Learn tips for feeding twins by breastfeeding or bottle feeding from Twiniversity founder Natalie Diaz, CLC, and Happy Mama Mentor Janel, MS, RD.
Nat sat down with Janel Funk, a twin mom and Happy Mama Mentor from Happy Family Organics to answer Twiniversity parent questions on feeding twins. Janel, who is a registered dietitian and lactation specialist, is part of the Happy Mama Mentors who provide parents and caregivers with feeding support through a free, confidential online chat sponsored by Happy Family Organics. Click here to learn more about this program.
Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked feeding twins questions. If you have more questions, Happy Mama Mentors are available 8am-8pm (EST), Mon-Fri and 8am-4pm (EST), Sat-Sun. Just click here to talk to Janel or another Happy Mama Mentor!
Natalie: How do you coach a mom through breastfeeding anxiety?
Janel: First, we will ask a lot of general questions about how the mom is feeding the twins. Is the mom exclusively pumping or nursing? Is the mom supplementing with formula or doing any combination of these things? Were the babies preemies? Are one or both of the babies in the NICU? The first step is always to get a good understanding of the mom and both babies when tackling any breastfeeding concerns for feeding twins.
Natalie: How would a Happy Mama Mentor field a call about something like a cracked nipple over the chat?
Janel: Again, it’s about asking the right questions to help determine what is going on. Is the mom having pain? Is there bleeding? Of course, moms can send pictures if they feel comfortable doing so as well. Once we figure out what is going on we can start to address why.
Is there a poor latch? Often, this is the case. If the latch is poor we need to figure out why. It could be engorgement. It could be that the babies were premature and they can’t open their mouth wide enough just yet. We can provide latch tips and even resources to find a local lactation consultant who can come in and help. We can’t diagnose problems over chat but we are here to point moms in the right direction for feeding twins.
Natalie: Amanda has 12 week old twins and she has found it easier to formula feed while also taking care of her 3 year old. Her breast milk supply has dropped off to only about 5 ounces a day. Is there a way to get the supply back up at this point?
Janel: Our bodies produce milk on demand. So, if you nurse twice a day, pump once a day, and supplement the rest of the feedings with formula, your supply will only produce the milk it thinks your babies need. To increase your supply spend more time pumping if you can’t nurse. Nursing is more efficient at increasing supply but that’s not always possible. In that case, pump more frequently. The more often you can pump, the better. Even only five minutes per session, 6-8 times a day will help.
Natalie: I often tell moms that it really takes 6 weeks to form a true breastfeeding routine for feeding twins.
Janel: Yes. At 6 weeks old, babies have a little more head control and stability so it is easier to maneuver them. Plus, postpartum hormones have begun to stabilize, which regulates your milk supply. Your body has realized it needs to provide milk for 2 babies and produces it accordingly. Moms are also dealing with less engorgement by 6 weeks.
Natalie: Hannah says she is finding herself bottle propping more and more and not getting that bonding time with her 3 month old babies. Any tips?
Janel: Bottle propping is a thing, especially with multiples. Of course, we want to watch for choking or nipple flow problems. There are several twin breastfeeding pillows on the market that can be great for feeding twins.
For bonding, even just switching off each feeding can help. Hold one and prop the other and then switch at the next feeding. Also, skin to skin can really help with that bond. Twin motherhood bonding can look different than singleton bonding. It can look like bonding with one baby while the other has to wait their turn.
At 3 months you might even be able to hold them both, even if it’s only once a day to tandem feed. It doesn’t have to be all the time. It’s important to just do what you can when you have twins.
Natalie: Feeding is not the only time to bond with your babies. Don’t forget bath times and bedtimes are great opportunities to bond with your babies. But for tandem feedings, maybe try two bouncy seats or the Table For Two.
Natalie: Next question, Emily is 32 weeks pregnant with MoDi twins and will be having her girls by C-section tomorrow due to complications. How can she quickly establish her supply while her twins are in the NICU as she won’t be able to nurse them right away?
Janel: Ideally, you want to start pumping right away. You will only get a small amount of colostrum and it can take a few days for your milk to come in. That is normal. Just keep pumping often and consistently while your body works to produce it. Try and pump as often as your babies are being fed, even overnight to teach your body when to produce.
