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Breastfeeding Twins

Twins & Breastfeeding Goals: What’s Realistic?

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I am 27 weeks pregnant with twins and have started to do my research on breastfeeding. I went to a class where we got to try all the different kinds of pumps (on our stomach) which was cool and spoke briefly to the lactation consultant. I know that breastfeeding is harder than I think it will be and with twins especially, it will be taxing, time consuming, and not at all what I expect.  At this point I am planning on breastfeeding and supplementing with formula and pumping so my husband (and family) can help feed them. I am also planning on going back to work full time 8-12 weeks after they are born (depending on how my leave works out) but will be working from home some days.

I keep telling people that even if my babies don’t breastfeed I want to “pump the crap” out of my boobs, b/c it is cheaper and breastmilk is really good for them and also selfishly for the weight loss/uterine contraction benefit. I guess my question is: How unrealistic am I being? Is pumping a lot harder/painful/time consuming than it seems? In my head it seems to make sense that even if they can’t ever latch right or whatever, I could just pump a bunch with one of those hands free pumps, freeze it, and give them bottles.  Am I terrible for hoping that I’ll be able to breastfeed b/c of the selfish reasons mentioned above? Obviously, if it doesn’t work out – it doesn’t work out and I am okay with that and also I know I can’t predict what is going to happen. Anyway, just wanted to see what you thought.

JL

Advice Smackdown ArchivesI don’t think you’re being unrealistic at all! My goodness, no. In fact, I think you’re being perfectly realistic — you’re definitely going to try, but understand that it’s a wild card and if it works, it works and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. If you were maybe acting like anything other than nursing your twins exclusively was some kind of great nightmare of faillllllllure, then maybe I’d worry a little bit. But you’re not! Pumping, supplementing, whatever. You’re going feed those babies, and that’s what’s important.

My advice is to speak with that lactation consultant again, and maybe interview a couple other options to make sure you find someone you click with, and who has some extra experience with mothers of multiples. Perhaps there’s even someone who’s willing to come to your house after the birth (like a postpartum doula) so you’re not packing up two newborns and schlepping out to multiple appointments at first. And find out NOW what your pumping options will be at work — can they offer you an office or small room with a lock, or will they assume you’re fine pumping in the bathroom? Do they understand how just how many pumping breaks you’ll likely need at eight weeks, or will your set-up allow you to pump hands-free while still being able to type or answer phones or whatever? Will there be refrigeration at your work?

But hey, many many many many women have successfully breastfed twins — exclusively, part-time, tandem, nursed one twin after the other weaned, etc. — and just as many women have continued to pump long after their babies no longer nursed from the breast. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s actually…not. Really. One person’s good or bad experience has absolutely no bearing on what breastfeeding will be like for you, for these particular babies.

As for whether pumping is really “a lot harder/painful/time consuming than it seems,” that’s probably just as much of a wildcard as nursing itself. Pumping definitely shouldn’t hurt, provided you’ve got the right size cup-thingies and the right pump setting. And your feelings about the pump in general can certainly play a big part. I had a sort-of bad experience with pumping when Noah was born — an experience that was partly my own inexperience/ignorance , partly my hysterical feelings about my supply issues, and partly a lactation consultant I didn’t quite jibe with. My early experience colored my feelings towards the pump in general and I was never a fan.

Not so after Ezra, though, because I had a mindset more like yours: I was definitely going to try this again, but if it didn’t work out, that was okay too. So the pump just became Another Thing I Did while building up my supply (and it gave me much-needed breaks in the days before Ezra’s tongue-tie was corrected), and I found pumping to be easy and no big deal and DAYUM, look at all the milk in my freezer! Go me! Thumps chest! Hooray boobs! I pumped regularly up until the day Ezra weaned. (I briefly considered continuing to pump after that, but by that point my…um…output was so paltry that it just wasn’t really worth it.)

Now, I was at home, not at an office, so there is that. But details aside, I think my mindset was even more important: That I was open to nursing, pumping, supplementing or a hybrid of all three. That I wanted my baby to get as much breastmilk as my body could produce but understood that I might not make enough or my baby might not latch or any number of things that were maybe not entirely under my control might happen. I ended up being more than pleasantly surprised at how well it all worked out, and I have high hopes that the same will be true for you.

