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Resources Centre / Twins Tips Introduction / Twins Tips / Breastfeeding Twins - Dispelling the Myths
Breastfeeding Twins - Dispelling the Myths
The birth of twins has been on the increase for over 20 years, the rise in the number of older new mothers and the use of fertility enhancing treatments have increased the potential for conceiving twins and triplets. When it comes to feeding twins, the benefits of breastfeeding have been well documented, yet many new mothers of twins believe that they can't breastfeed their babies.

Nothing could be further from the truth - nearly every mother can breastfeed. The trick is educating yourself on the subject and practice, practice, practice!

Here, we highlight 3 common myths surrounding the art of breastfeeding twins.

Three Myths to Breastfeeding Twins

MYTH 1: YOU WON"T BE ABLE TO MAKE ENOUGH MILK
Your breasts produce milk on a supply and demand basis. It"s that simple. When the babies suck properly at the breast. the milk ducts are stimulated to produce. Proper sucking can involve some practice though (and some frustration for some in the very beginning). but it is the crucial to your body supplying the amount that is necessary for junior et al. to become satisfied and grow properly. So nurse your twins often until you build up a strong milk supply. (Between nursing your twins you can also pump to stimulate production.)

Getting your baby to open her mouth wide and take in the nipple and areola fully into her mouth is key. How do you know if you"ve hit the mark? Check to see that your baby lips are visible. If not. roll her lips out using the side of your index finger. Also. check to see that the baby"s tongue is noticeable on the underside of the breast. If not. gently remove her from your breast and start the lack-on process all over again.

How the babies suck is also important. Positioning the babies properly on each breast is crucial to good sucking. It may take time to figure out the right way with each child since each twin may have a different style and strength when it comes to suckling. "My boys had completely different nursing styles." says Christina Tinglof. the editor of Talk About Twins. "One baby got very frustrated waiting for let-down that he would pull off my breast screaming in frustration." After trying everything to keep her infant twin on her breast. it was Tingof"s mother in law who suggested that the other twin start the process for his brother. "I"d let my patient nurser begin to suck and once my milk began to flow. I"d switch him to the other breast and place my impatient sucker on the flowing breast." The trick worked and it didn"t take long before the impatient nurser learned to be a champion at the breast.

OK. you say. but how do I really know that both my babies are getting enough milk? "Count what comes out the other end." says Lynda Haddon. director of Multiple Births Canada. Haddon says that in the initial first few months. six to eight wet nappies per baby per day indicate that each is getting enough to eat.

Maintaining an adequate supply of milk is important. Mum must be in good health to help her milk supply become well established and that means mum must be well hydrated. When babies drink. so should you. Plan to drink eight ounces of fluid (preferably water) each time you nurse. Good nourishment is important. too. This is where all of those frozen meals you prepared ahead of time and those doting family members and friends can come in handy. Eat a good variety of healthy foods whenever hunger hits (of course a piece of that celebration chocolate sent from Aunt May can"t hurt either)! And don"t forget to maintain a calm environment. too. Haddon notes that high stress levels can affect not only your milk production but make the nursing seem like a chore. "Breastfeeding then seems like an annoyance rather than the fulfilling experience it can be for everyone." she says.
MYTH 2: YOU WON"T HAVE ANY TIME FOR YOURSELF
Yes. in the beginning. Haddon admits. you give up what little free time you have to learn how to care for these new little beings. And much of that time will be devoted to breastfeeding. the time spent with each child. figuring out routines (if they occur) and learning the ins and outs of nourishing your babies. But. Haddon points out. time moves on quickly as you get more experienced.

But when a nursing routine is established. breastfeeding actually will save time. Think about it: No bottles to sterilize. no formula to mix. and when you tandem nurse. you"ll be able to feed both babies at the same time.

Again here we need to rely on the supports you have hopefully put into place prior to the births of the babies. Hook up with a network of other mums who are breastfeeding and who are breastfeeding twins. La Leche League International. for example. is a great organization that offers a wonderful support network for nursing mothers. La Leche groups throughout the world hold monthly meetings to discuss breastfeeding and parenting issues as well. Depending on your area you may be able to hook up to a meeting on any given week. as well as have access to phone support and accessibility to a library of breastfeeding materials.

Tamba (Twins & Multiple Births Association) supplies information and support to anyone (regardless of where you live) who contributes a membership fee.
Stay in touch with others via the computer. Check out www.twinsclub.co.uk for message boards with parent-to-parent support on any number of issues regarding nursing or other aspects of parenting twins. The key is to stay informed and stay in touch. especially with others who are sympathetic to your cause!

Susan Gunn-Nodiff. a 38-year-old mother of seven successfully breastfed her fraternal twin boys for more than a year. An experienced mother. Gunn-Nodiff prepared for the likelihood of a caesarean section for her twins and anticipated the help she would need in the first few weeks while her body healed. With the assistance of her husband and a network of friends. she was able to nurse and parent her twins without having to compromise the rest her body needed for healing.

"When everybody else is saying you can"t do it. you can prove that yes you can!" she says.
MYTH 3: YOUR SPOUSE WILL BE LEFT OUT OF PARENTING
So babies are here and hubby wants to help. (If it were only this easy to get him to take out the bin!) He"s afraid he"ll be excluded from the parenting process if he can"t feed the babies. Well truth is. he doesn"t have breasts and will be left out of that aspect of the process but there is so much more involved in caring for twins!

Dad can hold and soothe one baby (an act of bravery in itself!). while mum is nursing the other. Dad can also have the job of taking care of mum. making sure she has ample supplies of water all day long. massaging mother"s neck while she is nursing. changing the babies clothing and diapers. and giving the babies their baths. Certainly babies spend much of their early weeks eating and sleeping but this period is just a fraction of their lives.

Initially spouses can be of great support to the breastfeeding mummy. Nursing is something that both mum and baby have to learn. so there is a trial and error period. which can be trying and frustrating. Dad"s active role can offer support. helping position the babies. checking books for guidance. calling lactation specialists if necessary. and just being a generally sensitive cheerleader for mom. Of course once the babies reach six weeks. the bottle can be introduced and dad can easily take charge of the necessary bottle feedings with mum"s previously pumped breast milk. One of the most helpful dads is the one who supports his spouse in her decision to breastfeed. Now you all have one less hurdle to overcome. But you must believe (and assist dad in understanding) that fathers have incredible parenting potential in the early weeks of the babies" lives.

Haddon points out another important way spouses can be a part of the plan. "Your mate can become the spokesperson. advocating with family members and others who may have concerns or problems with the babies being breastfed." she says. Her group offers scripts with phrases that can assist the spouses in dealing with resistant or outspoken family members (those who will badger you about nursing. and some who are actually downright creative in their attack on the process of breastfeeding). Spouses are in a good position to take control by keeping the predators away from the nursing mom (remember low stress levels are helpful).
ENDING THE MYTHS
While there may be circumstances that present themselves and hinder the nursing of the twins. parents can still be prepared before the birth to help things go as smoothly as possible. Be a pioneer and help put an end to the thoughts that breastfeeding is not an option for multiple babies. Enlist the support you need and give it a try. Gunn-Nodiff encourages new mums contemplating breastfeeding their twins to hang in there despite what everybody says. "Knowing that I am giving them the best start and watching them hold hands when they nurse makes it all worth it." she says.

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