Whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle-feed your multiples, you'll have lots of questions. We've pulled together a heap of information that we hope will help.
Content on this page is re-produced with permission from Twins Trust UK.
Breastfeeding provides your babies with the optimum food for their growth and development. For parents of multiples, these are some realities:
- Breastfeeding is free and with all the financial demands of two or more babies this can be a real bonus
- Breastfeeding cuts down on preparation time for feeding and getting out and about, which is particularly helpful as time is tight with multiples
- Breastfeeding means multiples get close physical comfort, which soothes and comforts as well as being necessary for emotional well being and development
- Many multiples are born prematurely and in response to this the breastmilk changes to provide more of the nutrients babies would have received in the womb
- Breastfeeding provides some protection against infections including those to which premature babies are particularly susceptible
- Your feelings about breastfeeding may change after the babies are born, and it is easier to stop breastfeeding than to try and start it a few days or weeks after they’re born
Yes it is! Understanding a few basic principles will help you achieve your goal.
Believing that it is possible to feed two or more babies is an important starting point. It is often difficult for a mother with just one baby to have faith in the process of breastfeeding, so it is quite understandable if you have doubts about being able to feed two, especially if you have not breastfed before. Most babies have fractious spells from time to time, and it is easy to think that perhaps your milk supply is inadequate. This doubt may be reinforced by your partner or family if they feel unsure or anxious about feeding twins; even health professionals can be discouraging - some of them may never have seen twins breastfed before. It may help to understand women’s capacity to produce breastmilk; it really is the case of the more your babies feed, the more milk you make; research shows mothers of triplets can produce more than three litres a day.
One way to build up your confidence before the birth is to have contact with breastfeeding mothers; even better if you can contact a breastfeeding mother of multiples. There may be a Baby Café in your area or a breastfeeding support group at your local children’s centre. Here you will meet mothers who are breastfeeding and who will be happy to share their experiences with you. There may be a peer support scheme running in your area where breastfeeding mothers are trained to offer mother to mother support to new breastfeeding mothers.
Producing enough milk for two
Women’s bodies are designed to produce breastmilk dependent on their babies’ needs. Most women after birth will have enough milk initially to breastfeed twins. After that the amount that women continue to produce is based on demand and supply –the more your babies breastfeed (demand), the more milk you produce (supply). Your babies will know how much breastmilk they need so in the early days if you feed them whenever they show signs of being hungry this will ensure that you have a sufficient supply for their growing needs. Even if you are planning to follow a routine, in order to ensure you have enough breastmilk it is helpful to follow a baby led approach in the early weeks.
If your babies are not able to breastfeed to begin with, then expressing breastmilk as often as the babies would have been feeding will have the same result.
The breasts start preparing for feeding during pregnancy and before the birth they begin producing colostrum, which is a creamy substance high in nutrients and antibodies. Babies only need small amounts when first born and it is easy to digest. After 3 - 4 days the milk changes and looks more watery but it still contains all that babies need. The breastmilk also changes throughout each feed, during the day and as babies grow. If a baby is born prematurely it will adapt to provide the baby with the nutrients they would have received in the womb. During each breastfeed the fat content will gradually increase until it reaches a level where the baby feels satisfied and full. He will then come off the breast. In order for this to happen the baby has to be taking the milk from the breast effectively to stimulate the breastmilk production.
- Opening and closing their mouths
- Squirming and moving around
- Cycling movements of arms and legs
- Bobbing head up and down
- Rooting around the chest of whoever is holding them
- Sucking on clothes, hands, lips etc
- Hand massaging the breasts
Try to respond to these movements when you see them and before your babies start to cry as it can be more difficult for a crying baby to latch on and breastfeed.
There is no medical reason why having multiples should stop you being given the same opportunities to breastfeed as parents of singletons, even if your babies are born early. Let the staff know you wish to breastfeed and don’t be afraid to ask if you need extra help and support.
Newborn babies have a stomach approximately the size of a small marble: it is not, therefore, surprising if they ask for frequent feeds. If your babies appear to want to feed very frequently, remember they are used to being with you 24 hours a day and so feeding may be their way of staying close and feeling comforted in their new world full of strange sensations. Remind yourself that these frequent feeds are your babies’ way of ensuring you have a plentiful milk supply.
How will I know if my babies are getting enough milk?
Without the visible sign of an empty bottle you may feel unsure whether you are producing enough milk for your babies’ needs. The frequency with which babies feed can often surprise parents. This can lead to worries about breastmilk not being sufficient for their babies needs or not being of good enough quality. But there are some simple ways to help you judge whether your babies are well fed (see box). The important thing to remember is that if your babies are putting on weight with only breastmilk, then you have a good supply and they are getting all they need. You may find that one puts on weight more quickly than the other(s) and it’s worth remembering that one baby may need to feed more frequently than the other(s).
- Breastfeed at least 8 times in 24 hours (usually more)
- Have at least 4-6 wet nappies in each 24 hours with mustard coloured loose, curdled or grainy poo (after the first 4 days when poo is black like tar)
- Bring themselves off the breast when they have finished their feed
- Generally are content
- Be alert when awake and look healthy
Breastfeeding separately or together
- Breastfeeding the babies one at a time gives you a chance to get to know each one as an individual and may be the easiest way to feed at first. It can be difficult to co-ordinate their feeding times to feed them together, especially if their needs are very different and one wants to feed more frequently
- You may want to have the option of feeding them together in order to allow you to encourage similar feeding pattern and give yourself a bit of time to yourself
- Remember the importance of latching on, so check each baby is feeding effectively
- When feeding together to begin with you may need someone to be with you to help arrange the babies
- Experiment with the positions and find the most comfortable one for you
Mothers develop many different ways of feeding their babies together. Here are some positions you may like to try that have been found useful by others.
The ‘Laid back’ position
- Lie back and have both babies lying on you so that you and they are comfortable
- Babies will start to move around bobbing their heads and if positioned by the breast will latch themselves
- Especially helpful for mothers post birth, those who are tired, have bad backs or are feeling tense and anxious
- Good for babies being more upright if mothers have a fast milk flow or if the babies are often sick after a feed
- It works with babies’ instincts so can help to stimulate babies to feed if they are having problems latching on
- Sit upright with your back well supported and with room for your babies’ legs to be tucked round behind you
- Position the babies under your arms supporting their necks and backs
- Wait for each baby to have a wide open mouth then bring them on to the breast
- Some mothers find special twins feeding cushions across their front useful but plenty of pillows will work as well
- If using pillows make sure they are at the right height for your babies to have easy access to the breast and be on a line with your nipples In the beginning you may want to latch them on one at a time with the second baby being passed to you after you have latched on the first, but in time you will be able to latch on both at the same time
- Get comfortable upright with your back well supported
- Position both babies across the chest in the same direction
- As with the football hold, wait for a wide open mouth then bring the baby on to the breast
Additional information and resources
Feeding Fact Sheet | Read the full fact sheet from Twins Trust
Formula feeding | If you choose to formula feed or use a combination of feeding methods for your babies, make sure to contact your local AMBA member-club for information on lower cost options that are available for purchases of formula.
Breastfeeding | Breastfeeding Twins - Tips from Huggies
Breastfeeding | Article from the Australian Breastfeeding Association, written by a mum of twins
Support | Connect with a lactation consultant | Ask your medical team for recommendations or visit Lactation Consultants Of Australia And New Zealand Ltd