Congratulations! Twins! Twice the fun!
We all know that human breastmilk is best for human babies. This holds especially true for twins.
Breastfeeding one baby can be challenging. Having twins offers even more possibilities of potential problems so being prepared is important.
What you can do before your babies are born? Take a breastfeeding class or meet with an experienced IBCLC prenatally. A good class will focus on what is normal for breastfeeding babies. How making breastmilk works, how to get a good latch, how to know your baby is getting enough breastmilk, and the benefits of skin to skin. If you take a private class they can also focus on the “twinness”. The instructor can explain to cope with two babies in the beginning and demonstrate positions for feeding two babies.
If possible go to a La Leche Meeting or another breastfeeding support group. It doesn’t have to be a group specifically for twin families. Studies show that just watching other babies nurse prenatally helps your breastfeeding success! In the Ann Arbor area, there are several La Leche League meetings per month and at The Breastfeeding Center of Ann Arbor, we offer a free drop in support group each week on Friday from 10-12 AM. We also do offer a special twins support group that meets on the first Tuesday of the month from 1-2:30 in our office, 722 Brooks Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48103.
It is also important to talk to your doctors about what you feeding plans are so they know how to help you get off to a good start. Let your family and friends know that you are going to be breastfeeding so everyone can be on board with your decision. You want to surround yourself with people who support your goals and are there to help you meet them.
You will need lots of help! Don’t be shy about asking. People are very excited about new babies and having twins just makes it more special. See if you have a friend or family member to help coordinate meals and other help you might need. There are great online sign up sites now that make it really easy to pitch in. Helpers could be family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, or postpartum doulas. What is a Postpartum Doula? This is a person who is there to help a family in whatever ways they need. Sometimes it is help with the baby but often it is helping with laundry, meals, or light cleaning. If you are low income, the Michigan Doula Connection, http://www.michigandoulaconnection.org/ can be a great resource. Take advantage of what people are offering to do.
Often twins come early and by cesarean section which can bring its own set of unique challenges. Preterm babies are little! They have trouble regulating their bodily systems. They make look like perfect newborns, just smaller, but they have some troubles with the ability to hold onto the nipple and to sustain good sucking patterns. Also, their mouths can be quite small! Their brains still need time to develop. The appropriate amount of calories plus lots and lots of skin to skin will help that brain mature. Often preterm babies will start nursing really well around their due date so being patient is critical.
Being pregnant with twins means the odds of the babies being born by cesarean section due to the babies’ positions or running out of room in the womb are higher. Being born via cesarean section is hard on both mother and babies. The babies don’t have a transition from the womb to the world as with a vaginal birth. It is an abrupt entry into the world without the squeezing and contracting they expect. They often have more fluid to cough and sneeze out, are sleepy, and have lighter sucks. Mom is also at risk for more complications, pain, medications, and just not being able to get up and around as easily. Again, getting help and support to help the mother and babies recover is important.
In addition, if you needed outside help getting pregnant, you may have some hormonal challenges which can make breastfeeding trickier. The right hormones are important to get and stay pregnant but also for breastmilk production.
All of these things can be overcome. It just might take time, patience, perseverance, and some expert help. Make sure if you are working with an IBCLC that she has lots of breastfeeding support experience, period, but also has worked with many breastfeeding twins mothers in the past.
Getting started on the right foot with breastfeeding is especially important with twins. Why? You need twice as much breastmilk! In the first few days you want to have a lot of skin to skin contact with the babies (if they are able to be with you) and tell your breasts over and over you want lots of breastmilk ASAP. How do you do this? If your babies aren’t nursing well this means doing hand expression and pumping. Hand expression is great for day 1 and as a compliment to pumping. Stanford University has a GREAT website to help. Google “Stanford and breastfeeding” and you will be there! Get a really good pump. A little hand pump is not going to cut it! I like the Symphony by Medela. They rent it at a number of places. Well worth the money.
In addition, it is important to view the babies as individuals, not as a set. Each baby will have its own feeding needs, feeding cues, and quirks. Watch each baby’s way to communicating with you. Your babies may be in synch with each other with waking and feeding. But they may not be. In the beginning address each baby’s needs as they need them. Later you can work on getting them into a routine if this is important to you.
Get good at nursing one baby at a time, than you will be ready for two. One baby may go to the breast right away and be successfully breastfeeding while the other baby needs more time and help. Once one baby is nursing well, see if you can get a second baby on. If you have two babies that both need help you are going to run out of hands quickly! Some mother switch breasts with the babies for each feed. Baby A gets the left breast for this feed, the right breast for the next feed. Some mothers keep a baby on one breast for a full day and switch breasts the next day. Some mothers always have baby A on the same breast. There are concerns here because each mother has a breast that tends to make milk more easily than the other breast. Some mothers always nurse one baby at a time and never tandem feed. Some mothers swear by their nursing pillows. Others mothers don’t use pillows at all. No matter how you are coordinating their feedings, you want to make sure each baby is getting the calories they need and that your breasts are being told to make lots of milk. There is no “right” way. Do what is working best for you but get help if you are feeling uncertain.
If you are struggling to make enough breastmilk for two, consider investing in a private consultation with an experienced IBCLC to help optimize your breastmilk supply. There are many tricks that we know! You might consider getting banked milk from a Human Milk Bank. This can be pricey but perhaps worth it. You might consider exploring informal milk sharing if your babies are healthy and close to term. Be sure to ask for health certificates from the donor mothers and make personal contact.
The Breastfeeding Center of Ann Arbor is here to help support you. We offer prenatal education, private consultations, support groups, breastfeeding pillows, pumps and pump parts, and nursing tanks and bras. Again, you don’t have to do it alone. Contact us at 734-975-6534, firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out our website, bfcaa.com.