Breastfeeding is hard work, but for many Moms it is so empowering and beautiful. It is an important way she can bond with her baby and nourish them at the same time. It is not an easy path for many, but the reward is a strong mother/baby bond and the satisfaction of knowing baby is getting top nutrients from Mom. It is also nutritious, portable and economical. The food is always ready and available as long as Mom is taking good care of herself which is the top priority.
Now there are many challenges that woman encounter when breastfeeding even one baby. With two or more, however, there are even greater challenges. Some Moms may think of giving up as it gets difficult, exhausting and she does not know where to go for the best help. She need not worry though. With tips and tricks from other Moms of multiples, she will soon learn all there is to know about breastfeeding her babies.
But where does she start? The best thing to do is compile a list of questions for her health care practitioner and her Mom friends she has made through her prenatal groups who also had multiples. They will be able to best advise her on what she needs to do. So what are the things she most needs to be concerned about? Here are 13 things to know about breastfeeding multiples so she can do the best job possible and have the least amount of stress doing it:
13 The Body Knows There's Two
All those naysayers that will tell the woman that she will not be able to produce enough milk for two or more babies are talking bunk. As long as she is healthy, sleeping and eating relatively well, there is no reason that her body will not be able to nourish two or more healthy babies in the world. If she sees her supply is going down, she should continue to pump in between feedings. It is always a good idea to have a bunch of pumped bags full of breastmilk should she need to give a bottle if she is feeling tired, sick or simply needs a break. There is no rush to get babies on a schedule either. Feeding on cue is important to establish a good milk supply. It is important Moms do this even more with multiples who may take longer to eat and have latch issues, thus not being as able to transfer milk effectively. After about six weeks, twins or multiples usually settle into a bit more of a routine.
12 The Girls Can Handle It
Providing she is taking good care of her breasts, there is no danger they will get sore from nursing more than one baby. Taking care of her breasts means starting with wearing good nursing bras, loosening clothing that is constrictive, making sure baby is positioned well at the breast and changing feeding position if not, and keeping an eye out for any unusual soreness, itchiness or redness. Though nipple soreness is normal in the early days it should go away as the babies adjust their latch and feed properly. If nipple pain continues it can be due to baby’s poor latching and the woman would benefit from checking out La Leche League chapter in her neighborhood to ask their advice. If nipples are still cracked and sore, she could find relief by gently expressing a few drops of milk and rubbing it over the nipples. A small amount of lanolin cream after baby feeds can also help. She should keep her nipples washed with soap and water and use cotton nursing pads in between feedings, avoiding synthetic ones.
11 Bonding Isn't Always Even
As a Mom she may feel terrible, but sometimes she will naturally be inclined to bond more with one baby over another. It may be that this little one’s character meshes closer to hers than the other’s. They may be a better sleeper than the other one, and hey, what Mom does not like getting more sleep, or it could be for some other inexplicable reason. The point is that it can sometimes be easier to feed one of her children than the other. What can she do to make sure that both babies are getting the nourishment they need to thrive?
A good thing is for Mom to try and spend a little more time with the “difficult to bond with” baby and figure out how to forge that relationship. If her partner can take the other baby off her hands to give her this extra one-on-one baby time that would be great. In this case, Mom will most likely start to see positive traits or similar traits in herself and could work on getting to know them in her child that it is harder to bond with. The most important thing is to rule out postpartum depression and make sure that her bond is not affected due to that.
10 Mom Will Need A Team
Breastfeeding is challenging enough without all the naysayers in the background telling a woman how she cannot do it or is doing it wrong. That is why if this is the path she decides on during pregnancy, it is best that she start to surround herself with a breastfeeding support team before the babies are born. This team would be composed of her partner, her family, even extended family, as well as friends. Having a professional lactation consultant and La Leche members from breastfeeding support groups is also a great idea. The more people she has to help her if she and babies encounter a rough patch, the better off she will be. All of these individuals will offer emotional support, and some (lactation consultant and La Leche League), can even offer additional techniques for breastfeeding that will make it easier for her if she has problems or is looking for new ways of doing things.
9 Each Baby Is An Individual
We tend to think of twins as being the same in every way. This is not the case. They are as individual in their particular style as two non-twin babies would be. Some may be comfortable feeding in one position, others in another. Some may latch on immediately in breastfeeding and others may need extra support. It is important for Mom and Dad to recognize their particular style as early as possible so they can then make adjustments in how they feed them. This will make it easier on everyone. For example some may like to be fed resting on a cushion, others in Mom’s arms. She will figure out what is best by experimenting a little with baby at the beginning. She may need to try several positions with each baby and watch their cues. Do they seem happy? Do they seem comfortable? Are they feeding well? These are all cues that things are going smoothly.