********


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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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kari weber
Guest
kari weber

I think that the point about your pumping at work situation is SO important! With my first son, I went back to work when he was 8 weeks old.  I was a teacher, he was born in July, I had to go back when school started in September.  I thought, I would just pump in the classroom during lunch.  I had NO window coverings on my windows so I had to build myself little barricades at my desk to sit back there.  Then there were the few times that the custodian would bring a child in for a forgotten lunch.… Read more »

Hi, I'm Natalie.
Guest

Join a twins group! I don’t know where you live, but here there are both pregnancy groups/classes for people expecting multiples, as well as for those who already have their wee ones. I’m told the support/advice that you can get from other parents of multiples is exceptional. (A girlfriend of mine had twins in December and she’s exclusively fed them breastmilk from nursing and pumping – She’s had no problems with supply.) Good luck!

bessie.viola
Guest

So awesome that you’re planning ahead. I hope everything works perfectly for you! But if it doesn’t – fear not. All will be well. I have a very STUBBORN baby who simply would.not.latch for anything. I pumped exclusively for 10 months and it was fine. I second Amy’s thoughts about setting up your pumping situation prior to your leave – it’s just much more reassuring to know what you’re coming back to, whatever way it works out. I fretted about what I’d do all through maternity leave. I work in a cubicle, and on the first day back the CEO… Read more »

bessie.viola
Guest

Oh! And a lactation consultant! Find one, get to know her. If you haven’t chosen a pediatrician yet, try to find an office with one on staff/on call – they are immensely helpful.

Amy
Guest

Get the best Cadillac of a pump you can. I couldn’t let down for a pump at all, and I nursed my oldest for 28 months and my youngest for 22 (with 9 months through my second pregnancy and 9 months of tandem nursing). I often wonder if a better pump would’ve given me a better result. Those cheap little hand pumps are not your friend. Also, investigate your local La Leche League. I would not have had any success with breastfeeding my first child if I hadn’t found an amazing LLL Leader who fixed all my problems. My mom… Read more »

J
Guest
J

That was a fantastic post. The last paragraph, the “I’ll do my best but be prepared for whatever might happen and open to whatever worked” is where I’ve FINALLY gotten to now that my twins are 10.5 months old, after way too much angst and guilt. I wish I’d read something like this when I was pregnant or just starting down the difficult nursing road we’ve traveled (both twins have recently self-weaned, though I’m continuing to offer the breast and to pump when I’m at work or when they’re napping).

Alexa
Guest
Alexa

I went back to work at 6 weeks and pumped while at work. I think we started supplementing at 6 months. At any rate, what I wanted to say is that I enjoyed pumping. I was lucky to a have an employer that made it easy. My pumping space was a single decent sized bathroom with a locking door, and it felt like a treat to have two 15-20 minute periods during the day where I could sit quietly and read a book or magazine without anyone to bother me. I was bummed when I stopped pumping…which I did at… Read more »

Emma B
Guest
Emma B

A few twin-specific pieces of advice here, from someone who exclusively nursed twins for a year: — Do NOT buy a breast pump prior to delivery. Wait until after the babies are born, and you can assess health/feasibility/supply concerns more accurately. Rent a hospital-grade pump for the first month or two — you will likely do better with it for milk-production reasons anyway — and then consider purchasing a PIS or similar after that. Don’t even waste your time with anything lower-grade than that, not for pumping with twins. — Begin pumping for a few minutes after every feeding ASAP,… Read more »

Jackie
Guest
Jackie

Totally agree with the comment about La Leche League. I had a few problems in the beginning and LLL leaders and fellow moms at the meetings helped me work through them. I pumped at work for 9 months (after a 12 week+ maternity leave) and we are still nursing (my son just turned two). LLL was nothing but supportive and I made some new friends in the process.

