Breastfeeding twins is draining—both literally and figuratively. I knew my sanity would be put to the test trying to nurse two crying babies. Maybe I’m a prude, but I also found the idea of breastfeeding twins to be a little embarrassing, because, let’s face it, having two babies suckle away looks outright bizarre. But I was determined to give it a try. Here’s what I learned that made breastfeeding multiples more manageable.
1. Rely on your support system
When it comes to nursing success, it’s a group effort, says Lynda Haddon, an Ottawa multiple-birth educator and past president of Multiple Births Canada. “Your partner is the quarterback on your team, your support system for making meals, doing laundry and ensuring a steady supply of liquids is being provided to Mom.” My husband also helped out by entertaining a constant stream of visitors when I was too tired to play hostess and by stocking our fridge with my favourite foods. Friends and family who were eager to pitch in happily ran errands for us and occasionally watched the twins so I could nap.
2. Embrace the bottle
After about seven days of breastfeeding round the clock, we decided to introduce the bottle so my husband could feed one baby with expressed breastmilk while I grabbed a few hours of much-needed sleep before nursing the other. We also made sure to alternate so each twin got that invaluable skin-on-skin mom and baby bonding time. Some infants may be more finicky, but our kids happily switched from bottle to breast and back again. “Nipple confusion is definitely not an urban myth, it can happen,” says Kylie Field, a Halifax postpartum doula and breastfeeding coach. “When the baby has a strong latch and is breastfeeding well, only then can you introduce a bottle.”
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3. Get the twins on the same schedule
Sleep is precious when you have a newborn—and even more so when you have a pair of them to nurse. Getting your little ones on the same feeding schedule is one way to score some shut-eye. To help sync routines, Haddon recommends using “Jumelle: The Best Baby Tracker,” the app she created for parents of multiples. Only by having an accurate log of when each infant eats and for how long, can you push their feedings closer together, says Haddon.
4. Master the feeding position
I’m grateful to the wonderful nurses who taught me the value of a good quality, twin-specific nursing pillow, which is large enough to fit both babies (I love the My Brest Friend brand). Learning multiple-friendly feeding positions like the “football hold” (one baby under each arm) or “laid back” nursing (where the infant’s head is at your breast with feet facing down) also made my job that much easier. Field suggests the latter for dealing with reflux or gas.
5. Have realistic expectations
After three months of breastfeeding, all those sleepless nights finally caught up with me. Given my history of depression, my doctor was concerned about my increased risk for the postpartum variety, so I made the decision to wean. In hindsight, I wish I had stuck it out longer. But I’m proud of those three months.
The ability to sustain breastfeeding twins for any length of time deserves a round of applause. If you can do it for longer than six months, you’re a miracle worker in my eyes. It’s a real challenge, so moms of multiples shouldn’t beat themselves up for stopping if they’ve reached their limit. For me, the important thing was to try, because I remember a doula telling me once: “Even one day of breastfeeding is better than none.”
A version of this story appeared in our January 2015 issue with the headline “Nursing twins,” p. 52.