There are situations when women will breastfeed more than one baby at the same time, the most obvious being after the birth of twins or triplets or more. We spoke to one woman about the experience and practicalities of breastfeeding twins (for more information see Resources). For this woman, getting information and making contact with as many other women as possible who were feeding twins was extremely important because it enabled her to consider the variety of ways of undertaking the task. The second most important thing for her was to let go of trying to be self-sufficient and to accept help in the home, especially since she had a toddler whose needs had to be met as well. It was also helpful to have another pair of hands to hold and wind a baby once he had finished feeding.
Talking to other people who had twins and getting help in the home was extremely important to her.
Mothers of twins need special advice on matters such as whether to feed both babies at the same time or separately, and how to position them if they decide to feed both at the same time. Talking to other mothers of twins is a useful way to share practical tips. Because she had a toddler, the woman we spoke to decided early on that she would feed both babies simultaneously so that she was not constantly feeding. However, she said that it was important to be able to successfully latch-on each of the babies individually before trying to feed them both at once. Positioning was paramount and she needed lots of pillows and an invaluable u-shaped cushion to prop the babies up at breast level. She did a lot of hand expressing in the early days to relieve the engorgement until her supply aligned itself with her babies’ needs. Because she was producing a lot of milk she needed to ensure that she ate and drank appropriately and got as much rest as possible (see ‘Breastfeeding during the night’ and ‘Dealing with difficult times’).
She mostly fed both babies at once which meant that she needed to be very organised. Lots of…
Other less common times when women may be breastfeeding more than one baby include tandem feeding, which is breastfeeding siblings of different ages (see ‘Breastfeeding an older baby’); surrogate or cross-nursing, which is when a woman breastfeeds another woman’s baby; or in an adoption situation where a woman may wish to breastfeed. In earlier times cross-nursing was quite common and called wet nursing. Nowadays, it is more likely to be on an irregular basis and consist of breastfeeding in a baby-sitting type situation when the baby’s birth mother is not available. We did not talk to any women in this situation but we are aware of the practice.