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How to Nurse Twins (If You REALLY REALLY Want To)

The reasons you might have for wanting to nurse twins are all the same reasons you might have for wanting to nurse your singleton — supposedly increased Mama/baby-bonding when compared to bottle-fed babies (though seriously, I do not for a moment believe THAT); some storied improvement in IQ points; and massive savings when compared to buying formula (and seriously, with twins, this is MASSIVE SAVINGS).

Personally, I wanted to nurse Pancake and Sausage because I’d nursed their sisters — and also because I remembered that all the time I spent nursing their sisters had been time   that was blissfully down-time-ish: no one expected me to do ANYTHING else when I had babies on the boobs. Hollering “Can’t right now, I’m NURSING!” was one of my FAVORITE things about nursing Diddy and Gaga, and I wanted that “Can’t right now!” time back, especially as I figured newborn twins were going to be a challenge-and-a-half in the down-time department.

I highly recommend trying to nurse your twins for all these reasons.

That said, I won’t lie and say it’s super-easy.

First off, juggling two at a time is a fairly gymnastic activity — and not just because you’ve got two on the boobs simultaneously (unless you stagger-feed, but if you stagger-feed you literally never get to put your shirt on or take a shower or have a bowl of cereal and that just sounds really awful to me … but go ahead, do it your way ;)). Nursing two is fairly gymnastic because one is always done before the other and then you end up having to burb one with one hand while doing all sorts of contortions to avoid dislodging his slower-eating sib / dropping either one of them.

Second off, OH MY LORD DO TWINS EAT A LOT. Which means you need to pump tons and drink ridiculous amounts of water (and/or beer) and ingest herbs by the pound to maintain a super-supply.

But if you wanna do it — I’m here to tell you it’s do-able. I managed it exclusively for about 6 months, and continued nursing with formula supplementation until Pancake & Sausage were a year old. (I started with the formula because I was traveling a fair bit without the boys around the 6 month mark, and I got tired of schlepping pumps and frozen milk back and forth through airports. I am a fan of doing WHAT WILL MAKE YOU LEAST NUTS. And man was folding in the formula a relief! But if you don’t mind being nuts with the pumping-and-flying, I have some killer systems for doing that, too — so stay tuned!)

Anyway — back to NURSING TWINS:

1. Buy a Twins Nursing Pillow.
You need it — even if it seems so huge you don’t have anywhere in your house to put the fucking thing. Tiny little babies are surprisingly heavy, so you have to rest them somewhere while they’re eating, as you can’t possibly hold them in the proper positions without support for the up-to-45-minutes-at-a-time that feedings can last in the early weeks and months. And you need to be able to prop the babies on the pillow so that your hands are free to play with their tiny little mouths to fix their latches until they’ve figured out the right way to do it on their own. Finally, once they manage that, it’s nice to have your hands free to work the remote control or surf your iPad. (Yeah, I said it. I never stared longingly into any of my kids’ eyes when I nursed. I caught up on television. Watched a LOT of TV.)

2. Buy TWO Boppies.
You want the Boppies because there are some occasions when you’re only nursing one kid at a time — say the other has a cold and you just don’t want to wake him up to eat, even though his brother’s starving already. One those occasions, a Boppy is more comfortable than that huge fricking TWIN PILLOW.  (And yes, in general, I keep my boys on the same schedule, mostly so they sleep at the same time and I can have a little time off while they doze.) And even when you’re nursing the kids together, one of them is ALWAYS done eating before his brother, and after you’re done burping him, he’s gonna need someplace to sit — you can prop him up in his Boppy.  Or if you’re supplementing with formula, you can nurse one kid and bottle feed the other while he’s propped in the Boppy, too.

Sure, this sounds like you only need ONE Boppy. But if your babies have reflux, like a lot of twins do — twins tend to come a little early, and early babies can have some serious reflux — after you nurse and burp, you want to keep your kids kinda upright for awhile. You can prop them up in their car seats, sure — or you can keep two Boppies handy. I found it easier to drag Boppies around than wrangle car-seats from room to room.

