Breastfeeding Twins Versus Breastfeeding A Singleton
Before I dig too deep into describing the differences I experienced between breastfeeding twins versus a singleton, feel free to check out my previous posts (links below) for more clarification on this week’s write-up:
The biggest factor influencing the difference in my breastfeeding journeys was 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. Meanwhile, M, my singleton, stayed with us in our room the whole time. It is not uncommon for twins to be in the NICU, since they are generally born earlier than singletons. Since my girls were born at 35.5 weeks, they were not quite developed enough to have a good latch and sucking reflex. Because of this, I was at a disadvantage from the get go for establishing my milk supply. Plus, I needed double the breast milk to keep up, which proved to be very difficult.
Another factor was how I felt after giving birth. With the twins, I was at the hospital for 24 hours, I pushed for 2 hours and I had horrible spinal headaches from my epidural. With M, my singleton, the delivery was so much easier. I did not have an epidural, I was at the hospital under an hour, it took 3 pushes and boom he was out (I lucked out big time on this one). The differences between the deliveries was crazy, but it definitely had a big impact on breastfeeding. For the twins, getting through just one pumping session was very difficult and painful. With M, I was able to put much more attention on nursing, since my postpartum recovery was so much easier with him.
Pumping and Bottle Feeding Versus Nursing
With the twins being born early and going to the NICU, I was pumping and bottle feeding them, while M, my singleton, was nursed from day 1. 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. I found this to be a huge advantage to bottle feeding. Additionally, I was 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. I exclusively breastfed M. Nighttime feeds were so different with him because I knew could not take a break. This was a different type of stress I did not experience with the bottle fed twins.
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. There are also no bottles to clean with nursing. At first, there is not necessarily a big difference in time because nursing sessions can be long (20-40 min). However, 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.
Formula and Sleep
As far as breast milk versus formula, I did notice a difference in sleeping. Since the twins were fed both formula and breast milk, we always made sure their last feed of the night was formula. They slept in longer stretches from a younger age, even though they were born at 35.5 weeks (versus 38.5 weeks). At 5 months old, my breastfed baby slept about 7 hours at night, but the twins were sleeping 8-10 hours by this age. I cannot say for certain this is why, but it is known formula takes longer to digest.
How Much Help Is Available To You?
Having help is another reason I have been able to breastfeed my singleton. We have a wonderful nanny that comes while we are at work. She continued working with us while I was on maternity leave. This allowed me to concentrate on taking care of M when he was a newborn, while she would take care of our 2.5 year old twins. This made it so much easier to have success with breastfeeding. With the twins, we did not have a nanny until I went back to work. We were very fortunate 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.
Do Not Stress Over Breastfeeding
Given all these factors, the piece of advice I like to offer moms, especially twin moms, is DO NOT STRESS over breastfeeding. I do realize this is easier said than done. If you are planning to breastfeed or are currently breastfeeding, do as much as you can. But, if it’s not working out, do not beat yourself up over it. You need to do what is best for you and your family’s health and happiness.
For more information on breastfeeding, check out our post on breastfeeding tips and tricks:
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