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How Do I Breastfeed or Bottle Feed My Twins?
Read time: 7 minutes
What to know about breastfeeding and bottle feeding your twins
It is possible to produce enough breastmilk for two (or more) babies
Tandem nursing can help streamline the feeding process
If you choose to combination feed, learn how to include bottle feeding into your breastfed twins’ routine
With support from your medical team, friends and family, breastfeeding multiples goals can be met!
When you’re expecting a baby, you may have lots of questions about feeding – breast or bottle? Pumping or nursing on demand? Will I make enough milk?
But when you’re expecting twins (or more) these questions can multiply – no pun intended! How do I feed two babies at the same time? Do I feed two babies on demand or on a schedule? How is feeding more than one baby at a time even possible!?
There is no right or wrong way to feed twins, but one thing is guaranteed: while you will become more comfortable over time with feeding two (or more) babies, having some helpful tips in advance can help boost your confidence before you get started.
Will I make enough breastmilk for my twins?
Yes! As long as you are feeding your babies as often and as long as they need to eat, then your body will respond by making milk to meet both of their needs.1011 This is because breastfeeding uses supply and demand: the more milk that is taken out of your breasts, the more milk your body will make.512
Do I feed twins on demand or on a schedule?
The short answer for twins is: Both at first.
Feeding on demand, also called responsive or baby-led feeding, refers to following baby’s cues for when and how much to feed, versus on a schedule, which means you’re feeding babies at timed intervals for a specific length of time.6
In the first few months, it’s generally best to follow a newborn’s hunger cues and feed on demand. This means you’re feeding any time they exhibit hunger cues, which is about 8 to 12 times per 24 hours for breastmilk.7
But if you have two or more newborns feeding on demand, that could mean you’re feeding a baby every single hour throughout the day! Because of this, you may consider having a modified feeding schedule with twins to help streamline the process.
How to combine on demand feeding with scheduled feedings
One approach is that whenever one baby wakes to feed or shows signs of being hungry, you wake the other baby up so they’re feeding at the same time.9
However, note that two different babies often have two different feeding needs. There may be times when one baby needs to eat more frequently while the other shows no interest in feeding, and that’s ok.
Your babies’ feeding schedule may shift from day to day and continue to change as your babies grow.2 Going with the flow and adjusting to your little one’s hunger and fullness is important for keeping your supply meeting their needs as well as keeping breastfeeding a positive experience.
The goal is finding a pattern that works for you, so your babies are fed and you get some rest in between. As a few months pass you may notice a more predictable feeding pattern emerge, which will help you and your babies get into more of a feeding groove.
Should I breastfeed my babies separately or at the same time?
Tandem nursing refers to feeding more than one baby at a time, whether you’re breastfeeding your toddler and newborn, or your twins (or triplets or more!).
With twins, tandem nursing means both babies nurse simultaneously, one on each breast. It solves the problem of who to feed first if both babies are hungry and saves a lot of time. Waking one baby so that both can nurse at the same time helps keep twins on the same feeding schedule.
In the first few days or even weeks after birth, while you are recovering from childbirth and babies are just learning how to latch and suck, it may feel too soon to start tandem nursing. Feeding them separately will help your baby learn to latch well and help you understand each baby’s feeding style.3
Once you feel a bit more comfortable nursing your babies, tandem feeding can help save time. Practice tandem nursing when you have an extra set of hands to hand you a baby while you get situated, and so you have help with burping and changing diapers.
Though it seems impossible at first, you’ll be able to tandem nurse your babies without any help in no time.
Rotate which breast your baby starts on
Make sure to keep track of which baby is on which breast at each feed to ensure even emptying of the breast and milk production.3
Many moms notice they have supply differences between breasts, so having both babies nurse evenly on each breast can help with production as your body learns to meet the milk needs of all your nursing babies.
