I live in Edinburgh and I’m mum to 3 boys (aged six and eighteen-month twins). I’m a trained breastfeeding peer supporter with the Breastfeeding Network and I also take calls as a volunteer on the National Breastfeeding Helpline.
I share my parenting and breastfeeding journey on Instagram @twins_and_fin, where I regularly get asked a lot of questions about the realities of feeding twins. The same sorts of questions come up again and again and I thought it would be useful to shine a light on what it’s REALLY like breastfeeding twins – from newborn to toddlerhood.
Common questions about breastfeeding twin babies
In part 1 I want to answer my most asked questions relating to feeding twin babies. Part 2 will then focus on feeding toddler twins.
What challenges did you face when breastfeeding your twins and how did you overcome them?
I was induced with my twins at thirty-six weeks, and because they were premature they were in neo-natal for a week, being tube fed for some of this time. Between the two of them they were also treated for low blood sugar, low body temperature, jaundice & CPAP breathing support. It was a lot to get my head around them being in intensive care, as well as trying to get some rest and starting out on a double pumping schedule to build my milk supply. But thankfully, apart from day two when the twins had used up the colostrum I’d expressed in pregnancy (and they were supplemented with some formula) I had no problems at all with supply. I exclusively breastfed them from birth and I’m still breastfeeding them both now at eighteen months.
That said, we did encounter our fair share of challenges! We had issues with latching as both babies were sleepy and didn’t seem to have the strength to latch properly without getting tired. Nipple shields helped so we ended up using those for six weeks until they could latch without them. I hated using them as they were so bloody fiddly, especially when trying to tandem feed two babies, but they allowed us to breastfeed so I’m grateful for that.
We had issues with latching as both babies were sleepy and didn’t seem to have the strength to latch properly without getting tired.
We also had issues with weight gain for both babies, so for the first month I was feeding them at the breast, then double pumping, then my husband would give them the expressed milk as bottle top-ups (known as ‘triple feeding’). It was physically and emotionally exhausting. The thing that kept me going was that I knew this stage was only temporary and I was so determined to breastfeed, I just needed it to work out as I couldn’t imagine feeding them any other way.
What would you do if you had someone comment negatively in public when you’re feeding?
This is a tricky one. I’ve never had any outright negative comments from strangers. I might go with the “mind your own boobs!” response, or “you’re welcome to leave if you’re offended by small humans eating!”.
It’s good to know that legally, mums can’t be asked to leave premises or be harassed when breastfeeding out and about. In the U.K breastfeeding is protected under the Equality Act 2010.
Aren’t you just lucky that breastfeeding worked out for you? It doesn’t work out for all mums…
I am lucky, without a doubt. But luck only played a part. I also did a ton of research before my babies arrived and made sure the midwives, my partner and family knew that breastfeeding was important to me. Then when my babies arrived, I overcame sore nipples, latching issues, engorgement, re-current blocked ducts, milk blisters, mastitis, slow weight gain and having to double pump for weeks on end and do expressed milk top-ups so my twins wouldn’t end up back in hospital.
I did my best to ignore bad advice and unhelpful comments in order to keep breastfeeding. And then I sometimes faced a general lack of understanding and judgement as I breastfed a toddler. I managed to do all this with support from my husband, other breastfeeding mums, breastfeeding support charities like my local one – Edinburgh La Leche League – and also a private lactation consultant (IBCLC).
My family were a massive help too, especially after the twins were born. They probably don’t realise how much the little things they did helped me succeed in breastfeeding my boys. From bringing round a lasagne (or ten!) to helping with jobs around the house, to looking after my eldest so I could just focus on making breastfeeding work. Breastfeeding a new-born is a full-time job (and even more so for twins) so I would have struggled without their support.
Breastfeeding a new-born is a full-time job (and even more so for twins)
Having experienced all this, I do find it hard to swallow comments that some mums are lucky because breastfeeding “just worked” for them. The number of mums who breastfeeding works for without a single challenge are few and far between. The majority make it work through sheer determination, commitment, hard work, support and yeah, sometimes a little bit of luck.
It’s true that breastfeeding doesn’t work out for all mums who want to breastfeed. And it’s also true that many mums stop breastfeeding before they wanted to. The majority of the time the reason for this is lack of proper, knowledgeable support. That’s why we need more government investment in breastfeeding. And breastfeeding and lactation to be included into GP training. And to normalise breastfeeding in our culture, so that in future generations we will have good collective knowledge around breastfeeding. And that’s also why I became a volunteer peer supporter. Professor Amy Brown has dedicated her research to grappling with all of these big issues around breastfeeding and has written some brilliant books on how our society impacts on breastfeeding, breastfeeding grief and trauma and so much more.
I’m expecting a baby, what are your tips for breastfeeding?
My biggest tip is to learn as much as you can about breastfeeding before your baby arrives. Go along to a breastfeeding support group, do a breastfeeding ante-natal workshop run by one of the breastfeeding support charities mentioned below, speak to other breastfeeding mums, and of course listen to the boobingit podcast!
My biggest tip is to learn as much as you can about breastfeeding before your baby arrives.
If I could recommend one article to read for parents-to-be and new parents, it would be Emma Pickett’s Is this normal? The first week with a breastfeeding newborn. It was a lightbulb moment for me when I understood about biologically normal new-born behaviour. There’s a lot of unlearning breastfeeding parents today have to do. Especially from the last couple of generations due to a strong bottle-feeding culture, lack of collective knowledge around breastfeeding and notions of “spoiling your baby” if you are too attached to them. So, this article is a great starting point for that. From my own experience, that new-born behaviour described in the article can last for months, but once you understand that it’s normal and you’re not doing anything wrong, that’s half the battle. For evidence-based information on infant sleep the Baby Sleep Info Source is great. You will learn that it’s normal if your baby wakes through the night beyond a year…phew!
For twin or multiple parents-to-be join Breastfeeding Twins & Triplets Facebook page, it’s an amazing online support community set up by lactation consultant Kathryn Stagg.
Also think about doing antenatal expression of colostrum, which means your baby can still have your milk if you can’t be with them straight after the birth. This happened to me twice, and the second time I had expressed milk which was so helpful and meant I’d already started giving my babies my milk, even though they were separated from me in neo-natal. And if you express colostrum during pregnancy and don’t end up needing it? No big deal. It just means you’ve had a head start and should give you confidence that you’ve already started on your breastfeeding journey.
All of the UK breastfeeding support charities’ websites are great for online resources and they also offer antenatal / preparing for breastfeeding workshops: