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Oh, the joy of bringing life into the world! New parents are delighted with the arrival of their little one, and what’s better than one little baby? Two! Twins are a herald of happiness to families, as they bring twice the love, affection, and joy. As for the new parents, they will be immersed in creating bonding experiences and lifetime memories during those first few years.
One of the best opportunities of bonding that a new mum can have with her baby is breastfeeding. As a part of World Breastfeeding Week, FirstCry India is collaborating with Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers (BSIM), a peer-to-peer support group for breastfeeding parents, their partners, and family members. We will be showcasing the breastfeeding journeys of some brave and proud Indian mothers!
Now, let’s talk about taking care of the nutritional needs of twins. As most new parents know, health experts like the World Health Organization recommend that babies should be exclusively breastfed till they are at least 6 months of age, after which they can be gradually introduced to solid foods. But when it comes to breastfeeding twins, there is a ton of contradictory information out there that can confuse and discourage new moms. Thus, to begin, let’s dispel some myths.
Breastfeeding Your Twins: Myth vs. Truth
Some of the most common misconceptions that people have about breastfeeding twins are:
- A mother cannot breastfeed both her babies, as she will get tired and fatigued very easily.
- A mother cannot produce enough milk to feed two babies at the same time.
- Formula milk is a necessary supplement.
- The babies should be given pumped or expressed milk, and formula.
(Unsolicited) advice like this can actually work to discourage a new mother, rather than the opposite. Breastfeeding is a natural, innate instinct that allows a mother to nurture, care for, and protect her children. On the other side, babies seek the breast as primarily a food supply, and then as a source of comfort and familiarity.
So, let’s find out the truths that will replace these myths!
- A mother is very capable of breastfeeding both her babies. While it can get tiring at first, it takes practice (as two moms tell us in their stories further on), and soon you’ll be quite used to it.
- If you can produce two children from your body, you can feed them from your body, too. When you have twins, your milk production is not divided among the two babies, but instead, it is multiplied, so that both babies can have enough.
- Formula milk, while helpful, is not necessary. It comes in handy if, for some reason, you are unable to produce enough breast milk for your babies. But remember, this is not a matter of embarrassment – you are doing the best you can!
- Pumping or expressing milk for the bottle is also helpful, but if you can, try to breastfeed as much as you can. You can keep bottles on hand as an extra supply, for emergencies, or if you’re simply tired.
Feeling better about yourself, mom? Good! Now, let’s look at some things you should have ready for your breastfeeding journey.
Things You Need for Breastfeeding Your Twins
There are a few common things that all moms of new-born twins will need, in order to make breastfeeding a breeze, such as:
- A nursing pillow for twins
- A comfortable and safe space for the feeding
- A comfortable or ergonomic bed, sofa, or chair
- Baby towels to clean up spills or spit-ups
These are fundamental needs that will help a new mom take breastfeeding in her stride. She’s already been thrust into the role of primary caregiver for two tiny and delicate humans – doesn’t she deserve to have other things made easier around her?
As a new mom, make sure to have pillows, towels, and a glass of water within arm’s reach when settling down for a feeding session.
A few tips to keep in mind here are that, number one, new moms don’t need to have or use breast pumps in the immediate days after giving birth. As one BSIM member, Shruti Kanchan, points out, hand-expressing breast milk works just fine, rather than using a manual or electric pump. The latter comes with its own set of work, such as washing and cleaning, sterilizing and maintaining. There’s enough happening, without having to worry about that!
Number 2, a new mom needs plenty of positive support, so that her mental, emotional, and physical needs can be taken care of. Shruti and another BSIM member, Naina Navlani, have talked about the wonderful support they received from their families. Naina’s husband was attentive and focused during her early days of breastfeeding their twins, and Shruti’s husband and mother-in-law looked after her every need.
In Shruti’s words, “Except for the feeding, they took care of every other need of the twins.” Through her experience, she realised that the mental health of a new mom is directly related to the way she breastfeeds. A happy and supported mom will have a happy breastfeeding experience. But, if a mom is overwhelmed, upset, or fearful, breastfeeding will be hampered.
So, take care of the new mommies around you, and if you are one, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help if it’s available to you.
Now, are you ready to get into the thick of it? Let’s talk about what tandem nursing is, and the best breastfeeding positions for your twins.
