What does it take to succeed when exclusively pumping for twins? As a twin mom who dealt with having my babies in the NICU, I ended up pumping in order to feed my babies breast milk.
In this post I will cover what you should expect if you decide to exclusively pumping for twins, tips for success, and a sample pumping schedule for twins.
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Is Exclusively Pumping For Twins Possible?
Yes! Successfully pumping for twins is possible, even exclusively. As you read on you will see it is a big commitment and a lot of work, but many twin moms have done it.
Next, I am going to start with my personal story of pumping breast milk for my twins. From there I will discuss the best tips, schedules, and gear you need to succeed.
A Desire To Breastfeed Twins
When my twins were born I was a first time mom. Throughout my pregnancy I knew I wanted to breastfeed.
My reasons varied from believing this was the healthiest option, to most of my friends breastfeeding their babies. Plus, I was breastfed as a child.
But, I was very nervous about trying to breastfeed twins. I had seen the struggles my friends had been through breastfeeding just one baby.
In the end I barely even nursed my premature twins. Since they were born at 35 weeks and in the NICU, they were not strong enough yet to latch.
And that’s how I ended up pumping for my twins. I was able to provide breast milk to them for the first 11 weeks of their life.
I stopped after 11 weeks for various reasons including losing my helping hands, diminishing milk supply, exhaustion, and difficulties trying to get my babies to latch. It was a gut wrenching decision, but in the aftermath of it all, I know it was the right one for me and my family.
Pumping For Twins Preparation
If you are pregnant with twins and want to breastfeed, it is definitely important to be prepared to exclusively pump. The reason I say this is twin pregnancies result in a higher likelihood of early births.
The smaller the babies are, the less likely they will have a good latch and be strong enough to suckle to breastfeed when they are born. It could be that you end up pumping for just a few weeks then switch to breastfeeding or you might only pump for your twins.
In my case, my twin girls were born at 35.5 weeks, and they were brought to the NICU after they were born. They weighed 4 lb 12 oz and 4 lb 13 oz, and they were not strong enough to latch and breastfeed.
This meant I started pumping for my twins at the hospital. I do not feel I was prepared for the possibility of needing to exclusively pump, especially for two babies.
I had even taken a twins birth and breastfeeding class at the hospital, but it did not teach anything about how to handle pumping for twins. The class had only reviewed how to nurse twins.
Given my experience, if I were to do it all over again how would I handle exclusively pumping for twins? Let’s dive in to some exclusive pumping for twins help.
Tips To Succeed When Pumping For Twins
Here are the things you can do to both prepare and have success if you find yourself needing to pump for your twins. I do want to make it clear that this will be tough!
You will be exhausted and you will have times that you doubt yourself. It’s really important to push through those difficult times in order to succeed.
In that same breath, it is even more important that your mental health is okay. I only say okay because I don’t think anyone’s mental health after having twins is ever ideal.
One of the reasons I stopped pumping was for my own sanity. You need to balance all of these things when you are deciding what to do. Okay, on to the top tips!
Organize And Accept Any & All Help
This is one is the BIGGEST keys to success. I had help during the first month at home with my newborn twins. After that I was completely alone while my husband was at work (not all that unusual).
When my family was around during that first month I made the mistake of focusing on my fears of what would happen when I was alone. While they were around I could have tried to fit an extra pumping session or two in to boost my supply.
I still pumped 6 times per day, while also dealing with spinal headaches after delivering twins caused by the epidural. But, maybe I could have gotten help with night feedings and pumped at night, instead I skipped pumping at night.
Start by enlisting the help of your family (it’s free). Another option, if you can afford it, is to hire help. If you can swing it, I think it’s definitely worth it.
Maybe hire a night nurse to get some sleep. A good place to look for this type of help is on Care.com. This would allow you to just wake up, pump, and go back to sleep. A cheaper option could be to hire a teenager from the neighborhood to help feed your twins, while you go pump.
I really wanted to do everything myself as a first time mom. However, I cannot stress enough how important it is to accept help from your family and consider hiring someone to help you as well.
Take it from someone who has been there, it will be worth it.
Get A Good Breast Pump
Depending on your preference and what your insurance covers, either rent a hospital grade pump or buy a double electric breast pump. The hospital grade pumps are stronger, but there could be a limitation on how long insurance will cover a rental.
