Friday, August 08, 2008

Breastfeeding Twins?!

"Are you still breastfeeding?"

Every woman who breastfeeds her children will, without fail, at some point be asked that very pointed question.

"Are you still breastfeeding?"

It almost doesn't matter how long you've been nursing for: someone is going to ask. At three months? Six months? A year? Doesn't matter. Someone will ask you.

Sometimes the subtext is awe: "Wow! You're still nursing your babies! That's great!" Most times, however, the questioner asks in a most impatient manner. As if there's a deadline to meet and you're missing it. "What are you doing still nursing those babies?"

In my case, the fact that I decided to nurse the twins in the very first place was a big surprise. My doctor (For whom I have the greatest respect.) made it very clear that by nursing the twins full time, I'd be off in some exotic land where few women in our area had ever tread. Then again, I was apparently setting records for birth weights and length of gestation, so perhaps she wasn't too surprised with my decision to breastfeed.

Nursing hasn't always been Easy Street, either (See my rant from the first month if you don't believe me.). Don't get me wrong: once you're in the groove, nursing is easy. It's finding your groove and staying in it that are the hard parts.

When I started out, I wanted to tandem nurse the twins, get them on a schedule and possibly get a little more sleep. Well, it turned out that the twins had a touch of reflux and were tiny geysers of vomit on a very regular basis until they were about four months old. Thus, instead of tandem nursing, I was serially nursing twins to avoid at least some of the puke headed my way.

I've been bitten, pinched, pulled, vomited on, gotten plugged ducts, swollen and inflamed breasts from missing nursing sessions, Emma developed thrush, and Logan developed a preference for one side over the other.

Even with all of that, nursing has still been one of the best things I have done for the twins and for myself. Also? I produced a helluva lotta milk.

Now that we are tandem nursing, I get a bit more sleep at night. The weight loss aspect has been fabulous (I gained 65 lb for the pregnancy and by 7 months postpartum, it was gone. No exercise, just nursing and normal life with twins. I imagine that if you exercised, the weight would whip off even faster. I'm just lazy.). The twins are very snuggly when cuddled up and nursing together. Sometimes they reach over and pat the other twin. Of course, they also sometimes poke and pinch the other twin or attempt to steal the opposite breast, but life is tough around here.

Emma nurses more than Logan does, so when he finishes first, he sits up and smiles at me and we get a little extra bonding in: nose kisses, baby hugs, giggles. When he tires of me, I let him slide off my lap and crawl around the room. Emma and I then snuggle up together. She will finish off Logan's breast (Because there's always more milk in there.) and then crawl all over me like a puppy. She also engages in Nurse-robatics: standing up while nursing, twisting around, getting into Down Dog position, attempting to climb over my shoulder all while still engaged in lip-lock. Ouch! She also pats my tummy, plays with my hair and checks my teeth.

You know, just to make sure they're still in there.

I respond by nibbling on her fingers and chewing on her neck, so I think we're even.

Here are some of my hard-earned twin feeding tips:

5 Tips for Successfully Breastfeeding Twins
  1. Get a good book. I highly recommend Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More! Read it. Ideally before the twins arrive.
  2. Be prepared to supplement with formula. The biggest secret to nursing twins is to keep in mind that you may not have milk enough for two on the day they're born. It took me a few weeks of pumping and supplementing with formula until my production increased enough to feed both of them fully. Be prepared to supplement and don't beat yourself up over the fact that this, too, is another area where having twins is decidedly different from having a singleton.
  3. Herbal supplements are your friend! Herbal supplements like Alfalfa, Blessed Thistle and Fenugreek will help increase your milk production significantly. Trust me! Or if you don't trust me, read up about it at KellyMom.com.
  4. Eat well. When breastfeeding twins, you'll burn up about 1000 extra calories a day. You need to eat well to support your body's ability to do that. Now is not the time to go on a diet to lose the pregnancy weight gain. It will come off. Be patient!
  5. Drink water. A lot of water. I'm not kidding. Why aren't you drinking some water? Go get some!

Now when someone asks, "So are you still breastfeeding those twins?"

We'll answer, "Hell yeah!"


-- Cross posted at
API Speaks for World Breastfeeding Week. BTW, they're having a giveaway over at API in celebration of WBW. Go there and leave a comment to enter the contest to win a copy of LLL’s seminal book on breastfeeding: The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

24 comments:

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

The problem is getting to the water when you are stuck in a chair with 2 babies on your lap half the day at least. I think one of those bottles like they use in hamster cages, mounted on the wall by my nursing chair, would have been handy.

My friend nursed twins fulltime for a couple of years. I think even after she got pregnant with the next one. And the twins were numbers 5 and 6.

kat said...

Yup, people looked at me like I had 3 heads when I nursed my girls until they were WELL over 2yo. You hit the nail on the head...getting started can be difficult, you need to be flexible about supplementing, but in the end it's all worth it!

Woman with a Hatchet said...

