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 toddler twins
In part 1 I answered my most asked questions relating to breastfeeding twin babies. In Part 2 I answer those common questions I receive about feeding my toddler twin boys.
Did your boys feed a lot during the night?
All of my boys were all about the boob at night from birth until toddlerhood! My first-born was two when he started sleeping through the night. By this point I’d learned so much about breastfeeding and infant sleep, was regularly attending my local La Leche League group, and had trained as a peer supporter, so I knew it was normal, even if it was tiring and bloody inconvenient.
I have to admit, I did find it challenging after I returned to work when my eldest was one. In the morning I would go into the office and sometimes comment casually that I was up feeding at night, and that would turn heads and elicit responses such as “no way, you’re still feeding? get him weaned!” so I felt like I was doing something a bit counter-cultural. It helps to have someone close to you who understands the value in breastfeeding and backs you and your choices one hundred percent. For me, this was my husband… who could be an honorary breastfeeding peer supporter with the amount of knowledge he’s collected over the years.
When did your twins start sleeping through?
The night feeds were gruelling with the twins. It was manageable when they woke once or twice, and after the newborn stage of frequent night waking, this was more or less a constant until they were one. Then they turned twelve months and bang! They started waking up to five times (each), so I was feeding up to ten times a night and it started to take its toll. My body permanently hurt and it seemed like some sort of cruel torture that every time I’d finished feeding one and was about to drift off, I would hear the other one cry. I persevered for months on end thinking it would get better, but it didn’t.
Eventually, at fifteen months, I stopped room sharing with them and I would pause for a while before responding to them in the night. Within a few days they learned to self-soothe and that was the end of night feeds for us. It was a long road and getting a full night’s sleep after the months of broken sleep was like heaven. I think night weaning also gave me the space and rest I needed to keep going with breastfeeding.
I think night weaning gave me the space and rest I needed to keep going with breastfeeding.
How often do toddlers feed during the day?
It really depends on the toddler…mine feed first thing in the morning, last thing at night and once or twice during the day. More if they’re under the weather. Just so you can picture it…this is not a “get comfy and cue Netflix cause we’re gonna be here for the foreseeable” kind of feed, like they had in those hazy newborn days. It’s more of a “five-minute snack before I get distracted by toys/ big brother/eating bread sticks” kind of feed.
I’ve recently become a stay-at-home mum so I’m with them full-time now, but when I’m not there for the day they’re totally fine. I only know this because I’ve had a few lunch dates with the girls… that I managed to opportunistically stretch out to an all-day child-free extravaganza. Glass of wine with lunch? Don’t mind if I do! It’s generally acknowledged that breastfeeding mums can drink alcohol in moderation as they’ve done so throughout history.
Can you describe what tandem breastfeeding twin toddlers is like?
Well toddlers are partial to a bit of what breastfeeding mums call “nursing gymnastics”. This doesn’t happen at bedtime as they’re quite chilled out then, and so those times can be still, peaceful and actually pretty magical.
Other times, when they’re at their most boisterous, it’s like I’m having a circus act perform on my body, whilst they poke each other in the eye and simultaneously give me a dental inspection. Then sometimes they fight over the same boob or want to swap sides mid-feed… so I have to awkwardly heave them over my body from one side to the other. Imagine a bench press but with toddlers instead of dumbbells… welcome to the world of breastfeeding toddlers!
I’m fortunate that I haven’t experienced breastfeeding aversion so far with the twins – I did a bit with my eldest. Aversion is where breastfeeding can trigger negative emotions or skin-crawling sensations. This can be really challenging for mums to deal with but there are specific online support groups such as breastfeedingaversion.com that can help.
Doesn’t breastmilk lose its nutritional value once your child is a toddler?
Nope! Breastmilk never loses its nutritional value and even more than that, human milk is dynamic, meaning its composition changes day to day and week to week to meet the changing needs of the child. Think about how amazing that is… imagine if adults could buy a food that was tailor made for their exact body and lifestyle and contained disease-fighting antibodies…wouldn’t it be flying off the shelves?
Research has shown that toddler milk increases in these all-important anti-bodies and has a higher fat content. For a toddler aged twelve to twenty-three months, breastfeeding counts for a third of their total energy requirements and nearly a half of their protein requirements.
The evidence of the continued health benefits of breastfeeding is why the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends breastfeeding a child for up to two years and beyond. Despite this WHO recommendation, we know that many GPs in the UK don’t feel well enough equipped to support mums breastfeeding beyond infancy. As a result, ‘Breastfeeding beyond Infancy a GP guide’ has been written by the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers to help give GPs the knowledge they need to support mums effectively. If you’re a mum of a breastfeeding child aged one or over, make sure your GP knows about this guide.
The evidence of the continued health benefits of breastfeeding is why the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends breastfeeding a child for up to two years and beyond.
By continuing to breastfeed your toddler aren’t you making them needy and clingy?
If my 6-year-old is anything to go by (whom I breastfed until 2.5) then no, he is as independent and adventurous as they come, sometimes too much I think!
But I can see why people might wrongly assume that. The research backs up my own experience and links have been made between longer breastfeeding duration and positive socio-emotional development in later childhood.
I like to frame it like this, would people suggest that by meeting your child’s needs with your body in another way, that it’s making them needy and clingy? – by hugging them for example? Don’t be ridiculous! Of course they wouldn’t. Why is this any different? Oh yeah…It’s because it’s about boobs. This is a whole other article in itself – no really! You’ve probably noticed this by now but people have a lot of opinions about what we should do with our boobs. Stay tuned for breastfeeding and feminism in the next instalment…
I’m hoping my 27-month-old will self-wean but there’s no sign of that happening yet. What did you do when weaning your eldest?
This is a tough one. I remember that age so vividly with my eldest. It was when I was feeling really burnt out by the constant demands of breastfeeding. Like your little one, mine showed no signs of weaning. This is a hard place to be for a breastfeeding mum. At this point with my eldest, I was experiencing some aversion and I’d also developed a severe eczema rash all over my body. I realised it was probably stress-induced, so I knew I had to make my own needs a priority.
What seemed right for me was getting space for a few days alone. When I returned my son breastfed twice and that was him done. It was definitely bittersweet. But in hindsight, it was the right time for us. I’m aware this approach is not going to be right or even logistically possible for many mums, as every situation and family set-up is different.
Sometimes I think it helps just knowing that there are other mums still breastfeeding their kids of a similar age, and I found that community by going along to my local La Leche League meetings.
Sometimes I think it helps just knowing that there are other mums still breastfeeding their kids of a similar age
What resources would you recommend for breastfeeding older babies and children?
A couple of resources I like on weaning from breastfeeding are the La Leche League one and this Emma Pickett one. Also, Emma Pickett has a new book out about breastfeeding past the first six months which talks about weaning toddlers and I think that will be a great read.
All of the UK breastfeeding support charities’ websites are great for online resources and they also offer antenatal / preparing for breastfeeding workshops:
The book Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood by Hollie McNish is such a gem of a book. Hollie writes about the ups and downs of breastfeeding from babyhood to toddlerhood in such a relatable way. It was actually after reading her talk about feeding her toddler that I started to think about breastfeeding a two-year-old as a positive goal to intentionally aim for. And I started to realise that getting there, navigating the physical, emotional and societal challenges that breastfeeding mums do, would be one of my life’s biggest achievements.