A Health contributing editor and mom of twin baby boys offers smart insight on what to expect when it comes to nursing two newborns at once.
In case you haven't noticed, we're in the middle of a high-profile twin baby boom right now (congrats Beyoncé and Jay-Z and George and Amal!)
Though we don't know for sure if these two celebrity mamas are breastfeeding, we couldn’t help but wonder how all new twin moms manage to nurse not one but two babies. We had questions: how do you hold two squirmy infants at one time and make sure they get enough? And is it possible to run out of milk in the middle of feeding?
So we asked yoga expert and contributing Health editor Kristin McGee, who delivered boys Robert and William last December, for insight into what it takes to nurse two newborns at once. With six months of twin breastfeeding under her belt (plus the experience of nursing her older son, a singleton), McGee shares what twin moms and curious people everywhere should know.
Nursing twins takes double the time
The first thing a new mom of twins might realize is that she's nursing so much, it feels like a full-time job. “You usually spend about 10 minutes breastfeeding on each side for one baby,” says McGee. “So when you’re nursing twins, you’re spending 20 minutes at a time nursing each.”
And since newborns get hungry every one to two hours, it's easy to log in lots of time on milk duty daily. Add to that the time you may spend pumping after each feeding and “you’re basically walking around with your boobs out all day long,” says McGee.
You might need to supplement with formula
There's a stigma surrounding giving babies formula, but McGee advises new moms of twins not to get caught up in it. More often than not, twin moms need to supplement their own natural milk with formula, since it’s tough to produce enough milk for both babies on your own.
“At our three-month checkup, my doctor said he wanted me to top the boys off with three to four ounces of formula after each feed because they weren’t gaining weight as fast as he wanted them to,” she says. “Moms should never feel guilty about giving formula,” she says. “It’s completely okay to use it to supplement breast milk."
Pumping can help you produce more
Pumping actually helps a new mother's body create more milk, says McGee, which is important for moms of twins, who need to provide double the sustenance. “If you still have more milk after a feeding, it’s a good idea to use the pump to get it all out,” advises McGee. That way your breasts are empty and they’ll fill up fuller again the next time.
“I often try to pump before I go to bed or whenever I have a free minute and then store the extra,” she says. “Sometimes I’ll mix whatever breast milk I have saved with a bit of formula to make a six-ounce bottle, which I can feed to one while the other nurses.”
Twice the sucking isn't twice the pain
You'd think that doubling the sucking time would also double the potential pain, as it's hardly uncommon for nursing mothers to experience sore, cracked, or chapped nipples. But McGee says in her experience, breastfeeding two babies at once wasn't more painful. “If you have babies that are good at nursing and have good sucks, it isn’t painful at all,” she says. “The only time it might hurt is when they start teething and pull on the nipples.”
One condition to be aware of is mastitis, an infection of the breast tissue that can cause pain, swelling, redness, even fever or chills. It typically affects women who are in their first few weeks of breastfeeding, and McGee says she developed it while nursing her twins. Whether nursing a single baby or multiples, any new mother can get mastitis. Contact your doctor stat if you experience anything unusual when you begin nursing.
Nursing products can make it easier
It's easier to breastfeed both twins at once in the beginning when they’re little, says McGee. But pillows like those from My Breast Friend ($58, amazon.com) and Twin Z ($100, amazon.com), make things way more comfortable. “The pillows wrap around you and prop up the babies so they can snuggle under each breast,” explains McGee. “I'd use that and football-hold them, meaning I'd cradle them in each arm with their feet behind me and their heads facing me.”
Once the babies start to get bigger—for McGee it was when her boys hit 3 or 4 months—it’s much harder to nurse them simultaneously, she says. "They start to look around and get distracted, or play with each other."
If you're taking a break from breastfeeding and go with formula instead, she recommends Table for Two ($279, trendsintwos.com), which consists of two side-by-side seats that twins can pop a squat in while you bottle-feed them both at once. “It’s so convenient,” says McGee. “Even my older son can feed them when they’re in it!”
Adjustments might be necessary
“Over time, I've noticed that one of my breasts produces more milk than the other,” says McGee, and this uneven output is not uncommon for any new mom. “So I started to switch the boys from one side to the other for each feeding.” For example, if William nurses on the right side for one feeding, McGee says she makes sure he nurses on the left side for the next feeding. This way, neither little guy gets cheated out of the nutrition he needs.