Mother Sider Haley is mum to Jasper, two, and twins River and Indiana, ten months. She is in our local breastfeeding group and, as with any multiple mama, we’re in awe of the fact she’s nursing twins. This is her journey, and her tips for successfully nursing multiples.
Over to Haley…
‘“His warm wrinkled body was placed skin to skin on my chest; my new baby. He knew exactly what to do turning his head and latching immediately onto my breast. As I gazed as he suckled, in my own little bubble of happiness, I heard the midwifes voice ‘let us know when you are ready.’ Bodies hustled around my bed and I was informed a drip had been started, then the contractions began. Again. Twelve minutes after delivering baby River, his beautiful brother Indiana was placed in my arms, his little mouth already searching for my breast. What a feeling! Bundled in towels, my twin boys had finally arrived. “
In the Beginning:
The thought of breastfeeding twins can be daunting. I remember, whilst pregnant, thinking of the logistics of feeding multiple babies. I had breastfed my first born for sixteen months, only stopping when I found out we were expecting twins. I tried not to think about the difficulties that may arise and decided to go with the flow. In preparation, I began to read articles and blogs online and joined a tandem feeding group on Facebook. My local breastfeeding Facebook group has been the most informative and supportive.
Despite having fed my older son with no major problems feeding newborn babies after feeding a toddler for so long took a bit of practice. Before leaving the hospital I was advised that, with twins, it was useful for each baby to be assigned his own breast. Although I had no issues with this and it worked well for us, I was later advised that it was best to swap breasts at every feed to ensure they work and develop their muscles equally. Remembering who fed where last was way too complicated so I decided not to give it to much thought, knowing my body would adjust and compensate.
The biggest question asked is how do I know they are getting enough milk? The simple answer is, I have learned to trust my body. Our bodies are amazing. Many people successfully feed twins, triplets and more. The same principles apply as with feeding one baby: It is important to have lots of skin to skin and let babies nurse on demand, avoiding supplementing that can interfere with supply. Babies communicate with your body to get what they need and, generally, as long as they have plenty of wet/dirty nappies and are content, all is well.
For the first few weeks I really struggled with feeding Indiana. His latch was shallow and it took a very long time to get him to latch. Once he began to feed, he would frequently pop back off the breast and we’d have to start all over again. There was a lot of screaming and he would get more agitated the hungrier he became. For this reason I couldn’t tandem feed. I would feed River and place him in the Moses basket, then spend a good hour with Indiana screaming the place down whilst I attempted every position I could think of to get him to latch. Having my husband at home during this time was a blessing as I was close to giving him a bottle on many occasions. River was feeding well and I was scared that I would have to bottle feed one of my twins, and breastfeed the other.
Indiana was diagnosed with a tongue tie and had a frenotomy at four weeks old. As soon as the frenotomy procedure was done he took to the breast immediately. It didn’t hurt me at all and his latch has been great ever since.
Individual or Tandem Feeding?
This is something I feel you cannot decide without trialing what works best for you and your family. When the twins were born my eldest son was twenty months old. I found at times tandem feeding meant I was pinned to the sofa and unable to attend to my whirlwind toddler. At other times, feeding the twins in tandem meant they were happy, Mummy was relaxed and I would ensure that my son was in the same room with plenty to keep him entertained. He enjoyed having my attention to have a chat and to show me all of his toys. For me feeding on demand determines whether I tandem feed or feed individually. When the twins were born, I often worried about giving one baby more attention than the other and found that feeding individually gave me special bonding time with each baby separately. I find tandem feeding works really well when I’m at home during the day but there are times when feeding the babies individually works better for us.
I invested in a twin breastfeeding pillow, I bought mine second hand from another mummy who was still breastfeeding her twin boys who were around 20 months at the time – needless to say, by that age, they wouldn’t lay still on a cushion anymore! There are many cushions on the market and I bought this one as it was highly recommended. I use the cushion regularly for the boys and it is easy to rest them on at perfect height for a good latch. Once comfortable, I have your hands freed up for other important tasks: A snack, cup of tea and the TV remote!
