Getting ready to breastfeed two or more...
With all the benefits of breastfeeding, the majority of moms strive to nurse their babies at least for a few weeks, and some for much longer. While breastfeeding one baby has a steep learning curve and struggles, breastfeeding two or more rates just below Navy Seal training for intensity. The most common challenges of breastfeeding twins is related to the fact that many twins are slightly premature. Even a birth date at 35 weeks – which is only 1 week shy of what is considered ‘full term’ for twins - can affect a baby’s ability to nurse efficiently. And even breastfeeding healthy full-term twins brings a set of challenges that most moms and lactation consultants have never encountered.
Honestly, I want to warn you that the greatest challenges of breastfeeding for me were not logistic, nor physical. They were mental – either self-imposed, or imposed under the pressure of a well-meaning but short-sighted lactation consultant or nurse.
If you want to maximize your chances of success, and make the whole experience a lot easier on yourself, I recommend you invest some time researching and learning before babies arrive…finding time to read and comprehend a book while playing ‘Hot Potato’ with 2 crying newborns is simply not enjoyable or effective!
If you can manage, put these on your to-do list:
1. Read (ok, at least skim) a good comprehensive book on breastfeeding like this one, The Complete Book of Breastfeeding.
2. Find a breastfeeding 101 course at your hospital or Le Leche League. Nothing beats the getting the 411 in person from someone who knows what they are talking about!
3. Get the phone number of a lactation consultant from other moms you trust – make sure she doesn’t charge double for twins! (yes, this has happened to a poor twin mom whose insurance didn’t cover the visit. You really should not have to pay for 2 visits when they truly only have one house call to make!) Then, if you have difficulties, the hardest part is done - finding an expert to call - and all that’s left to do is pick up the phone!
(If you want to be truly prepared, you should also call your insurance To find out if L.C. is covered. - Note sometimes it is only covered, or has less of a co-pay during your postpartum hospital stay, but not thereafter.)
4. Create a ‘nursing nest’. You will be spending a LOT of time nursing your little, uhhhh, nurslings. You might as well do it as comfortably as possible! If you have a rocking chair, glider or other comfy chair you plan to use, create an area that has everything you need to stay comfy. This means putting it in a place that makes the most sense for your lifestyle and schedule. Yes, instinctively you may want to place it in the babies’ room, but that may not be the best option depending on your family and preferences. For instance, since I had two older 3-year-olds, I put my nursing nest in the living room so I could watch and interact with my other kids and make sure they weren’t getting into trouble! Next to my chair, I put a TV tray that can house my laptop computer or a book or magazine. On the window sill of the other side of the chair, I put a small basket in which I could store all sorts of essentials – nipple cream, TV remote, an extra burp cloth, tissues, my breastfeeding reference book and my big kid’s favorite finger puppet. I also kept the Boppy leaning right next to the chair as well as my breast pump.
5. Buy 1 Nursing bra in advance. Get one that fits even while you are pregnant, but err on the large side as your bosom will soon have superhuman elastic capabilities ala Elastigirl!
6. Get the gel pad ‘Soothies’ and a good nipple cream. I recommend this all natural cocoa butter nipple cream. It is not sticky like the lanolin and it goes on gently even if you’re a bit chaffed.
7. Invest in a breast pump or plan to rent or borrow one. If you do borrow one, consider buying all new tubing for it online or at a baby superstore.
8. Get connected with a good twins club/ moms club in your area. You will no doubt have questions or need input that is best found from other mothers of twins who have recently been in your shoes. If you can’t find a local club, join an online social network for twin moms. Some examples are Twinversity or the Got Twins? group at www.babycenter.com. They are usually free of charge and full of compassionate women who have some wisdom to share.