Another tip is to ask about renting a hospital-grade pump. They are better than the ones you can buy at a store. Use skin to skin as soon as you can and as often as you can.
Meet with a lactation consultant at least once. The lactation consultant can help you with feeding twins, pumping tips, and even figuring out how to transport milk back to the NICU for your babies.
Natalie: One thing to add. With a c-section, the hospital staff may not be so quick to throw a pump at you in the recovery room, depending on how your surgery goes. Tell your doctor if breastfeeding is important to you and don’t miss out on getting the colostrum for your babies. There is a lot going on with your body and your babies post-surgery and your doctor may not even think of it.
Bring something small with you to hand express into like a spoon or small cup. You can hand express and then have your partner put it in a syringe and bring it to the NICU for your babies.
Janelle: Yes, we have videos on how to hand express and use breast massage to help you. A lactation consultant in the room will be invaluable. You can always reach out to the Happy Mama Mentors while expecting or in the hospital to get advice, too.
Natalie: Leann started out tandem feeding her 2 month old twins but the doctor is now concerned that the twins are not gaining enough weight and want them each at both breasts for feedings. Should I swap them halfway through the feeding, or should I trade off each feeding?
Janel: Assuming Mom is exclusively breastfeeding my first question would be are they truly not gaining enough weight? Are they small or not gaining on their own curve? Small babies will often stay small and as long as they follow their own growth curve, they should be fine.
Also, breastfed babies are actually measured on their own growth chart because breastfed babies are often a bit smaller than formula fed babies. Kellymom.com has a good growth chart for babies that you can use at home.
With feeding twins, if babies are truly not gaining the way they should be I would do both of those things. Say, start Baby A on the right side and Baby B on the left side. Once they naturally release, burp them and then swap them so that Baby A is on the left and Baby B is on the right.
At the next feeding, you would want to switch them to start Baby A on the left and Baby B on the right, switching when they release again. This sucking from both babies will actually help your body to produce more milk.
Natalie: Twiniversity also has a twins daily log that is a pdf and can be used to track which side to start which baby on. You can print it out and stick it on your fridge and mark it off as you go through the day.
Next question: Desiree has 4 week old newborn twins. She is currently nursing one twin while bottle feeding the other pumped milk. She is worried about her supply as she seems to be making only just enough milk for both twins. Finding the time to pump plus the feeding is exhausting. Do you have a good schedule to recommend for this mom?
Janel: First of all, why are you pumping and when are you pumping? You have to be careful how you pump when you have twins. The 2 different babies sucking tells your body you have twins to produce milk for. Pumping one side while nursing the other twin will have the same effect.
If you can, try to tandem nurse them. Once you get set up its time-saving and can be very easy once you get the hang of it. Also, if you aren’t rushing back to work or something like that, don’t worry about getting a stash of milk pumped. Maybe cut out the pumping for the time being. At 4 weeks, babies feed so often that an hour or two is just not enough time for your body to replenish your supply.
Natalie: Think of breastfeeding as a cross country road trip. You don’t drive forever on ‘E.’ Your body is like your gas tank. It needs time to stop and recover. Use an hour-long window. If baby wakes at noon to eat and you nurse the baby, your body needs a break at around 1 pm. Give your body that break and don’t worry about your stash until you stabilize your supply. That’s usually around 6 weeks.
How do you feel about a variety of nutrition for your little ones as a dietitian and a Happy Mama Mentor?
Janel: It’s so important. The most important thing you can do to ensure your baby is getting a wide variety of nutrients is to provide a wide variety of foods. The more varied the diet, the more varied the nutrients and its all about getting variety in your diet.
Natalie: Let’s talk nutrition for a moment. Happy Family offers organic formula and organic foods for babies and toddlers. There is even a Happy Tot line which includes bars that are perfect for your preschooler to bring in their backpack. Happy Family is all organic and focuses on looking at the bigger picture when it comes to nutrition. They want your little ones to get the most benefit from every bite.
Happy Family even helped lead the charge to get organic foods included in the WIC program. So far they have gotten WIC approval in 15 of the 19 states that allow organic.
Click here to reach Janel or one of the other Happy Mama Mentors on the Happy Family Organics website. You can even ask for Janel by name.
Thanks to our sponsor Happy Family for allowing this chat to happen today. See you later, alligators!