SC: I think I have a solution to the water issue: Camelbacks. You know, the water sacks that hikers/campers bring with them with the giant tubes, they can strap them to their backs? Take one of those and drape it over the back of the chair and voila! Water!

Now if only I'd remember to do that!

Kat: Two years? Awesome! I have a minimum in mind of at least the first year and then we'll see! Logan seems like he just wants to go and explore and only nurse at night while Emma is more than happy to drink all of Logan's share and her own. Emma may be nursing until she gets her 1st car, but I rather hope not!

Hava said...

I am trying to imagine Emmas wonderful nursing acrobats. Over in Tadpole land I have found it harder to pump with the twins around as Loen finds the whole setup as enticing as kiddie crack. She will roll over to the pump and pull out the tubing or Derby will repeatedly try and kick the bottles out of my hands. I know how good breast milk is for them but I am SO over pumping. I feel like a cow on a milk machine.
By the way I had a patient once who told me she nursed her twins till they were almost four. She went on to state it was a really great way to calm them down if they fell....at the park.

screamish said...

great post..I've been starting to think about these logistics..thanks...!

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Hava: it IS a great way to calm them down, if they will LET you. Being in public and nursing isn't so bad, so long as you're only trying to nurse one at a time. Trying to do both would be a full frontal exposure and I'm just not up for that!

Screamish: Get the book, it's worth it! Be prepared - initial bfing is a massive time suck! Get a comfy chair and lots of snacks easy to eat one handed. Then don't make any serious plans for a few months.

It gets better!

Kimberly said...

Excellent post. Having nursed both my babies and having experienced almost all of the difficulties you described, I have the utmost respect and admiration for your decision!

Love the description of their acrobatics at the end too.

sari said...

Hi there,

I found you through Madge's blog. I'm currently nursing my third son (he's ten months) and I had to laugh, people are always asking me "you're *still* nursing?" like I'm committing some crime or something or I've suddenly gone insane with having a baby. I'm going for the full first year and then we'll play it by ear after that.

Having twins, that would be a wrangling job. Mine is to the point where he will stand up or move around while he's nursing, it's sort of funny. I don't know that I'd be able to keep two calm, I have my hands full with my guy.

Have a great day!

Amanda said...

I get the 'Still Nursing?' question all the time. My son turned 2 last week and we're still having a great time so I'm going to keep going for now. Nursing twins must definitely be something special.

Unfortunately, only people that have breastfed for an extended period of time will understand it. Most of the rest of the world just has opinions plucked from the air.

LaskiGal said...

What a timely post! My MIL just asked if I was "still nursing." suddenly I found myself defending my decision to continue to nurse. My little guy JUST turned one on Sunday.

As for the nurse-acrobatics. WOWZER!!! I'm so happy to hear I am far from alone. We call it boob-nastics. Hilarious to watch.

And yes, even with that and all the pulling, pinching, being swollen, sore, and being a constant milk machine---I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

Caught your title on BlogHer . . .

Annie said...

I made the mistake of thinking at nursing was natural. I thought my twins would take to it naturally and I would naturally enjoy doing it for them. Was it natural? Not so much. Maybe things would have been different if I had your advice, 10 years ago.

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Kimberly: Thanks! The acrobatics are both entertaining and painful. Much like motherhood itself.

Sari: Thanks for dropping by! Yeah, two is definitely a job for wranglers. Often I wish for a lasso. That wish may get stronger as they get more mobile....

Amanda: Congrats on two years! Yeah, the general public has far more representatives that haven't breastfed than those who have. Yet they ALL have an opinion about how you're doing it.

Laskigal: Ooh! The Blogher thingy works! Yay! I think the people that ask most often are those that never got a chance to breastfeed themselves. So either they don't know what it's like, don't understand the hoopla surrounding it or have guilt/jealousy associations. It's tough. Especially since things have changed so much since our mother's time. BFing was NOT DONE by the middle class.

Annie: I'm sorry you had a tough time. In the beginning it's more like wrestling than the calm, graceful, peaceful bonding moment that all the books and mags claim it to be. Of course, right now it's like wrestling again unless they're both tired, so maybe it's more like wrestling with some nice bonding moments thrown in?

just said...

Hi, I just found your blog while googling info on hummingbirds, but then this post caught my eye as I am a formerly tandem nursing mom and bigtime breastfeeding advocate. My boys, now 13 and 14 y.o., are 16 months apart, so when the second was born his brother was not yet weaned. So, despite having major milk supply issues in the first place from a breast reduction in my teen years, I managed to nurse both boys with supplement for a LONG time. Like almost 4 then almost 5 years. It made us all very happy. So I get the "You're still nursing?" phenomenon. Good luck to you and the twins, though, and I hope you keep nursing as long as it makes all of you happy.

I'm also a blogging mom, so come check out my blog if you ever want, too!

Anonymous said...