Out and About
The beauty of breastfeeding is you don’t need to think about bottles and sterilisers. For a mum of twins, I felt this had to be an easier option. In the first few months, I found tandem feeding out and about impossible – latching both babies in a discreet manner was impossible and it wasn’t practical to whip out a huge feeding cushion. Therefore, when I am out I try to plan my trip around feed and nappy breaks. I personally feed anywhere that I have space to sit down. I prefer to find a café or coffee shop so that i can relax and enjoy a hot drink and a cake. My toddler appreciates this as his little legs need a break after being evicted from his pram when the twins arrived! Most department stores also have feeding areas where you can sit comfortably with some privacy. This may be easier for older babies as they can be very easily distracted: cafes and shopping centres are FULL of distractions for a curious baby. I often use the Breastfeeding Hub MK app which is fantastic to pinpoint breastfeeding friendly locations nearby wherever you are and it is also a useful source for up to date breastfeeding information.
My biggest tip when going out is routine. If I need to be out for a certain time, I find that preparing the night before is key. I prepare outfits and fill my nappy bag every evening to avoid searching for things in the morning. I try to plan that my babies have a good feed before I leave the house so they are content. I know then I have a few hours before they need a feed again.Trying to watch for your babies’ hunger cues, especially when you’re out, can avoid the sound of two screaming hungry babies who need feeding and you having to pacify one whilst feeding the other. Trust me, I have pushed my luck on a number of occasions and been in this very situation. However, I am learning!
Ten months on, we continue our breastfeeding journey. The boys are now cruising around the furniture and are real little climbers. Breastfeeding has now become a circus act! ‘Roll up Roll up, see the fascinating, breathtaking acrobatic brothers!’ They pinch one another’s boobs, frequently swapping right to left, and mostly feed with bottoms or legs in the air. This is a new challenge! I have also found that they are more in sync and are generally now tandem fed. As they have got bigger, this has become a lot easier to manage discreetly (when they are not attempting equilibristics) with one sat on each knee.
I have also started to express milk, using the Medela Freestyle double pump, and have enjoyed a few evenings out. I find this harder than expressing for a singleton; you cannot simply pump the other side as babies have just had their fill. I do not have a ‘stash’ but from experience of collecting the ‘just in case’ bottle here and there, I’ve discovered that half an hour after I have fed the boys is a good time for me to express.
Breastfeeding can be tough. In the early days they seem to be constantly attached to your breast, or breasts in my case! Breastfeeding offers your baby more than just nutrition: you are feeding for hunger, thirst, comfort and nurturing. For me, it’s a key time to bond with my babies. In the first few months, be prepared to spend A LOT of time on the sofa; cluster feeding at this time is common as babies establish their supply needs. Before you get comfortable make sure you have everything you may need close by and a glass of water. I found a water bottle was one of the best things I bought and finished a bottle during every feed. Breast feeding is exhausting and it’s very important to stay hydrated and to eat regularly. Breastfeeding makes me really hungry, so it’s a good idea to fill the house with nutritious snacks. The early weeks were difficult for us but I’m grateful things worked out – when I sit down to feed my babies, whether its tandem feeding or separately, the crying silences and peace enters the room. I find it very relaxing. When breastfeeding the oxytocin hormone is released and it can put you in a calm state of mind which is conducive when caring for three little rascals.I am thoroughly enjoying our breastfeeding experience even through teething and sleepless nights. I do not know how long these magical moments will continue but for now I cherish every moment.
My Top Tips:
- Invest in a water bottle and have it handy every feed and in the nappy bag when you go out.
- Buy a twin feeding cushion or make sure you have some nice firm pillows.
- Try and stick to a routine when you’re going out give babies a good feed before you leave.
- Try and watch out for hunger cues, and feed before it’s too late.
- Do not be to hard on yourself give it ago and follow your babies’ lead.
- Join some tandem feeding / breast feeding groups.
Useful links and support groups:
Haley, writing for The Mother Side xx