Are you expecting twins and considering breastfeeding?
If the answer is yes, read below to find out a little bit about my experience – the ups and the downs.
I’ll say here that I strongly believe that it’s up to you how you feed your baby. Fed is best, and there are a million different reasons that impact the way someone chooses to feed their child.
I’ll also add that I am by no means a breastfeeding specialist. This is just my experience, what worked for me and my feelings and recommendations. And if it can be of help to anybody hoping to breastfeed their twins (or singleton to that matter) then I’ll be happy.
The reason for the timing of this post is that last week my breastfeeding journey with the twins came to a natural end. I fed them for almost a year, both exclusively and combination feeding, and I am really proud of how far we have come.
Below I give a snapshot of my experience.
When I found out that I was pregnant with the twins I automatically ruled out breastfeeding. I had exclusively breastfed Immy for 13 months, and although she took to it with ease, there were many ups and downs and it was blummin’ hard work. One being she would not take a bottle. So although I loved feeding her at times it felt overwhelming being the only person able to meet her nutritional needs. The thought of doing that with two scared me, and honestly I just didn’t think it was possible. What if they refused a bottle too?
Breastfeeding newborn twins
After finding a breastfeeding twins and multiples support group on Facebook, and breastfeeding being all I knew, I decided to give it a go. I told myself, if this doesn’t work I’ll switch to formula. I put no pressure on myself and decided to go with the flow. Also, I’m not a fan of washing up so the thought of washing up so many bottles and preparing them at night swayed me in the breastfeeding direction. Anything that meant I wouldn’t have to get out of bed!
In the early days it was pretty tough going. Like Immy they both took to it naturally, but I was constantly feeding them! I feel incredibly lucky that Tabby and Wilf didn’t have to spend any time in the NICU, meaning I could start feeding them straight away. I fed on demand, which meant giving them a feed whenever they were showing signs of hunger, which could range from every half an hour to every 4 hours. One common misconception about breastfeeding is that you just feed them every 4 hours and that’s it. Although that might work for some babies, the majority need feeding more frequently as breast milk digests a lot quicker than formula.
People often asked if I fed them at the same time or separately, and the truth is a bit of both. When they were newborn I would feed at the same time, and if one woke in the night for a feed I would wake and feed the other one too. This piece of advice I got was so valuable, otherwise I would have ended up being awake all night feeding them individually (I tried this once and it was not fun).
I needed a lot of help in the early days to get them both into my arms, so Ross would have to hand me one at a time. I soon got to grips with scooping them up though and burping one while still feeding the other.
After a month or so I started feeding them separately in the day as personally it was more convenient for me, as having a spare hand to help Immy with whatever she might need was invaluable. I would then feed them together at night.
When we got to the 11 week mark and Tabby had her brain surgery I started to feed them separately altogether as I had to be really careful with her head.
I really do think the success of my twin breastfeeding journey was the pandemic. We were forced to stay home. And with that I had no pressure to go anywhere, just sit and feed, which is so important in the early days to establish supply.
If you do decide to give breastfeeding a go I would highly recommend the following items.
- Breastfeeding pillow. I used this mainly for night feeds and propped cushions up in the day. But it’s also super handy just to lay them in during the day
- Lanolin cream. My saving grace. Couldn’t live without this stuff in the early days.
- Breast pump. I didn’t really pump as part of a routine, but you definitely can. I wasn’t planning on spending time away from them but it definitely helped when I was in hospital with Tabby to keep my supply up for when I returned to Wilf.
- Comfy breastfeeding bra – an essential for quick access to milk.
- Water bottle – because no one wants to spill water over their babies and breastfeeding is thirsty work!
- Wireless Headphones – listening to podcasts during those night feeds was a lifesaver. Sh**ged, Married, Annoyed and Happy Mum Happy Baby were my favourites. I recommend wireless so that the wires don’t get caught around the babies.
- Snacks!!! All the snacks. Because breastfeeding is hungry work. Did you know you can burn over 1,000 calories a day breastfeeding twins?
No one prepares you for how hard breastfeeding can be. It’s not only the initial difficulty of painful feeds and getting them to latch, but the emotional side too of feeling all touched out and overwhelmed. Being the only one supplying your baby with food is quite a big responsibility, and has to be done even if you aren’t feeling up to it. A week after I gave birth to the twins I was back in hospital with Sepsis, and although I felt like death I took them with me and continued to feed them around the clock. Looking back I think it gave me something to focus on other than how I felt, and once you have established it you have a real urge to carry on, despite what life throws at you. It’s funny how the Mum warrior in you kicks in during tough times.
I also found with the twins that I couldn’t feed them when out and about very well. Not for me being shy, but because they were so used to being fed at home in lockdown, that by the time we got to go places they wanted to see the world.
Breastfeeding twins and weaning
Once we hit the 6 month mark and the twins started trying solids, the feeds started to drop. Not drastically to begin with, but I did notice that they weren’t asking for it as much. By this point they could go 4 hours between feeds, and sometimes longer the more they got used to solids.
I would usually give them a feed before their meal, and then at night before bed.
Combination feeding twins
Once we hit the 6 and a half month mark and the twins were starting to eat more solids, and we were allowed out a little bit more, I made the decision to start combination feeding.
Combination feeding is when you breastfeed your baby for some feeds and give them formula for others.
At this point it was the best thing that I could have done for us as a family and for my mental health. Although I loved breastfeeding, it can be all consuming, and I wanted to be able to share the responsibility with Ross and be able to spend some more time with Immy. It can be quite emotional deciding to stop though, as it’s such a special thing to be able to do.
They would have a bottle in the morning and afternoon and then I would breastfeed them mid-morning and at night. Tabby was the first to stop just before Christmas. One night she just didn’t want to feed from me, so we gave her a bottle and that was that. Wilf did the same thing last week, just didn’t fancy it one night. I took their lead and now they have a few bottles a day but will be switching to cow’s milk when they turn one next week.
I’m quite glad of it really, as I wanted to stop at around a year, and this way it was the easiest and safest way to do it.
Weaning off the breast
When it comes to weaning twins off the breast you need to be really careful to do it slowly to ensure you don’t become engorged. As my two slowly reduced their feeds and two were replaced with formula, I didn’t have any problems. If however you decide to go from exclusively breastfeeding to not, you should do it slowly (over a few days or even weeks) to reduce the risk of getting engorged which can lead to mastitis. I’m not a breastfeeding expert by all means, but I know a lot of mums who have run into this problem, so thought it best to say.
Deciding to stop breastfeeding can be an emotional decision. Feeding your baby yourself is so special and I’m glad that we made it as far as we did. Yes it has its difficulties and can be super emotional, but it’s pretty magical too and I’m thankful that we were able to do it for as long as we did.
If you are considering breastfeeding your twins and have any other questions I would love to hear from you! Please drop me a DM on Instagram @lifewithwit or email firstname.lastname@example.org