Breastfeeding twins and triplets? Yes, you can! Many women have successfully breastfed their twin babies, some for over two years. We are all well aware of the benefits of breastmilk for babies and many wonderful and supportive ‘how to’ books have been written on the subject (some of those books are listed after this article). Even if your babies are premature, you can still breastfeed them. You can pump and take your milk into the hospital for feeding to your babies’. The nutritional content of each mother’s breastmilk is best suited for her babies’ needs. (Source: Side by Side, Breastfeeding Multiples – video, Calgary Foothills Pipeline Hospital). Check lower down this page for some hints on breastfeeding triplets.
When preparing for breastfeeding, here are some helpful hints:
- Properly prepare for breastfeeding by reading a general information book on breastfeeding.
- Discuss your wishes with your partner before birth. It is important that you both have a commitment to breastfeeding and your partner be fully supportive.
- Get together with other women who have successfully breastfed twins and triplets. Compare notes, pick up hints, ideas and shortcuts. Your local community may offer a breastfeeding class geared towards multiples. Check with your local Health Unit. You may also connect with your local La Leche League Group for support both before and after the babies’ birth.
- If possible, put your babies to the breast immediately after birth. If you are unable to do so, make sure you have made prior arrangements with your doctor and hospital nurse staff and that they are fully aware of your commitment to breastfeeding. Make your intentions to breastfeed clear and make arrangements to pump and collect milk until such time as you will have the babies with you and can feed them yourself. A double pump is a great investment and can save you a lot of time. Remember: Both you and the babies are learning about breastfeeding. Babies are not born knowing how to suckle. You will need to work together (perhaps with the assistance of a Lactation Consultant while in the hospital) to learn how to breastfeed successfully.
- It is very common to have one baby who latches on quicker or more easily than the other. Put that baby to the breast first and then you will have ample time to work with settling the other baby who may need a little more coaxing and attention with latching. Another excellent investment is a horse-shoe shaped nursing pillow. Make sure the pillow you purchase is large enough to hold the two babies together. Some of the pillows available in stores are smaller and made for nursing only one baby at a time.
- Your milk supply will be influenced by several factors: 1) how often you feed the babies (and/or pump); 2) how often you rest; and 3) the stress levels you are experiencing. You will produce an appropriate volume of milk to meet the babies’ demand (the supply meets the demand) and it is equally important to be sure and get enough rest and to limit the stress levels in your day in order to assist you in producing milk (if the beds don’t get made today, so be it!).
- If you arrive home and have difficulties latching a baby or you or your babies are having difficulties, don’t be shy. Call your local Health Unit and find out where Breastfeeding Support Clinics are held, call your local Twin/Triplet support Chapter, Lactation Consultant or La Leche League Group. Get the help you need to assist you and your babies.
- It may be that you will experience some nipple soreness when nursing two babies. If you stop nursing, the soreness will only return after the babies begin nursing again. Try nursing for shorter periods of time, but more often. If you are experiencing some pain, it is usually associated with poor positioning. Remove your baby, reposition him and try again. If you continue to experience nipple soreness, seek out some guidance from one of the groups mentioned above.
- Babies hit a growth spurt any where from 3 to 6 weeks of age (and not necessarily each at the same time) and then at regular intervals of about 6 weeks each after that, depending upon each individual baby. Don’t worry if it appears that you are ‘running out of milk’ as it is more likely the babies are feeding more often due to a growth spurt. Soon the increased demand will meet up with the supply and regular feeding intervals will again develop. Their growth rate slows down at about 3 or 4 months.
- Do not assign one baby exclusively to a breast because: 1) they may be uneven suckers and very shortly you will have a lopsided shape due to their uneven sucking patterns. Alternating the babies on each breast will even out any different sucking patterns; and very importantly 2) when a baby is assigned to only one breast, the baby’s upper eye gets over worked, while the one below can become lazy and not react properly to stimulous.
- If you find that one or both of your babies is having difficulties with one feeding position, try a different one. One Mom of twins reported that her son would not breastfeed if he was ‘under’ his sister. The weight of his sister, while using the cradlehold position, was something that he would not tolerate. When she switched to the football hold, which allowed each baby to be free of touching one another, he settled right down and breastfeeding went extremely well.
- Your babies should eat initially every 2-1/2 to 3 hours and you will need to nurse at least 8 times a day for several weeks. Some babies need to nurse more often.
- Triplets - For Moms wishing to breastfeed triplets, a suggestion to assist in building up your milk supply is to put two babies each to a breast for 10 minutes and the third baby on each breast for five minutes, at each feed. At the next feed, rotate the turn of the third baby so that each baby has a turn being on the breast within the first 10 minutes. Some Moms have reported a reasonable amount of success in building up their milk supply by using this rotating system. It is agreed that it is difficult to exclusively breastfeed three babies and I know of only one family who successfully did so exclusively for nearly two years. However, I am aware of several triplet families who have very happily partially breast-fed their babies for different durations of time.
Breastfeeding Multiples – Positions
You can be assured that your babies are feeding well if:
- there are 6 to 8 soaking wet cloth diapers or 5 to 6 wet disposable diapers per baby in 24 hours during the first six weeks;
- each baby is having 2 to 5 bowel movements in 24 hours during the first six weeks;
- they are feeding at least 8 to 12 times a day for a duration of 10 to 40 minutes. Duration and number of feeding times per day will vary with each baby.
Breastmilk can be stored at room temperature for about 10 hours; in a refrigerator for about 8 days; freezer compartment with a separate door for 3-4 months and in a separate deep freeze for 6 months.*
Other Resources for Breastfeeding your Multiples:
I love the drawings in some of these books. It is very helpful to actually ‘see’ the positions so they can be interpretted correctly and find the ones that will work best for you and your babies.
*Source: Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding & Caring for Twins or More!! by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada, La Leche League International (a great book, easily understood and takes you through the steps of breastfeeding, what ‘problems’ to look for and how to correct them, the important role of partner and lots more!)
The Joy of Twins and other multiple births by Pamela Patrick Novotny, Crown Trade Paperback Inc. (includes excellent diagrams of possible positions for simultaneous feeding)
Double Duty by Christina Baglivi Tinglof, Contemporary Books (also has some great illustrations for feeding positions. Walks you clearly through the steps of breastfeeding and has a list of ’5 Top Breastfeeding Boo Boos’.)
Multiple Blessings by Betty Rothbart, M.S.W., Hearst Books (Has a Chapter devoted to breastfeeding, including feeding the babies simultaneously or back to back, creating a peaceful environment for breastfeeding and more! Also has excellent drawings showing different breastfeeding positions.)