There are things about being a parent that I had no idea I would feel so strongly about. Breastfeeding my babies is one of them.
With my first daughter, I read as much as I could about breastfeeding but assumed things would go well. Adelaide was born without complications, latched easily, and was a breeze to breastfeed. The hardest part, for me, was figuring out how to get comfortable breastfeeding in public. It took practice, but we became old pros.
Two years after having my first daughter, I became a certified lactation counselor. Honestly, I have never used that certification in a professional setting, but boy have I ever used it to help friends/family/friends of friends. A few years afterwards, it would prove invaluable knowledge as I faced my next breastfeeding experience.
When I was expecting twins, a lot of people assumed that exclusively breastfeeding twins would not be possible. I was determined to provide my littlest ones with the same nourishment that I had given their sister. The fact is: the vast majority of women are capable of exclusively breastfeeding their baby/babies. My thoughts on this could easily be an entirely separate post, so I will save that for another day. But, if you are looking for information on the subject, KellyMom is a wonderful, trustworthy resource.
Edith and Vera were born at 37 weeks, no cesarean and no NICU stay. Fast forward to today: I am now over 20 months into breastfeeding twins, with the first six months spent exclusively breastfeeding them. It has definitely been more challenging than it was with my older daughter, but it has also been uniquely rewarding. Here are some things to think about if you find yourself expecting more than one baby, or supporting someone as they become parents of multiples.
Do not doubt your ability to make enough milk for more than one baby.
Breastmilk is a supply and demand commodity. Especially during the first six weeks, our bodies learn from our babies what the demand will be. Put your babies to your breast as often as you can in the early days. This will help build a robust milk supply. It is easy to doubt your body’s ability to keep up with the demands of more than one baby. I borrowed a friend’s infant scale in the beginning to do weighed feeds and give myself peace of mind that both babies were getting adequate milk. This was really not necessary, as the only indication that milk supply is low would be if the babies weren’t having adequate diaper output or if they were not gaining weight. Fussiness, wanting to nurse constantly, feeding for long periods of time, etc. are not necessarily indications of a low supply.
Breastfeeding should not hurt.
Seek help early if you find it painful to feed your baby. I hear so many people assume that breastfeeding will hurt in the early days. This is misinformation. Cracked, bleeding nipples are not the norm. Often it is a sign that the latch is not optimal, and there are plenty of things you can do to correct this. Painful breastfeeding can be a sign that something is going on to prevent baby from getting a good flow of milk. If left unchecked, this could lead to inadequate milk supply, since the baby is not removing enough from the breast to signal to your body what the true demand is.
The lack of sleep is REAL.
I thought I knew sleep deprivation after experiencing it with my first baby, but OH MY GOSH is it ever harder with two at once. I know a lot of parents of multiples insist on getting them on the same schedule for feedings as soon as possible. My decision was to feed on demand, which often meant that each baby woke at different times to eat. Those early weeks, the nights felt exhausting, lonely, and endless in a way that I simply cannot describe. My advice would be to seek out help to get through any part of the day/night that you personally need support for. At some point, they start sleeping longer stretches and life feels more manageable . . . but, I’m honestly not ever going to sugarcoat the intensity of those early weeks/months. Exclusively breastfeeding is definitely a sacrifice. Plan for this.
To pump or not to pump?
I will preface this by saying, I am in the amazing position of being able to stay home with my kids. I have an incredible partner who fully supports this. I know a lot of moms who breastfed their kids while working full- or part-time and I greatly applaud them! Pumping all the time is NO JOKE.
For me, I only pump when I plan to be away from babies. I usually only have enough in the freezer for a few bottles. This may stress some people out, but I would feel even more stress to pump on any sort of regular basis. Do what feels right to you. And, yes, I have found myself in a situation (emergency surgery) where I had to abruptly leave my babies without enough milk of mine stashed away. Thankfully, an incredible friend stepped in and donated her frozen milk to fill in that gap. She did it again when I was a bit short for a planned absence several months later. I am forever grateful to her.
Tandem feeding is a game changer.
I would recommend getting comfortable nursing both babies at the same time as early as you can. I had a breastfeeding pillow specifically for twins, and it really helped with positioning early on. Being able to feed them both at the same time, when they are both wanting to, saves so much time. It also saves you from having to hear one cry the entire time you are feeding their sibling.
You cannot keep everyone happy.
This may seem harsh, but having more than one baby means having to learn that not everyone will be comforted immediately. This was a terrible realization for me. Tandem feeding helps prevent this, if you can. There will come a time, however, when you find yourself feeding one baby while the other one screams for you to feed them. As they have gotten older and more aware, jealousy plays a factor even if hunger does not. It’s hard to navigate.
You may feel more touched-out.
There is no easy way around it. When you are responsible for feeding two other humans with your body, you have moments of feeling so overwhelmed with the physical aspect of it. I know I have had days where all I wanted was a few hours where no one touched me at all. This is usually my signal to find a way to have some time by myself to do whatever makes me feel like a person and less like a milk machine. This feeling eased up as they got older and nursed less and less. But, I still have my days when it feels suffocating. It is normal and okay to admit that.
It will get easier.
I can’t pinpoint when it happened, exactly, but at some point breastfeeding two at once just felt normal. The three of us settled in to our way of doing it, and it felt less like a juggling act. There are times of sweet sister snuggles while they’re nursing together. Though, to be fair, there are also times where they seem to be in a wrestling match. Getting out of the house felt easier and easier too, especially once I knew my windows for them not needing to nurse.
Breastfeeding twins is an attainable goal that can be met, with determination and support.
I encourage anyone who is pregnant with more than one baby to do your own research on the possibility of breastfeeding your babies. It is a commitment, and a challenge . . . but, it can definitely be done. And, I am here to tell you that it will feel so rewarding to watch them grow and thrive and know how very worth it every sacrifice has been.