Personally, because of the time limitation, I decided to get a double electric breast pump through my health insurance. I used the Medela Pump in Style for both the twins and my singleton.
This breast pump was wonderful. I never had any problems with it. I have two of them and they both still work like a charm.
Other breast pumps that are very popular are the Spectra S1 and the Spectra S2. I recommend researching both the Medela and Spectra pumps and deciding which one sounds the best for you. You should also confirm your insurance will cover the pump you choose.
Make The Commitment To Pumping For Your Twins
Switching from pumping to breastfeeding can be very difficult. Take it from my personal experience.
I thought if I was able to start nursing my twins it would make feeding them easier. However, I actually found that it got harder.
If you find yourself in this situation as well, then I recommend to continue with pumping. I was trying to switch to nursing because everyone told me it would be easier and I needed to boost my breast milk supply.
Unfortunately, it was not easier and then my supply dropped more because I spent time trying to nurse unsuccessfully and running out of time to pump since I was alone caring for two newborns.
Over the first 10 weeks I had become very comfortable with my pumping schedule and feeding my babies (simultaneously when needed) with a bottle. What I did not realize was how difficult it would be to get my twins to latch, and once latched, to establish a good latch.
It felt like completely starting over after 10 weeks of really hard work.
If you are exclusively pumping and you are comfortable with it, do not feel like you have to make a change. It is okay to stick with this method. In my case, I could have provided breast milk a little bit longer if I hadn’t been so stressed about figuring out breastfeeding.
Make Sure Your Pumping Setup Is Correct
Besides finding time to pump, it’s extremely important that you are doing it right and in a way to maximize your breast milk output. Some of these things include:
- Making sure your flanges are lined up correctly on your breasts
- You sit up straight while pumping
- Massage breasts while pumping to encourage milk flow
- Do not wear a bra with underwire
- Replacing breast pump parts when needed
For setup, this video gives a great overview for setting up a Medela breast pump.
Learn How To Bottle Feed Simultaneously
Since there will be times that you are alone with your twins, you need to learn how to bottle feed them on your own. I’m not going to go into all the details here because I already wrote a lengthy article on how to do this.
To find out how to feed your twins at the same time – read our article: How To Feed Twins By Yourself.
Take a Class
There is actually a really excellent online class available to all the exclusively pumping moms out there. I love it because it’s taught by Certified Lactation educator who is very knowledgeable, it’s very affordable, you get lifetime access, and the reviews for this class are stellar.
If you already know you will be pumping for your twins before they arrive or you are currently struggling through trying to pump for them, then I highly recommend signing up, just click below for more info!
Decide On a Pumping Schedule
As far as establishing a pumping schedule, you will want to build some flexibility into it. I think the best way to do this is decide how many pumping sessions you will complete in a 24 hour period and how long those sessions will be.
In my case I did 6 pumping sessions per day. This did not produce enough breast milk to support two babies exclusively with breast milk. But this is what I was able to do given my circumstances.
For a point of reference, if I was only feeding one baby I would have been able to supply about 90% breast milk with 6 pumping sessions. Could I have woken up at night for an extra pumping session or two? Sure, but since I was also waking up to feed one of the babies this was just not going to happen.
This emphasizes the importance of getting as much help as possible to succeed. Below are two sample schedules of what it might look like when you are exclusively pumping for twins.
I’ve included the schedule I used for six sessions per day for those that want to sleep as much as possible at night and a recommended schedule for those that prefer to not supplement with formula.
Sample Pumping Schedules For Twins
Let’s start with a sample schedule for being able to give your newborn twins ONLY breast milk. Keep in mind there are no guarantees you will definitely produce enough milk through pumping.
But this schedule will give you the best chance and requires a big commitment of your time.
- 10 pumps/day @ 5am, 7am, 9am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm, 5:30pm, 7:30pm, 9:30pm, 11:30pm
If needed, add 1-2 more pumping sessions to this schedule. At first each pumping session should be 30 min long.
However, you might be able to make this shorter. Make sure you pump for 5 min after your milk stops coming out to tell your body it’s time for another let down.