Sally
Guest

Yay for breastfeeding twins and being realistic.  I breastfed my twins for 14 months.  For 6 months of that, I was in school, so I did a lot of pumping/supplementing with formula. Also, I was a selfish breastfeeder, too.  I didn’t want to pay for formula and I really didn’t want to spend time washing a thousand bottles a day.  When my boys were 6th months old, I was the skinniest I’ve been in my adult life (no longer there, sadly). You’ve gotten a lot of good pumping advice already, so I’ll give you some twin specific advice.  Get an… Read more »

Rebecca
Guest
Rebecca

Seconding (thirding?) the twin-specific advice. I recently weaned my 14 month old twins, and I pretty much never fed them at the same time. When they were newborns, they were just too floppy and needed more support than I could give with one hand. When they were older, they were really fast eaters and I liked the bit of one-on-one time with each boy. I pumped in the beginning to make sure I would have a good supply (and so dad could give a bottle now and then), but have never had a ton of luck with anything less than… Read more »

Karen
Guest
Karen

La Leche League. The leaders there are so AWESOME! In my group, one of the leaders is helping a mom with inducing lactation for a adopted son. I didn’t start attending meetings until my daughter was 6 months, I wish I had started before she was born.

albe
Guest
albe

I nursed my twins with the help of pumping. For the first 6 months of their lives especially, I pumped 6 times a day in addition to nursing. This was in an attempt to make enough milk for both, which I was never able to do exclusively (my best was making enough milk for about 1.5 babies). I agree with the advice to rent a hospital-grade pump and see how it goes. If pumping works for you, then go ahead and buy the best pump you can. A hands-free pumping bra really saved my life and was totally worth the… Read more »

Bethany @ The Paper Pony
Guest

Don’t listen to the nay-sayers; it is possible! It requires commitment and at first, it is very time consuming, but it can and has been done since the dawn of time. My only advice would be: don’t pump until your supply is well-established and the babies know what they’re doing. I made this mistake with mine and was only able to breastfeed for 3 months due to low supply- oh, and the fact that we were in the middle of a huge move. Pumping- no matter how good your pump is- cannot empty your breasts as well as a baby… Read more »

Alisha
Guest
Alisha

Doesn’t the new healthcare bill include a provision requiring employers to provide a private, designated space with a sink, table, and electrical outlet for lactating mothers?

Angela
Guest

Good advice so far. I am still working through this issue as I just had my twin girls in May. I just wrote out all my thoughts on it and realized I had a whole blogpost on it. So check that out if you want the whole story!

Basically though, after all we’ve been through my babies are formula fed and supplemented with breast-milk. It’s a long story, but this is practical and healthy for the girls and I both.

Jo
Guest
Jo

I was able to exclusively breast feed my twins until they were 20 months old (no formula). I would highly recommend the e-z-2-nurse twin pillow, it made it a lot easier. I also pumped with a good quality medela pump (about $300) and it was great for getting some extra milk so that I could go out by myself and leave dad or babysitter to feed the babies, though when I had the choice I would always rather breast feed than pump…easier. As far as how easy or painful etc breastfeeding will be for you, it is hard to say,… Read more »

Jen W
Guest
Jen W

Ahh, Breastfeeding. By far the only thing about raising twins that has moved me to tears (several times) and caused any frustration or heartache. I had hoped to breastfeed exclusively, but have never been able to do so. My boys are 8 months next week and have had supplemental formula since they were a week old. I wonder if giving them formula from the start like that sabotaged my efforts, or if it was the bad latch one still has, or if it was the induced labor (water broke, no contractions.) or if it was the c-section after 15 hours… Read more »

Julie w
Guest
Julie w

As someone who had fairly good luck with breastfeeding twins, I think you have a great attitude. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to supply the babies solely with breast milk. If it works that way…great! But if at 4 months (or day one, or whenever) you just can’t keep up with demand, it’s okay to supplement. There is never any shame in supplementing. I manage to nurse them exclusively for the first 6 months. My big secret: my lactation consultant made sure my husband knew his job had to be all about keeping me fed and rested. Rest up while… Read more »

natalieushka
Guest
natalieushka

You can do it!!! Enjoy your babies, and enjoy breastfeeding, even if it’s not exclusive. Nursing has been the most satisfying part of motherhood for me.

