Should You Breastfeed or Bottle Feed Your Twins?

Twin Z Feeding Pillow

Photo courtesy of The Twin Z Company

Feeding your babies is one of your biggest jobs as a parent of twins. Even before they arrived, you probably gave some thought to how you’d feed them. Once they were born, however, the reality of feeding multiple babies may have altered your plans.

Making the decision about how to feed your twin babies can be complicated. Should you breastfeed or bottle-feed your babies? Or use a combination of both? Information and input abound. Your doctor, mother-in-law, best friend, and sister may all offer an opinion on the “best” way to feed the babies. Your own personal expectations and emotions may influence your thinking. Sometimes, circumstances force a decision; cost, health benefits, logistics, schedule, and physical condition are all factors to consider.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both breastfeeding and bottle feeding. Both methods offer benefits and drawbacks. Some families develop a feeding method that combines elements of both approaches. But ultimately, the “right” choice is whatever works for your family.

Utilize the lists below to evaluate the pros and cons of each method.

Advantages of Breastfeeding Twins

There’s no denying that breastfeeding offers numerous nutritional and developmental benefits for babies. Study after study offers scientific proof to support the superiority of breast milk as the ideal food for babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first six months of life. Studies have also shown that breastfeeding is beneficial for mothers, too.

Here are some additional advantages of breastfeeding to consider:

  • Breastmilk is usually best.
  • Breastfeeding can enhance bonding between Mom and baby.
  • Breastfeeding is cost-effective—essentially free and it definitely saves money.
  • Breastmilk is always ready and available; no mixing or heating, no special equipment required.
  • It’s a renewable resource with minimal environmental impact (ie. no packaging or energy costs to manufacture).
  • Moms who breastfeed generally lose weight more rapidly.
  • Breastmilk can be pumped and stored for later use.

Disadvantages of Breastfeeding Twins

So while breastfeeding might sound ideal, there are some drawbacks to consider. It simply isn't right for everyone, and many of the challenges that women face while breastfeeding are exacerbated when they are trying to feed more than one baby. Consider these disadvantages:

  • Mom is the sole provider of food. If Mom's not available, the babies go hungry. 
  • Production of breastmilk can be hard to control - not enough milk for both babies, or too much milk resulting in leaking and painful breasts.
  • It can hurt! (Cracked nipples, improperly latched babies, engorged breasts, mastitis, biting babies …OUCH!)
  • Dad and other loved ones can’t participate in feeding and don't connect with the babies.
  • Mom has to be careful to stay hydrated and maintain enough calories.
  • Some multiples have difficulty with the nursing process, especially if they are premature or small.
  • Premature babies or babies with medical conditions may not be able to breastfeed.
  • The hormonal effects of breastfeeding may interfere with sexual activity. 
  • It can be difficult to discretely nurse in public.
  • Breastfed babies require more frequent feedings.
  • There's no way of knowing how much food the twins are getting.
  • Medications or certain foods can pass from the mother to the babies through the breastmilk.

Advantages of Bottle Feeding Twins

While “the experts” will argue that breastfeeding is always best for babies, the reality is that many families with multiples find tremendous benefit in bottle feeding. First and foremost, bottles provide an opportunity for someone besides Mom to feed the babies.

Here are some additional reasons to consider bottle-feeding your twins:

  • Bottles may be an easier option for babies who are born prematurely and unable to nurse.
  • Dads, grandparents, siblings, and others can participate in feeding the babies.
  • Mom is not chained to feeding and/or pumping. 
  • No leaking, aching breasts when they are full of milk and Mom can’t pump or feed.
  • No need for breast pads or nursing bras.
  • Less pain for women recovering from surgical delivery.
  • Mom can get more rest recovering from a difficult pregnancy/delivery.
  • Easier to feed babies in public.
  • Formula-fed babies may be able to go longer in between feedings.
  • Mom can take medication without worrying it will pass to the babies through breastmilk. 
  • You'll know how much each baby is eating. The amount of intake can be measured.
  • It's not painful. 

Disadvantages of Bottle Feeding Twins

There are certainly some drawbacks to using bottles for feeding twins. 

  • Expense. The cost of formula and bottles for two babies can be exorbitant. 
  • Formula is not the nutritionally perfect product delivered by breastmilk.
  • Babies can develop allergies.
  • Increased risk of obesity in formula-fed babies. 
  • Formula requires preparation which takes time and energy. 
  • Need to wash bottles.
  • Less “natural.” 

Some families combine both methods. Mom using a breast pump to collect breastmilk that can be stored and fed to the babies in a bottle at a later time. Some families alternate nursing and bottle feeding depending on schedule; for example, bottles during the day while mom’s at work and breastfeeding at night. Others breastfeed during the day and utilize bottles during the night so Mom can sleep. Still others alternate feedings with each baby, with Mom nursing one baby while the other gets a bottle, then exchanging roles for the next feeding. Any number of combinations can work.

Some other things to keep in mind about feeding twins: Stay flexible. Your approach to feeding twins may change based on circumstances. Mom’s health or the babies’ health may change the course of feeding plans. Work requirements or the availability of outside help may influence the decision. The babies’ feeding demands as they grow older and bigger may require you to reevaluate your strategies. Keep an open mind and don’t rule out any one option as unacceptable. 

Finally, don’t be discouraged if your plans for feeding your twins don’t work out the way that you intended. Don’t feel pressured by the well-intentioned but misguided advice from friends or families who think they know what’s best. Feeding twins is NOT easy; no matter what method you choose to feed them, you’ll face some challenges, and you are the only one who knows what will work best for your circumstances. Avoid being dragged down by breastfeeding guilt. Have confidence in your ability to make the best decision for your family and to choose the most efficient way to feed your babies.

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