Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Can you breastfeed twins?

I was thinking about yesterday's post about feeding, and figured, although I'm no expert, it would be handy to share my experiences of breastfeeding twins. For me, breastfeeding was one of the things that I never questioned I would do when I became a mum, but this assumption was challenged when I discovered I was expecting twins. One question I have always been asked - both when I was pregnant and now that the babies have arrived - was "can you breastfeed twins"?

The thought of breastfeeding twins was pretty daunting, but once I'd done some research I was reassured that it was definitely something I was going to have a damn good go at. "Do you feed them at once?" is another question that always comes up, and the answer is yes! At the beginning, there just wouldn't have been enough hours in the day to feed each twin separately, although as they get quicker at feeding, I may well move from tandem feeding to single feeding.

I met a new twin mum at a wedding when I was pregnant and she told me about a specially-designed nursing pillow and I have to say it's been a godsend. It's called the EZ-2 Nurse pillow (available from Twins UK), and although it's slightly cumbersome, I'm not sure I would have managed without it. Each twin is supported on the pillow in 'football' hold, and bob's your uncle - tandem feeding is a breeze.

The main advantage of tandem feeding is obviously the time it saves, but the disadvantage I have felt personally is missing out on special one-on-one time while each twin feeds. I think this is probably something you just have to get used to bringing up twins - you're always going to be stretched for time. I still make sure I talk to and cuddle both A and E while they're feeding and I really appreciate the times that I do end up feeding them on their own, however brief they are!

So here are my top tips for tandem breastfeeding:
  • Get yourself the EZ-2 Nurse pillow
  • Make sure you have a place that you feed that is comfortable and your back is well-supported. You want to be as upright as possible and have your knees bent at right angles. In the early days it's good to have space on each side of you so that you can lay the babies next to you, and lift them one by one onto the pillow, so a sofa is your best option for feeding
  • Keep a side table or tray within reach stocked with water, snacks, and anything else you might need (I always make sure the TV remote and my Blackberry are close to hand!). Once you have the babies settled on the pillow, you don't want to have to get up for anything
  • Get someone to help you by passing you the babies in the first few days while you build up the confidence to go it alone
  • Have a clock or watch within sight so that you can keep track of how long the babies have been feeding. In the early days I kept a diary, but once I knew the babies were gaining weight well and felt happy they were getting enough at each feed, I stopped the obsessive book-keeping!
  • Join TAMBA (Twins And Multiple Births Association) and check out their messageboards, as they are full of advice from mums that have been there. I posted a plea for help when I was really struggling, and got a stream of support and encouragement
  • Remember that almost everyone finds breastfeeding hard to begin with, and I think it's even harder with twins. A and E are nearly nine weeks old now, and I still find breastfeeding a challenge. When it all goes well though, it's definitely worth all the stress and effort


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