Good luck!

Nancy
Guest
Nancy

Ah, finally a post on which I have some authority to comment! My twin girls turn 3 next month. They were born a day short of 38 weeks, spent no time in the NICU and came home with me on day 3 after my semi-emergency c-section. Neither was a particularly good latcher right off the bat, and despite lactation coaching while in the hospital, a BFing class while pregnant and some reading, it took us awhile to get the hang of things. We went to visit the lactation nurses at the hospital maybe 5-6 (10?) times in the early weeks… Read more »

Amy
Guest
Amy

I didn’t read through all the posts, so I’m sorry if I’m just repeating. Anyway, my twins will be 4 in December. They were born at 33wks 6days, so they were in the NICU for a little while (twin A, 1 day short of 3 wks and twin B, 1 day short of 2 wks). They were in there b/c they didn’t have their sucking reflex (no weight issues and no breathing issues), so they had feeding tubes. I pumped….a lot (every 2 hours). They had to be completely on bottle feedings before they could come home. And they came… Read more »

Debbie
Guest
Debbie

I nursed both my sets of twins. What helped:
Supportive husband
EZ2Nurse pillow
Supportive ped
Helpful hospital nurses
Full-term babies
Babies who latched well
Uncomplicated c-section
Reading about nursing in advance
Asking for advice from others

Notice some of this was luck–I cant take credit for full-term babies or good nurses. Join a twin club and keep an open mind–ask for help and try different things (tandem nursing, pumping, etc.) until you get your rhythm.

Nerwal
Guest
Nerwal

I have three month old twins and only have a couple things to add and second; get a hands free nursing bra – they are the best. Make your husband/partner be a partner in what you do; I almost exclusively pump and DH helps a lot – getting me things while I pump, helping do bottle/pump part cleaning, getting bottles ready, and putting away and storing the milk. My pediatrician told us at our first couple of appointments that my job was to make milk. Don’t worry about other things and keep rested, fed and hydrated; making food for two… Read more »

BADL
Guest
BADL

I am a mother of twins and just want to say if you are not able to breastfeed, it will not make you a failure at all. I only bottle fed and at 13 months, my twins are happy and healthy and hitting milestones before other babies their age. My son started walking at 10 months and my twins were a month early. As long as the babies are being fed, that is what counts. Also, as for weight loss, I lost all my weight, over 55 lbs and am back in a size 4. You don’t have to breastfeed… Read more »

Kate-BreastfeedingBFF
Guest
Kate-BreastfeedingBFF

Kudos to you on so many fronts – for thinking through every step of this ahead of time, for looking for resources and information, for being realistic about the process and for just wanting to breastfeed your twins, period. Your kids are lucky to have such a well-prepared mama! I have a singleton so I can’t offer much in the way of twins-specific nursing advice (the ladies above have given some great specific info!), but if you need any help in terms of pumping at work, I have a page on this that I hope will help: http://www.breastfeeding-bff.com/working-mothers.html  I pumped… Read more »

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Caroline
Guest
Caroline

Hi! I am a breastfeeding mother of three month old twins. My situation is not quite the same because I am lucky to have a four month maternity leave and when I do go back to work, it’s only three hours a day (outside the home). But I just want to say that I think you’re making it harder than it is, maybe even setting yourself up for failure. Breastfeeding my twins is not really harder than breastfeeding one. I do it tandem, except at night so I can lay down and sleep while one nurses. Don’t worry about supply!!!… Read more »

Caroline
Guest
Caroline

I should have mentioned that I love my Brestfriend twin nursing pillow. And that it was hard in the beginning until I got positioning figured out. If I’m sitting up in bed, I put two pillows under my knees. If I’m in a chair, I have a footstool. I also set up a nursing station so that everything is within reach: water (a big jug, drink drink drink!), reading, burp cloths. I also was lucky that my mom came to stay with me, and I made it clear to my husband that I wouldn’t be leaving the bedroom for the… Read more »

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