3. Buy/Rent a great PUMP.
Best of both worlds? You do both. You buy an Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump, which works just as well as the Medela but won’t mold. (Yeah, I promise. The Medela molds.) The Ameda lives in your car, or your office at work, or travels with you when you have to go places without the kids. Then you ALSO RENT a hospital-grade pump. They really ARE BETTER, which makes pumping easier and more time-efficient. The hospital pump lives in the place at home where you pump most often — it’s not that fun to drag around with you. (Oh and: there are tax benefits to renting that pump!) But if you can’t do both, you’ll be fine just buying the Ameda. I lived without a hospital pump for Diddy and Gaga and never knew what I was missing.

4. Nurse on your bed, or on the floor.
Forget your fantasies of nursing both kids simultaneously in a comfy glider. There simply isn’t enough room for all of you in a standard glider. And even if you have a chair-and-a-half sort of thing, the odds of dropping one or both babies while juggling them from boob to shoulder to boob to shoulder is, umm, high. If I hadn’t had a) ITSY BABIES and b) a LOT of nursing experience going into the whole twin thing, I would have dropped the boys tons, I’m sure.

Plus newborns, despite their general inability to move around, have an amazing ability to fling their entire bodies in odd directions, and if you don’t have a good hold on them, they can fly. Really. Nursing two babies simultaneously means you don’t have a good hold on them, by definition. You have a half-assed hold on both. So nurse on the floor. Or the center of your large bed. I nursed on my bed, in front of the TV, or on a futon I bought at Ikea and put on the floor of the boys’ room.

5. Stage the bed.
You need the TWIN NURSING PILLOW, two BOPPIES, a couple of Burp Cloths, and a bottle of WATER (or BEER — I’ll get to that in a minute). Plus the TV remote, if you’re like me, and the phone. THE PHONE ALWAYS RINGS AFTER YOU’VE GOT BOTH KIDS ON THE BOOB. ALWAYS.

6. Stage the babies.
You sit against the wall/headboard, TWIN PILLOW nearby. Babies are before you, at 10 and 2, propped up in or near their respective BOPPIES. Strap on the TWIN PILLOW.

Then grab the baby with the better latch — or the one who is most awake — first.

Get him latched PROPERLY before you do anything else! There is no point in nursing with a shitty latch — doesn’t help your letdown, which screws with your supply, and seriously, lady, it fucking hurts. Nursing shouldn’t hurt. It’s supposed to be a relaxing, endorphin-releasing experience. So take advantage of those endorphins — and TEACH YOUR BABY MANNERS!

If his latch sucks, fix it — every time. He will eventually figure it out. (And if you need help — get it. Good lactation support is worth every penny. Without my genius doula / lactation consultant, I could never have nursed my kids with anywhere NEAR the ease I managed.)

Ok, now pick up his twin. Repeat the process on the other boob.

7. Guzzle water / beer while nursing.
Nursing is deeply dehydrating. So is lactating. And you don’t produce much milk if you’re dehydrated. So stay hydrated! Water is good. So is beer. (Or so they say. It may be a placebo. I have heard anti-depressants are all placebo, too. But in my case, beer and happy pills are wondrous things. So I drank a lot of dark beer while nursing, and it seemed to help keep my supply way up. I didn’t worry about getting the babies drunk. If you ARE worried, however, I did once hear a baby-class educator say the best time to drink is actually WHILE you’re nursing, because it gives you a few hours to metabolize the booze out of your system before you nurse again. This sounds like dumb science to me. But hell, the beer may be equally stupid. You decide. I decided I liked beer.)

8. Burp the babies.
Here’s where the TWIN PILLOW really rocks out — for the most part, it lets you burp one baby over your shoulder while keeping the other baby, who is probably still eating, relatively undisturbed.

