Clare Davidson, Derbyshire, England
Adapted from a write-up of a discussion on breastfeeding twins by Sarah Gill and Sadie Morrison at the La Leche League Great Britain (LLLGB) Conference on 15 October 2016 in Derby. First published in LLLGB’s Feedback (Leaders’ newsletter). Reprinted with permission.
Clare Davidson recalls her memories of a session at the LLLGB Conference in 2016 where Leaders Sarah Gill and Sadie Morrison shared their personal experiences of breastfeeding and mothering twins, and offered tips for Leaders who find themselves supporting mothers with twins.
Twins are babies—there are just two!
Many of the worries mothers have about twins may not be about breastfeeding at all, but rather about the practicalities of living with and caring for two babies at the same time. Or they may have concerns about breastfeeding premature babies if their twins were born early. In their session, Sarah and Sadie reminded us that as Leaders we know a great deal about normal baby behaviour and we know about breastfeeding. Therefore thinking of twins as two separate babies with their own unique feeding journeys may help us to realise how many skills we already have to support mothers of twins. Twins can have just the same breastfeeding issues as a single baby.
Before the birth
A twin pregnancy is much harder work than a singleton pregnancy. The mum may feel much more tired than she expected and be facing more stresses in the form of a high risk pregnancy. She is more likely to end up with a cesarean section delivery. Encouraging her to prepare before the babies arrive, such as by filling the freezer with easy meals and accepting all offers of help, can be valuable. If she is a first-time mother, remember to offer the usual baby information; she may not know the basics like feeding cues and expectations of babies’ needs and behaviour.
After the birth
A rest or feeding zone in the family living area can make some mothers feel closer to the rest of her family while meeting the needs of her babies and herself. Babies can even wear colour-coded outfits for ease of identification and be routinely placed in the same places.
Breastfeeding tips for twins
There are lots of options for feeding together or separately: together in the day and separately at night or together at home but separately when out and about. Mothers can experiment to find what works for them; there is no right or wrong way. “One breast each” may work well for some mothers. However switching breasts and babies frequently can have advantages, particularly if one twin is having feeding problems.
Frequent questions mothers ask relate to positioning two babies and include:
- Where do your hands need to be?
- Where do the babies’ bodies go?
- Can they self-latch at the same time?
- Do I need pillows?
Sadie and Sarah recommended trying every position, such as both babies in rugby (clutch) hold, both babies facing left or right, or both in a classic cradle position. Biological nurturing positions (such as laid-back breastfeeding) may work well singly but may not work as well for feeding together.
For more information on feeding combinations, positions for feeding twins, and other common concerns see Breastfeeding Twins or Triplets.
Sadie shared her own particular survival strategy during her twins’ early days:
- One breast each
- Never wait until a baby is desperately hungry
- Feed babies together at home and separately when out
- Latch one, get comfortable, latch the other
- Use pillows to support us all
- Accept help and support
- Make sure drink and food are accessible for breastfeeding sessions
- Unlike with one baby, never walk and breastfeed
- Sleep in the day! If you are tired, and get the chance, sleep!
Joining a twins club can give mothers encouragement, useful suggestions, and a feeling of normality.
The overriding message of the session was to think of twins as a single baby times two. It’s almost the same as helping mothers feed one. Leaders have the skills!
Breastfeeding Twins or Triplets, Breastfeeding Support, 2016
Premature Twins, Breastfeeding Today, 2016
Breastfeeding a Premature Baby, Breastfeeding Support, 2016
Do I Need a Breastfeeding Pillow? Breastfeeding Support, 2016
Karen Kerkhoff Gromada, Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More, 2007 and website: Mothering Multiples