Advice for Breastfeeding Twins and Multiples

Mother breastfeeding twins at the park
Jade and Bertrand Maitre/Moment Open/Getty Images

These days, twins, triplets, and more are common. Is it still possible to breastfeed? How can a new mom manage to breastfeed multiple babies? The good news is that it is not only possible but "moms of multiples" do it all the time. Here are some great strategies for nursing more than one baby.

Do Multiple Babies Have Different Needs Than Singletons?

Full or near-term healthy multiples have the same needs as full-term singletons. Depending on the ease of the delivery, you should be able to breastfeed as soon after birth as possible.

Premature infants or those with medical complications are going to require a bit more. Because these babies are typically taken to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) immediately after birth, you will not be able to put the babies to the breast.

However, you can still provide breast milk to your babies by expressing milk with either a breast pump or by hand. Double-pumping from a hospital-grade electric pump is ideal for expressing the maximum amount of milk and maintaining a strong milk supply.

But have no fear, your milk production will absolutely increase to meet the needs of however many babies you have! Keep in mind that feedings at the breast may not happen for weeks (depending on the situation), but that is OK.

When the babies are given the go-ahead for breastfeeding, ask to see a lactation consultant to help with the positioning and latching.

Is Breastfeeding Too Overwhelming With More Than One Baby?

Most new moms feel overwhelmed in general, but keeping the positive information about breastfeeding tucked away in the back of their minds really helps. Knowing that they're giving their babies the best nutrition and protection helps them to keep at it. Believe it or not, most moms of multiples feel that breastfeeding is their special time to rest and relax with their babies and that the interaction during that time is very special.

One common concern of breastfeeding mothers is the feeling that they don't have enough time to eat. Factoring in extra babies may seem like the caloric intake is nil. However, this is something very important to take into consideration: Moms who are breastfeeding multiples need more calories than those breastfeeding singletons. Preparing ahead of time is key. Having a well-stocked freezer before the babies arrive is recommended. This way you can always heat up a solid, good quality meal with no prep work.

If possible, plan ahead for some help, aside from your significant other. Whether it's a family member, a baby nurse, or a doula, having extra hands around is essential. You are not expected to be a supermom within days of having multiples. You will need help with doing the dishes, the laundry, or even taking the babies out for a walk while you get to rest. It is not a luxury, but more of a necessity.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends supplementing breastfed and partially breastfed infants with 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day beginning in the first days of life.

This supplementation should continue unless the baby is receiving at least a liter a day of vitamin-D fortified formula. Once your twins start solid foods, you can talk to your pediatrician about whether or not supplementation should be continued or if they are getting enough vitamin D from their food.

Different Positions and Feeding Babies at the Same Time

You should see a lactation consultant as soon as possible to help you with different positions for feedings. It should be a comfortable process.

In the first few weeks postpartum, feeding two babies simultaneously is ideal as it cuts down on time. Babies all have different suckle styles, so if one is stronger than the other, it is best that you switch breasts at each feed. If this is too stressful, you can let each baby have a breast for an entire day, then switch the next day. This will ensure adequate stimulation of both breasts.

You may notice after a few weeks that each baby is starting to fall into his own sleep-wake pattern, which may not necessarily coincide with one another. This is the time where mom gets to spend one-on-one time with each baby.

You may want to keep a chart of your baby's behaviors because you're not going to want to leave it up to memory. Make columns for each baby and which breast they used at each feeding, wet diapers, and soiled diapers.

Will They Wean at the Same Time?

Even though your babies probably started breastfeeding at the same time, weaning is a completely different story. They will wean individually. It's entirely possible that they will wean at the same time, but do not worry if one weans well before the other.

Other Helpful Hints

  • Join a Mothers of Multiples support group.
  • Purchase a breastfeeding pillow designed for multiple babies.
  • Take a prenatal breastfeeding class and talk to the teacher about the fact that you're having more than one baby so she can adjust some of her lessons to accommodate you.
  • Find more than one position to comfortably feed your babies so you don't feel that you're stuck in a rut.
  • Create a breastfeeding "station." Have water and snacks readily available to you; breast pads; diapers and wipes; and a cordless phone.
1 Source
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breastfeeding: vitamin D.

Additional Reading

By Melissa Kotlen
Melissa Kotlen is an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and Registered Lactation Consultant.