As if breastfeeding wasn’t challenging enough, now you’re dealing with two! Learn the best tips on tandem breastfeeding.
The lactation consultant entered my hospital room.
“Let’s practice tandem feeding,” she proposed.
We propped a few pillows under my arms, and she handed each baby to me. As natural and easy as I hoped it would be, I instead felt awkward and inexperienced.
How was I supposed to support each of their floppy heads? What do I do when I need to burp them? And the pillows were just not cutting it—my arms felt sore from holding the babies.
And while I breastfed my eldest for a year, I had questions about doing the same with my twins. Was there an easier way to feed them at the same time? Was I supposed to switch sides, or reserve one baby for each one? And would nursing them individually mess with their schedules?
Tandem breastfeeding essentials
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Nursing your twins at the same time will be one of the most effective ways to save time and hassle. But if the thought of nursing two at the same time has you confused, don’t worry. We’ll walk through the exact process of how to set it up.
Before we start, I suggest you get a nursing pillow before your twins arrive. Then, bring this with you to the hospital so you can practice right away. Tandem feeding at the hospital would’ve been more successful for me if I had brought a nursing pillow.
I learned my lesson and bought one when I got home. I used the My Brest Friend twin deluxe pillow and loved how sturdy it was. Once my twins were a little older and I more confident, I could even nurse them hands-free.
Another fantastic pillow other twin moms recommend is the Twin Z pillow. The texture is softer, so this can also double as a resting pillow when you alternate burping. The Twin Z pillow is also useful if you plan to bottle-feed, and it offers you back support as well.
Thankfully, after a bit of practice and time, breastfeeding the twins wasn’t as impossible as it first sounded. While I ran into challenges, I learned a few tricks and tips to make it happen, all the way up to their first birthday:
A typical tandem feeding position includes you sitting cross-legged on the bed or couch. You’d wear your nursing pillow around your waist. Each twin would be in a football hold—their heads toward your breasts and their feet to your back. Then…
- Get your twins on either side of where you plan to sit. That could be on your bed, the couch, or the floor. Lay then down in the position they’d be once they’re on the pillow, so heads facing forward and feet facing back.
- Wear your nursing pillow and sit between your twins.
- Pick one twin up first and lay him on the nursing pillow, football hold-style. Make sure he has a good latch on your breast.
- Once he’s secure and nursing, pick up your other twin and latch him on.
In the first few days or weeks, have someone help you with tandem nursing. It can be overwhelming to manage on your own, so get your partner or family to help you nurse. In that case, you’d sit with your nursing pillow, and someone can hand each baby to you.
Even if it feels awkward, try tandem feeding at least once a day. Choose the best time when you’re not sleep deprived to practice (not the middle of the night). And do it when someone can help. The quicker you can master tandem feeding, even for newborns, the more time you’ll have.
Burping the twins after tandem breastfeeding
Burping two babies can be tricky. If other adults are with you, ask them to burp one baby while you hold the other. During the early weeks, you might have people visiting who can help. Your partner can burp one baby after middle of the night feedings.
But if you’re alone, you can still burp both twins after tandem feeding:
- Once the twins finish nursing, unlatch both babies.
- Then, carry one baby over your shoulder and pat his back for about a minute.
- Set him back down on the pillow and repeat with the other twin.
At this point, you could either:
- keep the the nursing pillow around your waist and lay the waiting twin down near you (he’ll still be at an incline), or
- lay both babies down, set the nursing pillow in front of you and recline the waiting twin on it.
What you want to avoid is laying your babies flat on their backs after they just ate.
Same breast for each twin?
Alternate breasts for each twin. Each baby may nurse differently—for instance, one might have a strong suck while the other struggles.
Alternating breasts keeps both sides as even as possible, preventing complications like clogged ducts. You’ll also more likely keep milk production on both breasts active if you make sure your strong nurser has access to both.
Breastfeeding twins one at a time
If the thought of breastfeeding twins at the same time feels daunting, let’s talk about what it’s like to do so one at a time. In the initial days (especially at the hospital), I felt more comfortable nursing each twin individually. I lacked the confidence to nurse simultaneously, especially with their floppy heads I had to support.
Maybe you also prefer to feed individually, whether to spend one-on-one time or because you feel just as hesitant as I did. Or maybe you’re not inclined to “save time” and aren’t in a rush to nurse simultaneously.
Good news is, you can still breastfeed your twins one at a time and continue to follow a general routine. Here are a few tips to do so:
- Feed the twins after they wake up, not before to break the association of feeding and sleeping. You want your twins to be able to fall asleep without relying on nursing to do so. And the best way to instill that habit is by feeding them after waking up, not to sleep.
- Feed them one right after the other. Even though they’re not nursing at the same time, they can continue to follow the general rhythm of your day.
- Feed one baby on one breast and encourage him to empty it, and repeat with the other baby on the opposite breast. That’s because your milk comes in two stages: fore milk and hind milk. The fore milk is lighter in color and lower in fat and will quench your baby’s thirst. After a few minutes, the hind milk kicks in, which is creamier, whiter and higher in fat, providing your baby with nutrients. Ideally, you’d want both babies to get both fore and hind milk.
In some cases, you may want to reserve the fore milk for one baby, especially if he has difficulty latching or sucking. Fore milk tends to expel much easier than hind milk, which avoids the need to suck as hard.
One of my twins had this problem, so I would nurse him first on both breasts, offering him the fore milk, and leaving the hind milk for the other. It’s not ideal, but it’s one way to get calories into a baby who may struggle with sucking enough.
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Many parents feel daunted with the idea of breastfeeding twins, especially at the same time. You may be interested in tandem feeding but feel scared how hard it will be. You’re not sure about best practices for nursing twins, whether alone or at the same time. Twins seem to complicate what can already seem like a challenging task.
But you can breastfeed twins! After a few tries and with the right gear, tandem feeding will come easily. You’ll get your schedule aligned with the twins, even if you decide to nurse one at a time. You may just meet your goals of breastfeeding your twins—and you’ll look back on these fears and worries and know you’ve done it.
Get more tips:
- How to Prepare and Care for Newborn Twins
- 7 Breastfeeding Essentials to Keep You Motivated
- When Do Twins Get Easier?
- How to Take Care of Twins: From Feeding to Sleeping and Everything in Between
- 9+ Tips for Breastfeeding Twins or Single Babies
Tell me in the comments: What are your biggest fears and worries with breastfeeding twins? What are you best tips on how to breastfeed twins at the same time or individually?
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Tired of waking up multiple times a night putting your twins to sleep? Do you wish they knew how to put themselves to sleep instead? Get exclusive tips and FREE chapters of my ebook, How to Sleep Train Twins: The Ultimate Guide!