LLL Reaches Out to Mothers Nursing Twins
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 28, No. 3, May-June 1992, pp. 45-6
We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.
Women nursing multiples share the needs of all mothers for La Leche League's support and information as well as the need for specific help in the art of breastfeeding and the care of two or more babies at once. In Madison, Wisconsin, expectant mothers of twins are encouraged to attend regular Series Meetings. In addition, there is a La Leche League Group that holds monthly meetings that specifically address concerns related to nursing twins. Meetings for mothers of multiples provide wonderful demonstrations for an expectant or new mother. Any doubts raised by relatives or acquaintances outside the family are dispelled when a woman anticipating a challenging beginning learns at these special meetings that she can have a wonderful, satisfying breastfeeding outcome with two infants.
At first our La Leche League Group held a special meeting for mothers of multiples once during each series, in the same way Toddler Meetings are held in some Groups. Meeting frequency was increased to every other month because the mothers wanted to meet more often. Bimonthly meetings gave expectant women more opportunities to talk with experienced mothers. Then in September 1988 we began to hold monthly meetings and these have continued. Currently these monthly meetings are led by three experienced Leaders: Ann Haase-Kehl, Ruth Sweet, and Anne Altshuler, who is also the mother of eight-year-old twins.
Why Special Meetings? A twin pregnancy is frequently labeled "high risk." A mother expecting twins worries about how to cope with recommendations of bedrest and extra medical procedures. She may be concerned about a possible premature birth.
Not every mother reacts with joy when she learns she can expect to deliver two or more babies at once. She may mourn the loss of the exclusive one-to-one mother-baby relationship she anticipated. Her family may face added financial strain.
The adjustment to and eventual pleasure of having two or more babies at once may take time. A mother grieves over the loss of control at the time of a delivery beset with the potential for added complications. She may need to relinquish some aspects of the birthing experience that did not live up to her expectations. Many twins are born early. Mothers have come to Group Meetings with two premature babies, each on an apnea monitor, an alarm system that goes off if a baby stops breathing.
Mothers need special support along with techniques to help small babies latch on correctly and nurse effectively. Some of these babies may have initially been tube or bottle fed in neonatal intensive care units. In the early days, their mothers need help to find a satisfactory breast pump and information on how to build up and maintain an adequate milk supply. Babies may need help in overcoming nipple confusion. Many mothers also have to deal with recovery following a cesarean birth. The Leaders of these special meetings are called upon to do a lot of telephone helping if a mother is on bedrest or if she finds it very difficult to travel to Group Meetings.
A mother of twins is beset with questions and comments wherever she goes. The same remarks tend to come up over and over:
"Are they twins?" "Are they identical?" "How do you tell them apart?" "Oh! I've always wanted twins!" "Aren't you lucky!" "I don't know how you manage! I have my hands full with just one!" "Mine are just thirteen months apart, so I know how you feel." "You must have your hands full .... Double trouble!"
When a new mother has twins she longs for a place to move beyond these comments and share her concerns and feelings with others experiencing the same intense demands of parenting more than one baby at a time. Often hesitant to speak out about her needs at regular La Leche League meetings, she may be fearful of trivializing the concerns of single-birth mothers. Or she may think no one else shares in her unique concerns.
At Series Meetings, Leaders often speak of the mother of a nursing baby as having an arm free for her toddler or preschooler. But a mother breastfeeding twins has both arms full much of the time. Here are some suggested hints:
- nurse while sitting on the floor, using plenty of pillows so you can be level with an older child,
- listen together to a favorite story or song tape during nursing time,
- have two dolls for the older child to care for when alongside mother.
Sleep arrangements for families with twins can vary. Mothers need assurance that there are a variety of ways to meet the nighttime and rest needs of all family members. William Sears' NIGHTTIME PARENTING is frequently referred to. Equally reassuring are the shared stories of the many creative ways different families have worked to solve sleep challenges in a caring fashion. La Leche League can offer alternatives for a mother to consider, especially when mothers of twins are given outside advice to train children to meet their own needs at night.
