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So, you have decided to have a go at breastfeeding your twins. Good for you! Then why is it that everyone talks about breast pumping for twins if your intention is to breastfeed them?
There are several reasons that you need to add a double breast pump to your shopping list for twins. While it can be handy to have a breast pump on hand with one baby, it is a vital piece of equipment when planning to successfully breastfeed twins.
Read on to find out why…
Why do I need a breast pump when breastfeeding twins?
Building Milk Supply
Building a milk supply to feed two growing babies can take a bit of work and effort – especially during the first 2-3 months of feeding when you are also trying to keep up with the growth spurts that seem to happen every 2-3 weeks in the early days.
It can take some time for your milk to come through, especially if your twins were born via C-section. Pumping will help trigger the milk reflexes and start you on your journey.
When you first start feeding, your body does not know how much your twins will need to eat. Using a combination of feeding and pumping, or exclusively pumping, will build your supply to the necessary level to nourish your twins.
Premature Twins or Small Babies
It is common for twin babies to have to spend some time in the NICU after birth, especially if they were born prematurely. But even babies that are in the NICU need to eat.
Often breastfeeding directly from the source will not be an option in those early days and weeks, so you may need to exclusively pump your breast milk to feed your babies via bottle or gastric tube.
Slow to Learn Babies
If your babies are very small or are taking a while to get the hang of latching correctly, then you may need to exclusively pump. That means that you will pump your breast milk on a schedule and bottle feed it to your twins.
While the pumping part can be a physical and mental challenge, it allows for other family members to bond with your babies at feeding time, while you can get some well-deserved rest.
Top Up Feeds
Babies can be especially hungry during a growth spurt which happens frequently during those first few months, so it is great to have a backup supply of expressed milk for those days when they are looking for more. Having breast milk available will mean that you don’t have to automatically turn to formula if you don’t want to.
Maintaining Milk Supply
The saying that if you don’t use it, you lose it has never been truer than with breastfeeding. In order to maintain your milk supply, you need to feed or express on a regular basis. Those are the all too real rules of supply and demand!
Engorged Breasts or Excessive Milk Supply
You will often find that your breasts may become sore and engorged if your babies are not well or just having a ‘not hungry’ day. The milk still needs to be removed to ensure it doesn’t cause blocked ducts or mastitis (and you will feel like your breasts are going to explode so it can be quite painful). Pumping just enough to remove the tight feeling will help relieve the pain, without stimulating extra supply – especially if you are already over-producing milk.
Help with Blocked Milk Ducts or Mastitis
Mastitis is a painful condition where milk ducts can get blocked or an infection is present in the breast tissue causing redness, swelling, pain, fever, and flu-like symptoms. In most cases, you will be encouraged to massage, feed, or pump your way through mastitis to help clear any blocked ducts. Having a pump to help during these times will help minimize the duration and intensity of the infection.
When do I start and how often should I breast pump?
The answer is, almost immediately after your babies are born.
If your babies do not need to be taken to the NICU straight away, then the nursing staff will help you to enjoy some skin to skin time with your babies and will help them to get those first precious drops of colostrum from you.
Once you get back to your room with your babies a breast pump will be brought into your room and you will be shown how to use the pump. You will be using the pump roughly every 2-3 hours and it will normally be timed after you have fed your babies and settled them back to sleep. This is especially important after a c-section, as it can take a few days for your milk to come in, so any extra stimulation provided by the pump will be extremely beneficial.
If your babies require some extra support after birth and are taken to the NICU, a nurse will still help you to collect the precious colostrum into a syringe that can be given to your babies. You will then need to start pumping to collect the milk to either bottle feed to your babies or via the gastric tube – depending on how they are being fed.
Each pumping session should last around 20 minutes to start with. You will find that you will be able to pump only a few mls at each session, however as the days progress, you will be able to get more and more as your milk comes in and the ‘demand’ for the milk from your babies and pumping sessions increases.
It is important that you are fitted with the correctly-sized funnel for your breast and nipple size to minimize the friction and potential irritation that can occur until your nipples get used to the constant use.
Also, while it is tempting to turn up the pump to get the pumping session over and done with more quickly so you can get some sleep, having the pump on too high a setting can also cause painful damage to the nipple which can create setbacks in your breastfeeding journey. Remember to use plenty of nipple cream.
Try to establish a pumping routine for yourself so that you get in the habit, especially if you are pumping to help build milk supply. Store any extra milk in the fridge for up to 48 hours or you can freeze it for up to 6 months in freezer-safe milk storage bags.
The thought of breast pumping can be overwhelming, but if you have any concerns you can discuss it with your midwife or obstetrician. They will be able to provide advice and also refer you to a feeding specialist if need be.
Just remember, consistency and frequency are key for good milk supply.