9. Prop the babies up in the Boppies when they’re done eating and burping and pat yourself on the back!

10. Then go pump.
I know. It’s awful, it’s annoying, it’s a time-consuming PITA. But you are feeding TWO AT A TIME, and you have to keep up your supply to extreme levels so basically you want your body to believe you are nursing around the clock, even if you’re only nursing every two-to-three hours. So you have to pump right after, before, or between feeds. You want a hands-free pumping-bra, too, if you need one (I just used my forearms to press the pump cups against me, but my boobs aren’t all that big and seem to suction into the standard cups just fine). That way you can keep your hands free and catch up on emails or whatever while you’re pumping.

I know this sounds like a ton of work. It is. And it may not be worthwhile for your lifestyle. NO JUDGEMENT HERE, PROMISE. The only thing I can say to make this even slightly more attractive than it seems is that all this nursing and pumping will BURN CALORIES like nothing else you’ve ever done in your whole life.

BEST DIET EVER, this twin-nursing thing. Too bad you have kill so much time every day doing it.

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Categories: Infants, Pancake, Sausage, and Twins.

10 Responses to How to Nurse Twins (If You REALLY REALLY Want To)

  • Carpool Goddess
    April 18, 2012

    I found it hard enough to nurse one baby at a time, I can’t imagine doing two. And yet you seem so calm. I’m so impressed :)

    • checklistmommy
      April 18, 2012

      The beer helped ;)

  • Gina Osher
    April 18, 2012

    So funny! I tandem breast fed our twins & totally agree with you on all your points (except the floor/bed thing…that never worked for me, but the glider did somehow). And the staging! OMG! That cracked me up. I thought it was just me. I had such a contraption going on with the nursing pillow, the boppy & a sling. I amazed even myself. :)

    Nursing twins takes some getting used to, but once you figure out the logistics it really was an amazing thing to get to do.

    But boy did I hate pumping. Great post!

  • Sarah
    April 20, 2012

    Sharing this with my cousin who is pregnant with twins!

  • Kristen
    April 30, 2012

    Dude! I nursed my twins for many moons and pretty much agree with everything. Somehow I managed to get them both going at the same time (the gods were on my side) but unfortunately when we went out in public they insisted on eating at the same time. None of this “here hold her while I feed her brother”, so I had to wrestle two babies under my shirt and if that doesn’t make for awkward what does? Let’s not even talk about the starers, “yes, freak there are two babies in here! wanna make a big deal about it? Ya, that’s what I thought.”

    And ps, it gets so much easier the older they get. Mine are almost 6 and I like them about 79% of the time which is an improvement.

    • checklistmommy
      April 30, 2012

      You are a Mom after my own heart! 79% is pretty impressive ;)

  • Sarah
    June 8, 2012

    I nursed my twins as singletons – one at a time, one after the other. More time consuming – yes – but I was able to chase after my then 3 year old while I was nursing. So even if you don’t tandem nurse – it’s still possible to nurse twins. And by the time they were 6 months old – they were so quick it hardly mattered that I did one at a time anymore!

  • Jennifer
    November 2, 2012

    I also have a 3 year old and am pregnant with twins. I plan on nursing them as I did their sister. My biggest concern is how to manage the 3 year old while nursing the twins (especially at the beginning when it takes awhile). Suggestions?

    • checklistmommy
      November 2, 2012

      Oh Jennifer — my solution to everything is lots of TV (!) or a cool and mess-free project book like this one:

      My kids love these books.

  • [...] 14 months with Diddy and then again at 14 months with Gaga, I shed the last five pounds in a week. Caveat: nursing twins will pull the weight right off you. Truly. You can basically ignore this whole post if you are nursing [...]

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About Sarah Kate Levy

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a novelist living in New York City. Four kids later, I'm a blogger living in LA who writes about parenting, partnering, and the rise and fall of my family / my home / civilization. I'm also a I'm a screenwriter, most recently of the movie "No Way Jose." I live with my husband, kids, dog, cats, and a tank full of surprisingly resilient fish, and I take bedtime around here as seriously as I do my morning coffee. Which is to say: I AM NOT KIDDING AROUND ABOUT BEDTIME.

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