Now, here’s the sample pumping for twins schedule that I used. It will require supplementing with formula, but it allows you to provide your babies with some breast milk and might be a reasonable way to go.
- 6 pumps/day @ 7am, 9:30am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm, 10:30pm
My initial pumping sessions were 20 minutes and I eventually reduced them to 15 minutes. As you have read this pumping schedule worked for a while, but as they grew I didn’t feel like I was giving my twins all that much breast milk.
Take all this information into account as you decide what’s best for your family. Maybe you will do something in between my schedule and the more intense 10 pumps/day schedule.
Gear Needed When Pumping For Twins
What about the things you need in order to pump? Here is a list of the things you will need when pumping for your twins.
(1) Breast Pump
You can get this free through your health insurance in the United States. As discussed I would look into either the Medela Pump in Style or the Spectra pumps.
For more options check out this post on the best breast pumps for exclusive pumping.
The Medela pumps come with 2 bottles, but not the nipples you need for feeding. I recommend also purchasing these Medela 5 oz bottle sets.
These bottle sets do come with nipples. I used the Medela bottles because all the parts matched up with the pump, which made my life much easier.
Hands-Free Pumping Bra
I highly recommend the Simple Wishes hands-free bra.
Tube Of Lanolin
The Medela lanolin was great. I also had the Lansinoh lanolin and I didn’t really like it. I only used this during the first few weeks, but you will need it.
Nursing bras do not have underwire and they are very comfortable You will probably need to buy new bras because you will be a different size while pumping / nursing.
Plus, you do not want to wear bras with underwire, because it can negatively impact your milk supply. I think the best place to purchase more nursing bras is Target. They are reasonably priced and comfortable. Make sure you get at least one nursing bra for sleeping too.
Twin Z Pillow
Even if you’re not nursing, you will want this pillow to assist with bottle feeding your twins simultaneously. You can use the Twin Z pillow to prop your babies and easily feed them at the same time.
For more options, see this post on the best twin bottle feeding pillows.
(1) Set of Spare Pump Parts
It’s nice to have a spare set of pump parts for two reasons. If you are not up for cleaning after every pumping session, you will save a little time.
Secondly, if anything happens to your first set, you now have a backup.
You will need to replace your membranes every couple of weeks. You will notice them feeling thinner when you clean your pump parts.
This is a sign that is time to replace them. I always noticed an uptick in breast milk supply when I switched to a new set of membranes.
Pumping Gear For Working Moms Of Twins
If you will be pumping at work, in addition to the above gear I recommend the following.
2nd Breast Pump & Hands-Free Pumping Bra
When it’s time to return to work, I highly recommend getting another breast pump and hands-free pumping bra. This way you don’t have to lug your pump and bra to and from work every day.
Bottle Cooler Sets
These bottle cooler sets are perfect for keeping your breast milk cold during transportation to and from work and they are easy to carry.
Stay warm while your pumping. Get something that opens in the front so you can attach your flange setup.
More Pumping For Twins Help
Before I sign off, I want to share a couple additional resources with you. The first will help you stay organized and keep track of your exclusive pumping journey with your twins.
If you need something simple to keep track of the best schedules, write out your own schedule, track your breast milk output and pump part replacement, and a log of what your twins have eaten each day then you should check out this printable Pumping For Twins Journal.
It will help you stay organized and also reduce your stress because you can keep all your pumping information in one place. Plus, it’s easy to just simply print at home or you can even take it to a copy store if you prefer.
Now for the second resource, did you find yourself here because you are looking to improve your milk supply? This is a common issue for pumping moms of twins.
Besides the Exclusive Pumping class I mentioned previously, there is also a class dedicated just to making more milk through pumping. If you feel like you’ve tried everything to boost your supply and it’s not working, then consider investing in the Pump It Up course from Milkology.
Finally, I will just say that both Milkology pumping classes are so worth the very small cost. They will give you peace of mind to know you are doing everything you can to make as much breast milk as possible while pumping for your twins.
Exclusively pumping for twins is no small task!
If you decide to pump for your twin babies it is going to be a big job, but hopefully you will also feel great accomplishment with this decision as well.
Even if you feel like you could do more or wish you could nurse your babies, I know you are doing your best. Any amount of breast milk you can provide your twins is something to be proud of. Good luck!