Any discussion with your spouse about feeding multiple babies should (in my opinion, at least) start out with this: “Priority #1: Feed your babies.” The “how” part is what you have to figure out. There are perks and struggles with any choice.
Strategize with your spouse before you start
You should have some idea of the “how” before you being. You might need to switch it up depending on what works for your family, but having a solid starting plan is a good idea. The name of the game in twin parenting is plan but be flexible. This breastfeeding plan should be no different.
Here are some different newborn feeding strategies that might work for you. Try out what feels right until you have a system that works for you and your babies.
- You can nurse one baby at a time. This is easier than tandem breastfeeding, but you are basically nursing someone around the clock with about an hour break in between.
- You can tandem nurse if you have great patience, balance, and your twins do well with it.
- Consider pumping to see if your baby will take a bottle if you still want to give breastmilk and are willing to hook yourself up to a pump every few hours.
- You can give formula bottles. The downside can be the cost and possible allergies.
- Or a combo of any/all of these!
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If you are exclusively nursing, you are the sole source of food for your babies. It’s tough to not feel a little overwhelmed, especially with nighttime feedings. That means every feeding is on you and even if you aren’t there you have to pump, so that means no sleeping through a feeding. Even with one newborn, you have to find the most efficient way to feed your kid because you do it every few hours around the clock. When you have twins (or more!) you have to get creative. Extra help is always appreciated but if only one of you has the “milk makers”, helping with feedings is challenging.
How can your partner help you?
It’s easy for the spouse to feel like there’s not much that they can do to help. The first thing that they can do is simply check in and ask those magic words, “What can I do to help you?” Honestly, some nights the answer may be, “Go back to sleep so you’re awake enough to help me in the morning (or you are awake enough to safely drive to work.)” But there are plenty of things that the non-nursing parent can still do to help out with nighttime feedings.
First things first, if you’re a breastfeeding mama and you’re struggling, speak up! Don’t expect anyone to read your mind. Chances are that your spouse really wants to help but doesn’t know how. Show them this article and ask them to pick up some slack for a bit. No one can help you if they don’t know what to do for you.
Wash and set up supplies
Make sure anything needed for the nighttime feedings is washed and ready before you go to bed. This may mean having a clean stack of burp cloths next to the nursing chair, or it might mean washing pump parts and having them ready (if you are a super-producer and pump after). Even having a bottle of water or a snack ready nearby is a huge help. Do whatever it is that you can do to streamline the feeding.
Bring the baby to and from the nursing mom
Take care of transport. Bring the second baby when needed, and take the first back when he’s done. This is very helpful. I’d wake up my husband when I got up with the first baby (so he was partially awake and would hear me), and text him (from the living room downstairs) when I needed him to bring second baby. Even if you tandem feed, it’s helpful to have a second person to help you get settled. Also, carrying two babies by yourself downstairs took two trips. So even when we switched to bottles and fed them at the same time, he could get one baby downstairs and save me a trip.
Change diapers and re-swaddle
Diapers, Baby Burritos, and Back to Bed. The absolutely MOST helpful thing that my hubby could do for nighttime feedings was to help get everyone changed and back to bed quickly. While I’d feed the second kiddo, he’d change the first and re-swaddle her (we called them “baby burritos” so I’d feed the second one and he’d change and “burrito” the first baby) and get her back to bed. Then repeat the process with the second, if I still had to pump. I nursed, pumped, formula-fed… we did a combo of everything and it was constantly changing; sometimes I forget which we did when.
Give Mom a break
Give Mom a nap or a break when possible. Moms who breastfeed and/or pump don’t have much free time, especially in the beginning when the babies are eating so often and likely not on the same schedule yet. The thing you crave most is rest and a break from the “newborn baby world”. So one of the most helpful things you can say to your partner is the words “After this feeding, why don’t you go __________ (fill in the blank with a nap, read, rest, shower, leave the house) and I’ll take the kids until the next feeding.”
Many of these things might seem like a no-brainer. And to most people, they are. Just try to remember that both you and your partner are exhausted. The sleep deprivation that comes from having not just one, but 2 newborns in the house is crazy. It can make it difficult to realize even the most obvious ways to help your spouse while they are nursing the babies.
Use this, not as a plan, but as a guide. Use this article as a jumping off point for your conversations. Talk about these points how to incorporate some of them into your routine to tackle newborn twin parenting as a team!
Stephanie Cleland is a high school teacher who traded in her teen students for adorable twin toddlers and now spends her days entertaining her almost 3-year-old “twinadoes”. She married her college sweetheart, Kirk, and her hobbies include scrapbooking and other creative projects. She also is working on a blog ilovemytwinadoes.weebly.com.