Every new mother has moments of uncertainty. Those concerns are often magnified for mothers expecting twins, triplets, or more! Even though breasts are designed to supply enough milk to meet the needs of one or more babies, physical and emotional challenges are common in mothers of multiples, so it helps to be prepared.
Learn all that you can about breastfeeding before your babies are born. Breastfeeding, A Parent’s Guide is an excellent resource along with Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More! Attend childbirth preparation and surgical birth classes early in pregnancy, around your fourth or fifth month. (Multiples have higher odds of being born early, and you’ll want to be prepared if that happens.) Connect with other mothers who have breastfed multiples, perhaps through La Leche League International, Breastfeeding USA or similar breastfeeding support groups.
Locate the nearest breast pump rental station which may be found in your local hospital, health department, or medical supply store.
Choose your babies' health care provider carefully. Find a pediatrician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant who is knowledgeable about breastfeeding and who has had success working with breastfeeding multiples. You may also want to schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant or other certified breastfeeding professional before your babies are born. This professional can give you some helpful tips and demonstrate breastfeeding positions designed just for multiples.
Beginning to breastfeed
Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand: The more milk you remove from your breasts by nursing or expressing, the more milk you make. Early, frequent feedings usually ensure an ample supply of milk for two, three, or more babies. If you or your babies are unable to breastfeed, expressing your milk will help maintain your supply.
If one or more babies is discharged before the other(s), breastfeed each baby who is with you at least 8 times in each 24 hours. To provide milk for any multiple(s) not yet breastfeeding, you can pump one breast while one baby feeds on the other breast. If you don’t think you’re ready to coordinate pumping while feeding, pump both breasts immediately after a breastfeeding, or pump between feedings.
Contrary to common belief, you don’t need to wait for your breasts to “refill” before pumping. Nor do you need to wait after pumping to feed your baby from the breast. Your breasts are always making milk and are never truly “empty.”
Until you have a good sense of each baby’s breastfeeding style, it may help to keep individual breastfeeding charts that are color coded for each baby. This will ensure that each baby gets at least 8 feedings in each 24 hours.
Developing a feeding routine
Though it may be tempting to hope that your babies are hungry at the same time, so that you’re not feeding around the clock, in reality that may not happen with young babies. Watch and respond to each baby's hunger cues.
Initially, consider feeding one baby while comforting the others with the gentle movement of a bouncy seat or a swing. Many mothers of multiples eventually strive to feed their babies at the same time (simultaneously). But it is best to wait until at least one baby can latch easily and in a way that is comfortable for you, before attempting to feed two at once.
When you get ready to try simultaneous feeding, consider enlisting the aid of your partner or breastfeeding support person such as a lactation consultant or peer counselor. While feeding two at once can save time, if introduced too soon it can cause injury to your nipples or result in one or more of your babies not taking in enough milk.
Two or more babies take time no matter how you choose to feed them. So don't forget to take care of yourself as well as your babies.