I came across your blog while looking for minimum calories needed to breastfeed twins. I have heard that you can burn 1000 calories a day feeding them. My post partum checkup is on January 9th and I would like to lose 40lbs before TTC again. I'm aiming for a year of breastfeeding then reevaluating at that point. My milk supply is not an issue fortunately. I supplemented with forumula the first 3 days until my milk came in. Now I have so much it's lined up in the fridge and freezer. I'm trying to give some away to friends who can't breastfeed! Anyway, I want to start a workout/weight loss regimen without affecting my milk supply. I am also going on the mini pill which I heard can affect supply. We'll see! Thanks for all the info!

Anonymous said...

I am so excited about finding this blog. I began breastfeeding my twins 3.5 weeks ago, and I hope to reach 2 years. My eldest son nursed for 18 months, and self weaned.

So far so go, but it was great finding this blog :)

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Hi there, Anon! I'm glad you found my BF info helpful! It's kinda crazy tackling twins. It worked well for us and we stuck to breastfeeding until the twins were 21 months old.

At that point, the biting and punching were too much for me, so we weaned and went on to pummeling one another without Mommy being in the middle. : ) Good luck!

Sarah said...

Happy to find this blog too.... I'm 4 months down the line of breastfeeding twins and all going really well. Have in my mind to stop at 6 months when they naturally start to wean as I figured that would be easier... just spoons and food and bottles rather than food and then breast - any words of advice/own experiences please?

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Hey there Sarah! I just wanted to say congratulations on having twins AND for breastfeeding. No matter how long you go, you're doing well by your twins.

I'd say to just see how things go at 6 months. It's possible your twins won't be interested in solid food at the point. You know they're interested when they start grabbing YOUR fork while you're eating. In the end, I breastfed my twins until they were 21 months old. I hadn't intended on going that long, but once I hit my stride I figured I'd go until I was done.

Turns out DONE came in the shape of teeth and biting. When you're tandem feeding and both hands are occupied, you're pretty vulnerable to vicious antics. At the point, I put them both down and hollered at my husband that I was DONE! (Yes, a wee bit melodramatic.) and that was the end of that. I know I could have been more romantic about it, but YOW! They didn't suffer, either.

Also, at almost 4, they're pretty darned healthy too. : ) If there's anything else you'd like to know, drop me a line! Glad to help.

emm said...

loved reading all the comments.have 4 month old twins boys they love there brestfeeding food and hugs all in one go.i have 7 children and brestfed them all it does help with your weight loss am still a nice size 10 but i breasfeed because i love it. we have a big family so its nice to take time out to just relax and feed the boys which no ne else can do :) being a mum is the best

Tipper said...

Hi there! As I type I'm nursing one of my twins (the other is passed out on the other side of the nursing pillow), and want to respectfully disagree with you on point #2. Almost no mother has "milk" on the second day postpartum; colostrum is all you'll find until lactogensis II sets in, which can be up to 7 days postpartum in the normal spectrum of things. Colostrum, as I'm sure you know, comes out in drops, but that is really only all babies need, even if you have more than one. Their bellies are tiny and they want to nurse constantly, but this does the job of bringing milk in.

Having read the rant you linked to, where you mention: "The breasts never received the telegram from the uterus that there were two on board, so there wasn't enough milk for two." That's not really how it works. The uterus doesn't do much other than tell your brain that the placenta(s) detached; once your progesterone levels drop, milk-making starts to happen. But it is nipple stimulation and draining the breasts that ramps up milk production. You will create the supply if there is the demand.

Certainly, until your milk comes in, it is difficult physically and psychologically. Babies will nurse and nurse (and scream, no doubt) for little reward, and it's not as comfortable to nurse babies when they're only getting colostrum. However, this is the mechanism by which milk is produced. The more supplementing that happens, the longer it will take for the breasts to make as much milk as they're meant to.

As far as birth weights and newborns losing weight go, there is good evidence to back up what lots of lactation specialists have known for awhile: Interventions during birth, such as IVs, may artificially inflate birth weights, and some of what a baby will lose after birth is fluid that was introduced to the mother. (See: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/1/e171.full)

I could go on about herbs, too, but I'll just leave it at, "Make sure you talk to a professional about using herbal supplements, as they can have side effects and interactions with medication that are undesirable." Oh, and most women don't need them (and it's better to fix the problem rather than a symptom if women DO need help), even for breastfeeding twins!

It sure is awesome that you've breastfed twins, though, and are talking about it!

Tora said...

I love this post. I read it while nursing my 14 month olds :)

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Thanks so much, Tora! I'm so glad other twin feeders are out there and getting useful information out of my experience. Good luck with your twins!

Laura said...

I came across this while searching for calorie needs for nursing twins. My little guys are almost 9 months now. We had a rough start, but they are nursing champs now. I nursed my other children with only minimal issues so this was a new level of craziness at times. Great job on nursing yours till 21 months! I don't have a stopping point in mind yet, but we will see as we get there. My others stopped nursing 2-3 months into the next babies pregnancy. I love watching the boys pat each other and hold hands while nursing. We aren't into wrestling matches for the most part, yet. My eldest did the gymnastics thing too. I would tell my husband that our son thought I was a super hero called elastaboob!

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