8 Don't Be Afraid To Pump
As easy as it is to give up when the milk supply is running out, the best thing a new Mom can do is continue to pump to increase her supply. The best time to do this is during the night. If she pumps at least eight times in a 24 hour period, this will help increase her milk supply as prolactin goes up at night. She may be tempted to sleep, but if she takes advantage and does the pumping right away, this will help her have adequate milk to feed her babies. Then she can rest easy. It is a falsehood that no or low milk supply means breastfeeding is finished. There a lot of factors at play, and lots of things she can do to increase the milk supply and continue to feed her babies. No one should ever dictate otherwise to her. If she has any additional questions, a lactation consultant and the La Leche ladies can definitely help her out here.
7 Don't Reinvent The Wheel
To be more efficient with her time and for other personal reasons, there are some Moms of multiples who may choose breastfeeding both babies at the same time. This is a good idea in theory, but it’s generally a good idea to wait to do this until at least one of the babies is latching on really well and able to maintain the latch without any help from Mom. When they will be able to latch on their own, then Mom can latch them on while she gets in position with the second baby. It involves quite a lot of skill so it is better to wait for this and feed one at a time. Keeping a nursing or regular pillow nearby is a good way she can stay comfortable while doing this. She will have plenty of time in the future for time saving in this area. Right now, establishing a good feeding routine and good feeding technique is of the utmost importance in establishing good breastfeeding habits for the little one.
6 One At A Time Is Perfectly Fine
Tips for Moms who want to feed one at a time, even after breastfeeding has been established and they could try multiple feedings, would be to relax. If she is tense and worried that babies are not latching on or getting enough milk, baby will sense her tension and this can negatively impact feedings. Another great tip is to stay low on the ground. If she puts a blanket on the floor, she could put the baby or babies she is not feeding on the blanket and sit with her back against the couch to nurse. The good thing is that, now, the other baby or babies can roll around on the blanket without falling. It’s also handy for changing diapers. In fact, having a whole breastfeeding station set up is the way to go if she really wants to be efficient. She can have diapers, magazines, water and an iPod nearby to make things even more convenient for herself.
5 Alternating Babies
Alternating is not a bad idea as long as Mom has a strong milk supply. It doesn’t matter which breast she nurses from whatever time of day. The reason why some women like to alternate, is that it helps them know from which breast baby ate from last. They are better able to keep track that way. Other Moms find that alternating gives both breasts equal stimulation. This is actually good if the baby or babies have a weaker suck. The important thing is that she does what she is comfortable doing though. Her body will automatically adjust to babies' feeding needs. The important thing is to make sure both breasts are stimulated often enough, otherwise a supply problem could develop. In the end, a Mom has to make sure that she does what works for her and her babies. That will determine her breastfeeding success. Her biggest success though, will be the bond she will continue to form when feeding her babies.
4 Feel The Burn
All Moms know that breastfeeding burns calories. So a woman will need to hydrate and snack even more than she did prior to baby. When she is pregnant, biology will kick in and help her gain weight which helps her and baby. After she has given birth, biology again kicks in. Breastfeeding helps her lose weight by burning 300-500 calories a day. This means she will have to replenish by eating and drinking more to keep her energy up. A new Mom gives lots of energy to baby when she is breastfeeding. Due to this, she is passing the calories on to her child and losing those calories herself. As long as she is not losing too much, this can’t hurt. She needs to make sure she is energetic for her new lifestyle.
3 Handling Night Feedings
What is the best way to handle night feedings? Again, this depends on Mom and her babies. However, most experts do say that it is best that she gets both babies on a feeding schedule right away. Babies will eat at the same time, will fall asleep at the same time and this spells good news for Mom. Then she can get some shut eye too while the darlings are asleep! After she has fed, burped and changed them, they can have a chance to get drowsy and then Mom can settle both into her bed or their crib for sleeping. If she decides to have them sleep in their own crib, co-sleeper or play yard, she needs to put them on their backs in a side by side position, until at least one of them learns to roll over, between four to six months. After that it is important they sleep separately so one twin does not roll over on the other. As for Mom’s sleep pattern, the good news is that she can then sleep when they do if she gets them both asleep at the same time.
2 Pump First Then Feed
Lots of Moms want to know if it best to pump first then feed in the night. This varies with each Mom and her babies, but usually feeding on demand in the day works while babies are up and sometimes unpredictable, whereas pumping at night when babies are asleep for at least a two to three hour interval works best. She can be relaxed while baby sleeps pumping away, store the milk, so that in the day if she is short in supply or needs a break, she has a supply of milk ready. It is always good to have a backup milk supply. Mom will also rest easy that baby has all the milk they want, even if her body is struggling to express it occasionally.
1 Taking Care Of The Girls
Taking care of her breasts is something very important for Mom to do, as important as taking care of the rest of her body. Her breasts will be working overtime to handle feeding multiple babies. Basically, however, as long as Mom makes sure baby has a good latch, baby is feeding often, and Mom is eating and sleeping well, all should continue to go well with breast health. If her nipples become cracked or sore, all she needs to do is to express a little bit of milk and pour them on the breasts. This will help nourish the tips. If that is not helping, she can use a mild lanolin cream that she can find over the counter in a drugstore. She should not hesitate to contact a lactation consultant or anyone who works at La Leche League for any kind of questions regarding breast health and breastfeeding. It is as important she take care of herself as it is she takes care of baby.