baby/ feeding

our journey of breastfeeding twins

When I found out I was expecting twins, there was so much to think about. What would my twin pregnancy be like? What would my twin birth story be like? Would I be able to deliver naturally, or would I have to have a c-section? How would I manage my time with twins?

But the foremost of my concerns about life after twins was the thought of feeding twins. Would I be able to exclusively breastfeed my twins? Would I need to pump and bottle them? Would I have enough of a supply, or would I need to give them formula?

While I completely support the choice of many mamas out there to formula-feed their babies, I desperately wanted to have the opportunity to nurse my twins. I had had offers from family with similar-aged babies to donate milk if I didn’t have a good enough milk supply for twins, but I wanted to do what I could to provide for my babies.

My breastfeeding twins journey started in the hospital a few hours after giving birth.

I had always envisioned a lactation consultant coming in a few hours after birth, helping me get my little child to latch while doing some soothing skin to skin. Instead, my nursing journey started with a hospital grade pump while my babies were cared for in NICU. While I was disappointed to not be able to nurse my babies from the very beginning, pumping consistently over the first weeks of their life really helped me to establish a good supply. For about a week, I pumped the rich golden colostrum that my babies were given through their feeding tubes.

Breastfeeding NICU babies is not an easy task. By day, I would sit by their NICU beds, pumping every three hours and holding my babies while they were gavached. By night, I would sit with my husband in our living room, pumping every three hours, missing my babies so desperately and storing up all that good milk to take back to them in the morning. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fun, but I always had enough milk for my twins and I’m thankful for that.

When my babies were one week old, I was able to start nursing my twins.

Nursing preemies is a lot of work. My babies weighed three and four pounds, and had tiny little mouths. In order to get them to latch, I had to use a nipple shield. The NICU staff only allowed them to nurse for 20-30 minutes at a time. They weighed them before and after nursing to determine how much they had drunk. If they hadn’t taken their full feed in that amount of time, the rest was gavached. My husband and I spent all day at the hospital in the NICU ward and all night at our own little home. I tried to nurse my twins for 3-4 of their feeds every day, and they were bottle fed by the NICU staff for the remaining 4-5 of their daily feeds. For my babies, this feeding schedule went on for one and a half weeks. At the end of that time, they were being bottle fed or nursing for their entire feeds and were ready to come home from NICU!

After my babies came home from NICU, our real journey of breastfeeding twins began!

My babies were 18 days old when they came home from the hospital.  I was nursing them each twice a day and pumping milk for their other five feeds. I continued to follow this schedule for another month, while we established a routine and I continued to recover from giving birth to twins. I wanted to work towards exclusively breastfeeding my twins, but I also didn’t want to push myself too hard and get worn out! When my babies had been home for about a month, in early June, I decided to start working towards my goal of exclusively nursing twins.

I began slowly. I was already nursing them for their mid-morning feed, at around 10 am, and their early afternoon feed, at around 1 pm. The next step for me was to nurse them for their late-afternoon feed, at around 4 pm, as well! Newborns take a LONG time to take a full feed by nursing! With twins, it’s even longer. I would nurse for three hours straight, take a quick break, and then start all over again. Managing three long feeds like this was all I could do for a little while, and I continued to pump for their evening, nighttime, and early morning feeds. I always forced myself to pump enough for whatever they needed at a particular feeding time, even if it meant pumping twice in a row. We had a large freezer stash, but I knew that power pumping was the best way to keep my supply up! I was thankful to have some really good quality Elvie breast pumps and, as a stay at home mom, the time to invest in pumping for my babies.

In early August, after about two months of nursing twins three times a day and bottling four times a day, I felt ready to add in one more nursing session for my twins.

I decided to start by adding their early evening feed and midnight feeds to my nursing schedule. At this point, my twins were 3.5 months old, or 2 months adjusted. They were taking about 45 minutes each to nurse a full feed. This was so much more manageable than when they were newborns and taking 1.5 hours each to nurse for a full feed!

So, I was bottle feeding them at 7 am, nursing them at 10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm, and 7 pm. Then I would give them a bottle of expressed milk at 10 pm, nurse them again at 2 am, and start the entire schedule over again. I was still using the nipple shield for the majority of their feeds, although I was working on weaning them off of it. I would spend about fifteen minutes at the beginning of the feed trying to get my twins to latch without the shield. If they (or I) became stressed, I would pull out the shield and nurse with it until we were all relaxed again. Then I would try getting them to latch without it for the rest of their feed. At this time, I was able to nurse about 50% of their feeds without the nipple shield.

By the end of a month, nursing the twins was going so well that I decided to go ahead and try one full day of exclusively nursing. It seems a little funny to me now, but I was so nervous about it! So one Monday towards the end of August, I nursed them for their early morning 7 am feed. I kept going all day, and by the end of the day I was feeling so good that I also nursed them for their 10 pm feed as well. My first day of exclusively nursing twins was a success! By the second day, I was excited and confident about the prospect of NOT pumping for twins. By the third day, my twins were just as happy about the prospect of exclusively breastfeeding as I was. By the fourth day, they no longer needed the nipple shield and were happy just to nurse skin-to-skin, as they were designed to do.

By the end of August, I was exclusively nursing my twins.

I may have pumped a couple of times for convenience over the next couple of months, but I really don’t remember. Once we got over the mental hurdle of committing to exclusively breastfeed, it felt so natural and easy for our family. No more bottles to wash, no more long pumping session, no more screaming babies while we warmed milk. Just me, my babies, fresh milk, and lots of snuggly skin-to-skin nursing sessions.

Committing to exclusively breastfeed preemie twins is a lot of work. It takes time, patience, and a lot of trial and error. For my family, it took us four months and a lot of work to transition from primarily bottle fed NICU babies, to nursing twins without a nipple shield. There were a lot of tears and sweat shed along the way!

Everyone has to do what’s best for their own unique family. Whether you are nursing, pumping, or formula-feeding—fed is best, and you have to make the decision on how to feed based on your family’s unique needs! For my family, breastfeeding the twins has been the best decision. It’s convenient, natural, and doesn’t require any cleanup or bottle sterilization (a huge win for me!) But most importantly, I love the one-on-one time it gives me with each of my babies. While I tandem feed when I need to (a.k.a when both babies are loudly demanding immediate food), for the most part I love to feed one baby at a time and enjoy all those precious tiny baby snuggles while I can.

Also, if you’re looking for tips on keeping up a milk supply for twins, I talk a little bit about that in this article!

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