Before I get into describing the differences in breastfeeding my twins versus my singleton, feel free to check out my posts from the last two weeks for more clarification on this week’s write-up:
I think the biggest factor influencing my breastfeeding journeys were the start of the lives of my twins versus my singleton. The twins were brought to the NICU when they were born and I did not have the opportunity to see if they would latch. It is not uncommon for twins to be in the NICU, since they are generally born earlier than singletons. Because of this, I feel I was at a disadvantage from the get go for establishing my milk supply. On top of that, with twins, you will need as much breast milk as possible. Another big difference from the start was how I felt. With the twins, I had horrible spinal headaches and getting through just one pumping session was very painful. With my singleton, the delivery was so much easier. Of course my body still needed to recover, but I was in much less pain, which allowed me to concentrate on nursing.
I also had the experience of bottle feeding versus nursing. I never had much opportunity to nurse the twins, and they were almost solely fed from a bottle. This meant I had a lot of help from my husband at night for feedings, so this was an advantage to bottle feeding. I was also able to get help with feedings during the day if someone was visiting. When you are exclusively breastfeeding it is so important to establish your milk supply during the first 6 weeks. Since I was exclusively breastfeeding my singleton, I felt a lot more pressure during the newborn phase because I knew could not take a break from a night feeding. On the other side, a negative to bottle feeding breast milk is that it is a two-step process, pump the milk, then feed the milk from the bottle. With nursing you do this all in one step. At first there is not necessarily a big difference in time because nursing sessions can be long (20-40 min), but as the baby gets bigger he or she becomes much more efficient and eats faster. Something else I found to be more difficult with pumping, especially during the first few weeks, was feeling like I was missing out. I say this because we had a lot of visitors at our house. If you’re nursing you do not necessarily have to leave the room, but with pumping I felt I was constantly away from my visitors and missing out on the conversations they were having.
Sleeping is another area where I have noticed a difference. Since the twins were fed formula and we always made sure their last feed of the night was formula, they slept in longer stretches from a younger age. My 5 month old breast fed baby sleeps about 7 hours, but the twins were sleeping 8-10 hours by this age. I cannot say for certain this is why, but formula does take longer to digest.
Having help is another reason I have been able to breastfeed my singleton. We have a nanny that comes while we are at work. She continued working with us while I was on maternity leave, which allowed me to concentrate on taking care of the newborn baby, while she watched the 2.5 year old twins. This made it so much easier to have success with breastfeeding. With the twins, we did not hire the nanny to start until I was going back to work. We were very lucky to have the help of our family members for the first month of their lives, but after that I was alone with them during the day. Once the help was gone, it made it much harder to pump as much as I needed to.
Given all these factors the best piece of advice I like to give twin moms is not to stress out over breastfeeding. Do as much as you can, but if it’s not working out, do not beat yourself up over it. Really, I think this advice applies to all moms, whether you have twins or not. You need to do what is best for you and your family’s health and happiness.
Next week will be the last entry in the Breastfeeding Twins series. I will be providing tips and tricks I have learned from my experiences.