Breastfeeding Twins

Breastfeeding Twins

If you’re expecting twins or triplets and wondering whether it’s advisable, or even possible, to breastfeed more than one baby at a time, the answer is ”yes” on both counts. Breastfeeding is the healthiest, least expensive and most convenient way to feed a baby and that’s not just true for singletons. Nutritious breastmilk contains antibodies that can boost a baby’s immune system and offers other long-lasting health benefits. That’s even more important if your babies are born prematurely, as many twins are.

However, establishing breastfeeding for twins—or triplets—requires some planning, plus support from family, friends and medical professionals.

Caring for one newborn is exhausting and caring for one can multiply that exhaustion. This is where support can really help. Once you bring your twins home, be sure to rest often, eat well and enlist as much help as you can to meet the demands of your newborns. Drink plenty of liquids and eat frequent snacks. Limit visitors and housework for the first few weeks. The first few weeks will be focused on feeding your twins and resting. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s bringing you food or briefly watching the babies.

It’s advisable to start breastfeeding twins shortly after birth and to nurse them as often as you can. If your twins were born early and have complications that prevent you from breastfeeding one or both of them right away, you can still use a pump to express milk. It’s important to express milk to ensure a good supply. Pump eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period.

It is possible to make enough milk for two or more babies, since breastmilk is produced on demand. It’s the law of supply and demand. Unless there’s a problem, the more milk the babies drink, the more you’ll make.

Whether you feed the babies together or separately is up to you. The argument for feeding them together during the first weeks is that you’ll save time. The argument for feeding them apart is that it’s easier to see if either baby has latched on properly so the baby gets enough milk and your nipples don’t get sore. Improvise to see what works best. You can breastfeed one baby at a time during one feeding and both together at another feeding to see what works best for you. After a while they may develop different patterns of hunger and need to be fed separately.

Ideally, you should alternate feedings from both breasts. Offering both breasts to each baby at each feeding encourages milk production. You can nurse your baby at one breast for a day and then switch the next day or offer each baby a different breast at each feeding.

There are a few breastfeeding positions that work for nursing both twins at the same time. Whichever you choose, make sure the babies are close to you, cradled into your body, as that can help babies to latch on properly.

  • The clutch or football hold. Using pillows, hold a baby on either side, supporting their heads at nipple level with the palms of your hands, their bodies under your arm and their heads together. Be sure to support your back with a pillow.
  • The X or double cradle hold. The basic nursing position can be adapted to fit two babies and can make it easier for babies to latch on. Support each baby with your arm and overlap their legs so you can get the right angle. Pillows can help raise the babies and be sure that you have enough pillows to support your back so you can recline comfortably.
  • Cradle-clutch hold. This combines both holds with one child in the clutch/football hold and the other in the cradle hold hold. Again, nursing pillows can help make this easier.

Since feeding twins is time consuming you may wonder if it is okay to also feed them formula. Some babies happily alternate between the bottle and the breast but others may prefer the bottle, which is easier to nurse from, once they’ve had both. Also, if you give your child an occasional bottle, it does mean less frequent nursing and this may decrease your breast milk production.

Some additional tips may help:

Caring for any newborn is time intensive but that is especially true when caring for multiples. It’s easy to get discouraged. It can help to connect with other mothers of multiples who are breastfeeding, whether it’s in person or online.

Read up on twins and breastfeeding. Holding a book is not easy while feeding twins, so take advantage of audio books.

If you have any questions, discuss them with a lactation consultant. Sometimes a minor adjustment in breastfeeding positions can ensure a more successful experience.

Joan MacDonald
Joan Vos MacDonald has written about health and fitness for newspapers, magazines and websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers and the author of two books on health-related topics, "Tobacco and Nicotine Dangers," for young adults, and "High Fit Home," a design book about fitness and architecture. She lives in upstate New York near her children and grandchildren.

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