Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Getting Ready to Breastfeed Twins

With all the benefits of breastfeeding, many 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 can bring a whole new variety of challenges and complications. The most common challenges to breastfeeding twins relates to the fact that many twins are at least 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 breastfeed your twins - exclusively or not -and make the whole experience a lot easier on yourself, I recommend you invest some time researching and learning now before the babies arrive…finding time to read and comprehend a book while playing ‘Hot Potato’ with 2 crying newborns is simply not enjoyable or effective! Read (ok, at least skim) a good comprehensive book on breastfeeding like this one...

Find a breastfeeding 101 course from le leche league, your hospital, birth center or birth and parenting education center. Nothing beats the getting the 411 in person from someone who knows what they are talking about!
Get a phone number of a lactation consultant or counselor. Try to get a referral from a friend or acquaintance who had a good experience. Also, find out how she charges - if by visit, or for calls or both. (Some may charge two fees for twins, even if they only have one visit with you. You really should not have to pay for twice when they truly only have one visit, unless they are doing extensive coaching/examination of each baby and spending twice the time doing it). Also, you should also call your insurance company to find out if L.C. is covered. - Note sometimes it is covered better or only during your postpartum hospital stay, but not thereafter. If you do have questions or problems breastfeeding when the babies arrive and sleep is in short order, the hardest part is already done –finding an expert to call, and all that’s left for you to do is pick up the phone!

Create a ‘nursing nest’. You will be spending a LOT of time with your little 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 a ‘nursing nest’ with it. (If you don't have a special chair, pick a spot on the couch or other chair with space to keep supplies nearby) This means choosing 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 2 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 could hold 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 puppets. I also kept the boppy leaning right next to the chair as well as my breast pump.

Here are some other recommendations just based on my personal experience...

Nursing Bras
Buy just one or two nursing bra in advance, buy different styles so you can decide which you like best after you are nursing. Get one that fits even while you are pregnant, but err on the large side as your bosoms will soon have superhuman elastic capabilities. It was much easier to know what fit well AFTER I was actually nursing. Then you can stock up on your favorite bras. I also highly recommend nursing bras with one-handed access – NOT SNAPS! Sometimes you just don’t have 2 hands available when you have 2 babies!

Comfort measures
I recommend getting the gel pad ‘soothies’ and a good nipple cream. I like the cocoa butter oil-based version that is not sticky like the lanolin and it goes on nicely even if you’re a bit chaffed.

Breast Pump
You don't usually need to buy this ahead of time because first, it is hard to know what you will need, and also they usually have them available a the hospital. Though, if you are pretty sure that you want a pump, you can buy ahead of time and shop for the best deal. If you will be going back to work at some point, you will probably want to plan on buying a good pump. Some moms who stay home hardly, if ever, use one. If you aren’t going to buy your own breast pump, try to rent or borrow one. It will really help you build supply for the first several weeks and when your babies have growth spurts. If you do borrow one, you should probably buy all new parts for it at a baby superstore near you, or order online.

Find other M.O.M.s who know
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 forum like are available at babycenter.com  that has mothers of multiples groups (like this one).  They are usually free of charge and full of compassionate women who have wisdom and experience they are eager to share.


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