kangaroo care to hasten development and reduce hospital stays (3).
Other than these, breastfeeding boosts the mother-baby bond essential to develop trust.
How To Breastfeed Twins?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the best way to breastfeed twins is to feed them simultaneously (tandem breastfeeding), establishing a twin nursing schedule (4). It means that if one baby is awake and ready to feed, you should wake up the other baby and feed them as well.
The first few weeks after birth, infants feed eight to 12 times per day, for about 20 to 30 minutes per session. In such a schedule, feeding two babies at different times can become taxing, leaving no time for the mother to rest.
In case you aren’t comfortable yet feeding two babies simultaneously, feed the weak feeder first and the other one later. Once you get the hang of tandem feeding, practice the right position so that you and the babies are comfortable during nursing. As the babies grow, they will develop their sleep-wake cycles owing to which you may have to feed them separately.
Appropriate Positions To Breastfeed Twins Simultaneously
- Double football hold or double-clutch: Place the babies on pillows almost under your arm such that their legs point backward. Support their heads and backs with your hands and arms, respectively. This position lets you avoid any pressure on your belly, especially after a C-section.
- Double cradle hold or front cross: Place both the babies in the cradle position wherein their legs overlap and make an X in your lap. Use your arms to support their backs and your hands to support their heads. You may stay seated or lie while feeding in this position, especially while feeding the babies at night.
- Cradle and football hold: Place one baby in the cradle position and the other in a football position. The baby who latches easily should be placed in the cradle position and the other in the football hold.
- Upright latch hold: In this breastfeeding position, each baby latches to a breast while seated in an upright position. The babies could sit on your legs, or you may place a pillow. You will still have to support their back and heads with your arms and hands.
You may initially need help to position the babies during breastfeeding. However, with practice, both you and your babies will learn to adjust to the chosen breastfeeding position.
Tips To Breastfeed Twins
Below are some simple tips to ensure the safe and optimum breastfeeding of twins.
- Get a feeding or nursing pillow: You can use bed pillows or cushions as props to support babies, your back, and your arms while feeding. However, arranging regular pillows or cushions for every feed and keeping them in place while nursing could be a hassle. Therefore, it is good to consider using a specialized twin-feeding or nursing pillow.
- Seek support and position the babies properly: When you begin feeding, putting two babies on your breast could require help. It is essential to seek support as proper positioning of the babies is vital for correct latching and comfortable feeding. If you are alone, pick a position that offers maximum support and works the best for you and your babies.
- Ascertain they are latching right: Once your babies are appropriately positioned, check if they have latched correctly. You can tell a baby has latched correctly when their lips flange out and cover the entire areola. You will also see the baby move their mouth and neck while swallowing. Improper latching could affect the amount of milk consumed by the baby and also cause other nursing issues, such as sore nipples for the mother.
- Shift breasts: You may feel that one of your babies or both are more comfortable feeding on one breast, compelling you to let them feed on that breast. But experts advise switching breasts for each baby at each feeding session. It is done so that both breasts get equal stimulation, otherwise breastfeeding problems, such as breast engorgement and clogged milk ducts, may occur.
- Take advice and follow what suits you: If you can’t breastfeed twins simultaneously, consult your lactation consultant and explore feeding one baby at a time or feeding expressed milk to one baby. If breast milk production and supply aren’t enough to meet the needs of two, do not rush to start breast milk substitute. First, talk to your lactation counselor who can guide you about what works best for you.
- Focus on your health and well-being: Breastfeeding two babies is a demanding task requiring you to stay healthy and active. It is important to eat a well-balanced diet containing various foods and exercise regularly for sufficient milk flow. You may consult a certified nutritionist to get a customized diet plan suitable for your needs.
You can also join community groups where you can interact with mothers who currently are or were breastfeeding twins. It will give you motivation and emotional support vital for breastfeeding twins.
What To Do If Breastfeeding Twins Is Not Possible?
While several mothers breastfeed their twins successfully, it may be challenging in some cases. In such instances, take a lactation expert’s advice to supplement breastfeeding with expressed or pumped breast milk to one or both babies by a nifty cup. However, you should strictly avoid using formula milk and bottle feeding.
Many mothers may be able to breastfeed one baby at a time if not simultaneously, and you may explore this option as well. Monitor the babies’ growth and development and talk to your healthcare provider in case of any concerns.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Will I make enough milk to breastfeed two?
Yes, most mothers make enough milk to breastfeed their twins (7). Breast milk production is based on demand and supply; thus, the more you breastfeed, the more milk you make. Nevertheless, if you suspect your milk supply isn’t sufficient, you can consult a lactation consultant for solutions.
2. How many calories does a mother burn when breastfeeding twins?
A healthy breastfeeding mother burns around 500 to 700Kcal per day to produce milk while nursing a singleton (8). If you are breastfeeding twins, you may burn more calories since your breasts need to produce almost double the milk.
3. Is breast milk different for twins?
When breastfeeding twins, the composition of breast milk might differ as per the needs of your twin. In addition, research states that mothers who breastfeed twins are likely to produce double the volume of milk with adequate nutritional components (including protein and fat) compared to mothers who breastfeed one baby at a time (9).
4. What percentage of twin moms breastfeed?
Although breastfeeding twins can be like a juggling act requiring much patience and practice, most women successfully breastfeed their twins despite the challenges. Further, a study showed a considerably high success rate in breastfeeding initiation in mothers who breastfed twins (10).
Breastfeeding twins can be a little overwhelming, to begin with. Moreover, it may require practice initially to breastfeed twins efficiently. However, most mothers tend to pass this phase smoothly. Still, some may have to go through certain challenges that require patience, persistence, and appropriate guidance from a professional. Lastly, you must remember to focus on your health, as it greatly influences the production and supply of breast milk.
- Breastfeeding twins simultaneously is considered the best way to establish a feeding routine.
- Double football, double-cradle, and upright latch hold are some of the best positions you may try to nurse your twins comfortably.
- Breastfeeding twins can be made easier by using a nursing pillow, good posture, and swapping breasts.
2. Infection and the immune system of a premature baby; About Kids Health
3. Skin-to-skin contact; UNICEF
4. Feeding Twins on a Schedule; AAP
5. Breastfeeding…twins, triplets, and more; Hamilton Regional Lactation Committee
6. Feeding twins; Pregnancy, birth, and baby
7. Breastfeeding twins; Australian Breastfeeding Association
8. Weight Loss – for Mothers; La Leche League International
9. O Flidel‐Rimon and E S Shinwel; Breast feeding twins and high multiples; Archives of Disease in Childhood. Fetal and Neonatal Edition.
10. Elizabeth G Damato et al., Duration of Breastfeeding for Mothers of Twins; ResearchGate.