During my pregnancy my thoughts regarding breastfeeding were that I was going to aim for twelve months but six months would also be great.
I gave birth to my twins at 37weeks and 5days, they were great weights 2.5kgs and 2.3kgs and no health concerns at all. The minute they put my second born on my chest she snuggled in and looked for a boobie! Such an encouraging start!
I was determined to breastfeed my babies. It was one of the few things I didn’t second guess myself about as a mum to be or a new mum. I knew it would be the best start I could give them and I so desperately wanted to do my best for my girls. Mum breastfed my sister and I, my sister breastfed her daughter, it was always my plan to follow suit. Having two babes at once wasn’t going to stop me. Challenge me? Yes. Stop me? No way!
The first month of breastfeeding was tough. Very tough. I had cracked and bleeding nipples, nipple thrush and two gigantic rocks for boobies that hurt and leaked frequently. But I didn’t want to give up and stop feeding my babies. I knew all the issues I was facing could be fixed with a little education. That’s all I needed. Information and support are powerful tools. I had bucket loads of milk so it seemed such a waste to just give up over things I knew could be changed or improved.
I saw a lactation consultant at the hospital and she helped with getting my babies to latch on better, told me about some cream to heal my nipples and showed me some different ways to hold my bubs when I was feeding them. With some perseverance and practice I was all set!
Feeding twins did come with some extra challenges to work through.
When one baby wakes for a feed through the night do you wake the other one? Yes, I did. It was torture to just drift off to sleep only to be woken by another hungry baby. I was very lucky that after I had fed one baby my husband would take her and burp, change and settle her so I could start with the other one. It was such a massive help. Feeding twins during the night can mean you are awake for 2 hours for one feeding session.
Do you switch sides when feeding or assign each baby a breast? I switched for the first month thinking it would ensure an equal supply on both sides. It was one more thing to remember and think about so it quickly became Lexi left side and Piper right side and has stayed that way without any uneven boobie issues!
To express ot not? I was breastfeeding and expressing for the first 4 months and had a good stock of stored milk in the freezer. I stopped expressing because I was confident I didn’t need a back up supply and that I actually had ample milk. It was really only there because I had a huge fear that my milk would suddenly dry up. Why are the first few months so fraught with doubt about feeding ability?! I had so much more time when I stopped expressing. When you have twins on 3 hourly feeds and you’re expressing you spend an awful lot of time sitting on the couch! And when I wasn’t sitting on the couch there were bottles and pump attachments to wash and sterilise. Hooray for freedom from the pump!
No to formula One of our girls was too little to be on the height/weight chart and the midwife I saw at a pharmacy for weigh ins told me I needed to give her formula top ups so she would gain more weight and that it would also help fill her up and she would “sleep through”. After this particular midwife had made this comment twice I followed her advice and we went through a few cans of formula just giving her one top up at night. It did not make a bit of difference. I went to my GP who assured me my smaller bub was very healthy and alert. My GP said no more formula as she doesn’t need it, she was making her own upward line on the chart. She’s just petite. I love our GP. She is very supportive.
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Unwell baby At 5 months one of our girls got croup. What a nasty deal that was! Poor bub barked and barked and wanted to feed a lot more often and took so long to settle back to sleep. My husband and I were at the point of exhaustion when he suggested having her in bed with us. If I breastfed her in our bed she went straight back to sleep like magic. She was settled for longer too. This was the beginning of co sleeping in our house. It works for us. All four of us. No more two hour feeding stints twice a night woohoo! We did need to buy a king size bed though.
One of our girls had a blocked tear duct until she was 11 months old. Squirting breast milk in her eye helped ward off conjunctivitis without having to routinely use pharmacy medicine. Handy stuff breast milk!
Our babies have only been unwell a couple of times in their 23 months and these illnesses have been short lived. I’m sure we can attribute their good health to breastfeeding.
My biggest tip to breastfeeding mummies of twins is to not give up on tandem feeding. It was almost impossible for me to manage tandem feeding at first if I didn’t have an extra pair of hands to pass me one of the babies. But as their necks get stronger and they can support themselves a little more it gets easier. Lots easier. Tandem feeding saved me lots of time and is a lovely way for two bubbies and a mummy to bond.
I didn’t use a twin feeding pillow although I know a lot of twin mums swear by them. My girls were born in February in Queensland and a pillow was just too hot. So I did it this way; Hold twinA as if you were feeding her alone, say on your right breast with her legs across your tummy. Then attach twinB to your left breast with her legs also pointing to your left side. They’re laying in the same direction and twinB is using twinA’s tummy as a pillow. You now have twinA’s head supported by your right arm and twinB’s bottom supported by your left arm.
At 23 months this hold still works for us but these days we really only tandem feed if there is a dual melt down in progress. It calms all of us down very quickly!
Our bubs have always pretty much been fed or cuddled to sleep. I couldn’t let them cry themselves to sleep. It actually caused me physical pain in my chest to hear them upset. When you have two babies who get tired at the same time you need to get creative with your thinking. On those very tough days I would put their little flip out couches (they were gifts from my sister as first birthday presents) together on the floor and lie down with them. I’d feed one and have her snuggle into my back while I fed the other. They both got the closeness they needed and fell asleep.Then I’d hop up and do whatever I needed while they slept on their couches.
Tandem feeding in parent rooms when the girls were very young could be a challenge too. I found it very useful to park the pram in front of the seat I was sitting in so I could put my feet on the wheels. This brought my knees up which made supporting two bubs at once a lot more comfortable and felt more secure.
Having family who are helpful and supportive is probably the biggest help to any breastfeeding mum regardless of how many babies you are feeding. My mum still tells me how great she thinks it is that I’m breastfeeding twins. I wish boobie bikkies were around in my early days of breastfeeding. I was always hungry and I didn’t always make terribly nutritious decisions regarding food. If it was quick and easy I ate it. I am proud and pleased to report that at 23 months I am still breastfeeding my girls. I don’t have plans to stop feeding them. We are all happy and content to carry on breastfeeding not until a certain date or age, just until…
Nicole Gray is a Queensland mum