Tandem Nursing Your Twins
Tandem nursing or feeding simply means that you are feeding two babies, either of the same age (twins) or different ages, at the same time.
To answer your simplest (and most obvious) question – How? – think of it this way: two babies, two breasts! Women have the ability to feed two little mouths at the same time, so why not take advantage of that? Tandem nursing is one of the most efficient ways of feeding your twins, especially if both babies get hungry at the same time, and you want to breastfeed them as much as possible.
However, that being said, tandem nursing is not the only way to go about feeding your babies. It takes practice to get into the rhythm, and if you find that you or the babies are uncomfortable, there are other approaches to adopt, such as solo feeding one baby at a time (while giving the other a bottle), or tandem nursing only once or twice a day. Remember, mother knows best, and you need to do what’s best for you and your little ones!
Shruti Kanchan says that tandem nursing was a wonderful and liberating experience for her. Though it took her some time and practice (which most moms will go through), when she and her twins finally got the hang of it, she never looked back. 4 years later, she still tandem feeds them.
Naina Navlani learnt about tandem nursing when her sister-in-law introduced her to BSIM, and now she encourages all new moms to learn and adopt this practice to save time and energy. When one of her twins wakes up at night, she dream-feeds the other one, too.
The Best Positions for Breastfeeding Your Twins
When breastfeeding one baby, there are many different positions a mom can adopt, depending on comfort and space. But, when it comes to twins, it’s a bit of a different story! There are a limited number of comfortable positions that can be used by moms of twins, and only a few that are widely recommended by experienced moms like Shruti and Naina. Let’s take a look at these positions!
1. The Football Hold
According to BSIM, the football, or clutch, hold is the positioning of a baby along the arm of the mother. The mom sits with her back well-supported, and the baby is held such that its head is in the mom’s palm, its body is along the length of the mom’s arm, and its feet are tucked behind the arm. The mom’s palm cradles and protects the baby’s neck. Pillows can be used for height adjustment, and the twin babies can be placed alongside both arms, positioned at both breasts.
Shruti tandem nursed her twins in this position.
2. The Cradle-Clutch Hold
The Mayo Clinic describes this position as holding one baby in the classic cradle position, and the other baby in the clutch or football position. Holding your baby in a cradle means keeping its head on your forearm, and facing its body into yours (and not up). This position is helpful if one of your twins can latch easier or faster than the other, thus placing one in cradle, and the other in clutch.
3. The Cross-Cradle Hold
In this position, both your babies will be held in the classic cradle position. Make sure their bodies are turned towards yours, and you can also position them such that their legs overlap in front of you.
4. The Lying Down Position
In this position, the mom reclines or lies on her back, and the babies are positioned either along her sides, or on her belly. This is the natural, biological breastfeeding position of most mammals, including humans. It is comfortable for both mom and baby – it allows the mom to get the hang of latching and breastfeeding, and it allows the babies to use all their senses to navigate towards the nipple and suckle. This position also offers plenty of skin-to-skin contact, making the babies feel warm, comforted, and protected.
Naina tandem fed her twins in this position, which she learnt from BSIM.
Advice for New Moms: Breastfeeding and Breast Care
Shruti and Naina, both moms of twins, share some well-earned advice for new mothers:
- Let your babies decide when they are hungry.
- Learn to tandem feed. It takes practice, but when you and the babies catch on, it saves time, energy, and effort, and can be thoroughly liberating.
- It’s okay if you don’t know right away how to help the babies latch on, or the right way to breastfeed, or how to manage chores with two little ones in tow. Ask for help when you need it, and do your own research beforehand, if possible.
- Build a positive and healthy support system, be it family or friends. It takes a village to raise a child, and for two of them, you’ll need all the support you can get!
- Don’t go overboard on the hygiene of your breasts. Areolas have natural oils in them, and over-washing them can disturb the balance of the skin, causing nipple dryness and cracking. Follow basic cleanliness, and wash them gently once or twice a day.
- Oversupply of milk can cause your ducts to get blocked. Thus, let the babies establish the feeding routine, so you can avoid over-stimulating your milk supply.
- On that note, keep in mind that your body can actually produce enough milk for both your babies. If you feel like your supply is low, try pumping or hand-expressing, and keep nursing regularly to stimulate milk flow.
- Twins are double the effort, so believe in yourself and your body, and don’t give up!
Do you have a breastfeeding story or some advice to share? We’d love to hear from you!