Q. I am pregnant for the first time and with twins. I am planning to breastfeed and am wondering if there is anything "extra" I should plan on or think about that might not be mentioned in literature written for singletons.
A. Some people will tell you that nursing twins is easier than formula feeding them, and others will swear that the opposite is true. The real truth lies somewhere in between. Mothering twins presents twice the challenges of mothering a single baby, regardless of how you choose to feed them. The advantages of breastfeeding twins include the convenience of having a ready supply of milk that is always the right temperature, the nutritional and immunological benefits of human milk (especially for preemies), the freedom from having to deal with mixing and cleaning bottles multiple times each day, and the cost savings of not buying formula for two babies. Disadvantages include the fact that you are on call twenty four hours a day because only you can feed the babies, more frequent feedings day and night because breastmilk is digested more quickly than formula, positioning two babies at the breast, and concerns about producing enough milk for two babies.
If your goal is to breastfeed exclusively, then plan to have as much help as possible for the first several weeks. Between diapering, burping, soothing them when they are fussy, nursing on demand, and pumping bottles of milk for supplemental feedings, you are going to have a full time job - and all this occurs during a time when you are sleep deprived, hormonal, and physically recuperating from childbirth.
Twins often arrive early, and nursing a pre-term baby represents special challenges. Find out what resources are available in your community well in advance of your due date. See if there are any IBCLCs in your area - contact ILCA (International Lactation Consultant Association) at 312-541-1710 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and contact your local La Leche League as well (1-800-LALECHE or lalecheleague.org).
See if there are any support groups in your community, like "Mothering Multiples." There is nothing like mother-to-mother support from other moms who have been there, done that, and there are sure to be some mothers who breastfed in the group.
There are lots of support groups for mothers of twins online as well. Just do an online search for "breastfeeding twins" and you'll find websites, personal stories, and message boards all offering tips and advice on nursing twins. I also like the site doubleblessings.com (1-800-584-TWIN) for tons of resources for products as well as information.
There are many books out there on twins, including "Mothering Twins," "Having Twins," and "Multiple Blessings". All of these books will mention breastfeeding, but the best resource book for expectant mothers who plan to nurse is "Mothering Multiples" by Karen Gromada. It is written by the mother of twins, and deals extensively with the "how tos" of breastfeeding. It's available through La Leche League, or you can get it at your local bookstore or order it from Amazon.com. It's the only book I know written exclusively about nursing twins, and it is an excellent resource for any mother who is planning to breastfeed her babies.
Purchase or rent a good double electric breast pump. This will be especially important if your twins arrive early and you need extra stimulation due to weak or ineffective sucking problems that are common with preemies. Even if your babies are full term and nursing well, most mothers of twins find that a good pump is invaluable for those times when they need help with feedings, or need to increase their milk supply.
If your goal is full breastfeeding without supplements, then it is certainly possible, and you can do it if you have lots of support and help, especially during the early weeks. Many mothers of twins find that a combination of breast and bottle feeding works well for them, and your babies will receive the many benefits of breastfeeding even if they are fed a combination of breastmilk and formula.