Other breastfeeding circumstances can present special challenges when nursing twins, including plugged ducts, breast infections, nursing strikes, biting, growth spurts, and thrush. Thrush, for example, needs to be handled in a way to prevent a cycle of reinfection of mother and her two babies.
What are the special needs of nursing older twins? Discreetly nursing two toddlers at once in public can be difficult. At meetings it is important to discuss privacy, taking turns, and encouragement to mothers to sometimes sit down not only to nurse but to play games, read stories, and cuddle as well.
Although our meetings cover the same topics as regular Series Meetings, mothers of twins are encouraged to attend Series Meetings so they:
- form friendships with other mothers,
- broaden their network of support,
- hear how other mothers encounter and deal with normal breastfeeding issues.
At our meetings for mothers of multiples, we have a regular Group Library and books for sale, with extra copies of Karen Gromada's MOTHERING MULTIPLES, William Sears' NIGHTTIME PARENTING, and Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish's Siblings Without Rivalry. Evaluation Meetings are frequently brief and most often held immediately following the regular meeting. A regular meeting evaluation form is sent to our District Advisor. We have a Group Librarian and a Group Treasurer. Mothers who attend are encouraged to become LLL members. Attendance varies from three or four mothers to as many as eight or ten. Larger numbers are more difficult because of the increased number of small children. With three Leaders, we have extra helping hands. Many mothers come with two infants and a toddler and/or preschooler. Mothers appreciate the assistance when a Leader offers to help position a second baby at the breast, to hold one baby while the other one nurses, or to get mothers refreshments or a snack while they hold twins.
Many communities have support groups for mothers of twins, but they rarely offer a discussion of breastfeeding issues or they share different philosophies of parenting. In general, this type of group serves as a social outlet for members and focuses on activities for mothers/couples to have a night out or an all-day trip away. Children may not be permitted at these events or at the regular evening meetings of these groups. Many mothers find the rummage sales these types of groups hold for children's clothing, toys, and equipment especially beneficial, but their members do not necessarily share a common parenting philosophy.
With the additional challenges, there are many positive results for mothers who come to twin Group Meetings. The sight of other mothers who are successfully nursing two babies at once and who have overcome the early challenges gives real confidence to a new mother of twins. After delivery she may have been discouraged from attempting to fully breastfeed two infants. Nothing gives a stronger message that it is possible to nurse twins than the actual sight of four or five sets of twins breastfeeding at various ages and stages of development. In addition, an expectant mother can pick up many tips about equipment to help her nurse after the birth of her own babies -- everything from plenty of pillows to what clothing works best when nursing twins. Nursing nightgowns, for example, are designed for nursing one baby at a time and are difficult to use with two babies. Two-piece outfits work better. For winter nights, flannel pajamas worn over an old T-shirt with two big holes cut out will keep mother's upper body warm for nighttime feedings.
Certain topics often come to the forefront in discussions. These include:
- positions for nursing two babies at once,
- establishing a pattern for nursing together or separately,
- whether to wake the second baby to nurse when the first one wakes at night,
- how to get adequate sleep and rest,
- nutrition, care, support, and help for a mother,
- ways for parents to maintain and nurture their relationship as a couple,
- ways to meet the needs of the twins' other sibling(s).
When a mother comes to La Leche League she looks for support in breastfeeding and parenting. We can nurture and encourage her in a unique way. There are so many outside pressures on a mother of twins. Special meetings for mothers of multiples is one way to increase and support breastfeeding among these mothers.
Double Talk, a quarterly newsletter for parents of multiples. Karen Gromada, publisher and editor. Available for $8 US per year from P.O. Box 412, Amelia, Ohio 45102. (513) 231-8946.
Faber, Adele and Elaine Mazlish. Siblings Without Rivalry. New York: Avon Books, 1987.
Gromada, Karen. MOTHERING MULTIPLES, Franklin Park, IL: La Leche League International, 1985.
Mohrbacher, Nancy and Julie Stock. THE BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK, Franklin Park, IL: La Leche League International, 1991.
Noble, Elizabeth. Having Twins, 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991.
Sears, William. NIGHTTIME PARENTING. Franklin Park, IL: La Leche League International, 1985.