There are many ways you can alternate breasts between your babies. The most common way it to switch which baby starts on the right breast each time you feed. But another way is to rotate breasts every 24 hours.13
For example, baby A always starts on the right side for 24 hours, then the next day, baby B will always start on the right.
The most important thing is to use a system that will help you remember, and being in a sleep-deprived state, that may mean writing it down or using an app to keep track!
Helpful twin feeding supplies and tips
Fortunately, some helpful feeding supplies can make feeding twins a bit easier.
A double breastfeeding pillow can help prop up and hold both babies at the breast. Even if you’re bottle feeding, many double breastfeeding pillows can be placed on the floor so you’re able to bottle feed both babies at the same time while they’re gently propped up.
There are also double seats, two reclining baby seats attached side-by-side, so babies can be propped up and strapped in while being bottle-fed.
Extra breastfeeding pillows can be helpful to place down one baby in at a time, while the other is being burped, for example. Always make sure baby is not at risk for falling off a bed or couch or suffocating, even when placed in a breastfeeding pillow.
Many twin moms feel most stable setting up their breastfeeding space on the floor, as a newborn baby can’t roll very far when placed on the floor next to you!
How do I maintain a good breastmilk supply for twin babies?
If breastfeeding your babies is a goal, whether exclusively breastmilk or in combination with formula, it is possible to have an adequate milk supply for both.
However, a few factors may impact your breastmilk supply, including extreme exhaustion, difficulty eating or drinking adequately, as well as stress (particularly if your little ones are in the NICU).5
To help with these factors, it’s important to have help at home, a plan in place that ensures you get some rest, as well as easy snacks and drinks to keep on hand.
With the support of a lactation consultant, medical team, and supportive friends and family, your breastfeeding goals can be met.
Feeding twins a combination of breastmilk and formula
Some parents choose to feed a combination of formula and breastmilk. Know that if this works best for your family, it’s a perfectly acceptable way to feed your babies! Your body will make milk in response to how much your babies are feeding – so if you feed them half breastmilk at the breast and half formula, then your body will be told to make breastmilk to meet half of their needs.
However, should you be trying to feed your twins exclusively breastmilk, it’s important to understand that replacing breastfeeding sessions with formula may reduce your breastmilk supply.14
This is because your body doesn’t know that baby is taking extra formula from a bottle, just that baby is not taking milk from the breast – and the body will down-regulate your supply in response.
If you are concerned about this, it would be a good idea to pump anytime baby gets formula in a bottle.
How to pump breastmilk for twins
While your body is aware it needs to produce enough milk for two or more babies, your pump is not as intuitive.
Many moms find it challenging to exclusively pump for twins, as they may need to increase the frequency of pumping just to get enough milk.
Exclusively pumping breastmilk for twins
Over time and with consistent emptying of the breast by the pump, eating and hydrating adequately, and getting rest whenever possible, your supply can increase to meet the needs of two babies by the pump.
Many parents who pump do best with 10 pumping sessions per day, using a double electric pump, to get enough for both babies.15
Lots of skin-to-skin time with your little ones, using relaxation and visualization techniques, hand massaging the breasts during pumping, as well as hand expressing after each time you pump may help with your breastmilk output.1517
Pumping to build your supply or to create a stash of breastmilk
To help build supply, pumping directly after each feeding your twins is often helpful.16
To build a stash of breastmilk, pump once or twice each day either between breastfeeding sessions, right before bed, or early in the morning. Try to pump around the same time each day so your body expects it and makes milk for this session.
If you’re pumping after or between nursing sessions, don’t be alarmed if you’re able to only pump a few drops or ounces! It’s normal to pump less than a full feed if you are pumping in addition to feeding baby at the breast.19
Feeding newborn multiples can be challenging and exhausting, but also rewarding. Seek out the comradery from other moms-of-multiples, whether in person or virtually, to help support and encourage your feeding goals.
One of our own Happy Experts is a twin mom, so if you’d like to talk to someone who’s been there, done that, click here!
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET). Chat Now!
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