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Breastfeeding Twins

Harriet Alderson
Tyne and Wear, Great Britain
From New Beginnings, Vol. 25 No. 6, 2008-09, pp. 26-27

I always assumed I would breastfeed my baby: my mom and sisters had breastfed theirs. I knew it wasn't always easy, but I also knew it was best for baby and mother. When I found out I was having twins, I continued to think in this way... then the comments started ("You can't breastfeed twins." "You can't make enough milk." "It would take all your time." "It's impractical."), and my doubts began.

I'm a stubborn one, though, and as far as I could see I had two breasts so what was the problem? I was very lucky as I carried the girls to 38 weeks and they were born at six pounds 10 ounces and six pounds 13 ounces. I was the last of a group of friends to have my twins, so I had been able to watch the problems the others had and speak to people about it. I had wonderful support from Sandra, the multiples midwife at the hospital, who shared the same view -- two babies, two breasts! Both girls were breech and I had an elective cesarean. I requested they be placed straight on my chest as I wanted it to be as natural as possible. Daisy had a good try at taking the breast in the recovery room, but Esme wasn't very interested.

Back on the ward, establishing feeding became my main focus. My memories of these days are hazy, but I was so happy to have my babies and enjoyed the time. A wonderful midwife helped me latch the girls on properly and she helped us work out a way of feeding both together. I pumped, I fed, I pumped some more, and finally my milk came in on day five. By day seven we were making good progress, though Daisy had lost a lot of weight and there were noises that I should offer formula. Scared as I was, I refused, convinced that we could work it out.

One of my worries when I found out we were having twins was how I was going to get to know both babies, bond with both babies, love both babies. I was convinced that if I could breastfeed it would help. And it did. I found that when I was feeding them I felt so close to them. Even when tandem feeding I felt I was having one-to-one time, and lots of the very important skin-to-skin contact. Often with twins, well-intentioned people think they are helping by offering to take one of the babies to feed her; as I was so worried about bonding, this was the last thing I wanted. Because I was breastfeeding, I was confident of having my children returned to me for feeding, giving me the ownership I needed. Someone asked me the other day if I think breastfeeding has affected the relationship between the girls. Honestly, I don't know but it is something to think about. They are close and they are very tactile with each other, whether this would have happened if they were not breastfed I don't know.

The girls fell into a pattern of two-hourly feeds. If one cried for a feed, I would offer the breast to other, too. Soon they seemed to want to nurse at the same time. Evenings were hard as they would cluster feed for two or three hours. At one stage, this stretched on and on; the longest we fed either one or both was 48 hours continuously! I guess it was their way of building a good supply and they certainly did that. It was hard and I couldn't have done it without the support of my husband and a lovely La Leche League Leader. As for many mothers, nights were the hardest and just making it to the morning was my only aim. Long term, I set myself the target of feeding for three months, but found that by then breastfeeding was so easy! It seemed silly at that point to start dealing with 16 bottles a day, and so we have continued to nurse happily.

In the early months most feeds were at home with the girls together -- using a fantastic feeding pillow designed specifically for twins. However, I quickly encouraged them to have their afternoon feeds separately, so I could go out and about. I was determined that having twins and breastfeeding were not going to leave me housebound! Most of the time things were fine, though I did once get some angry and pitying looks in a café when the baby waiting was shouting rather loudly for her turn! In desperation, unable to listen to the cries, I have fed them together balanced over each other as I sat cross-legged; and once in a pub garden I sat one on each knee after my sister helped to latch them on.

My husband and I also engineered a great way of using car seats and cushions to balance the girls so we could tandem feed out and about. Anything is possible!

I am breastfeeding in pretty much all my wedding photos! We planned to get married before I became pregnant and decided to go ahead despite the fact the girls were only seven weeks old! I look back and think we were mad, but it was the most beautiful day and I would not change it for the world. I wore a pretty wrap around summer dress and used a scarf to give some dignity! It possibly wasn't most people's idea of the perfect wedding, but it was pure magic for us to have them there.

Daisy and Esme have slowly given up breastfeeds and now have just one a day. I don't know how long they will continue, but I am happy still to have those close cuddles and quiet time with them every evening for as long as they want.

Our daughters are the most amazing things to happen to us. I know that breastfeeding twins is not always easy to achieve; that I have been able to has been such a blessing and an experience for which I am so thankful. It hasn't been easy, but it has been worth all the effort!

Adapted from a story in LLLGB's Breastfeeding Matters

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