Breastfeeding Twins – Your Milk Supply
One of the greatest concerns that new mothers of twins have relating to breastfeeding is “Will I have enough milk”.
I know this was definitely my biggest concern and I was like a woman possessed scouring the internet on a regular basis trying to find ways to help boost my supply.
Perceived or actual milk supply issues is one of the most common reasons for discontinuing breastfeeding and the number of mothers with multiples that are still breastfeeding their babies at 3 months of age is sadly quite low (around 22-29% compared to 35-40% of singletons – Millennium Cohort Study).
My breastfeeding journey was a long and challenging one – a story I will share with you all in another post. In a nutshell, it took me nearly four months to get to a point where I was feeding both girls fully from the breast with no supplementation. I came from a point of almost 70% formula fed to 100% breast fed, and it was during this time that I was frantically researching milk boosting tips and tricks to help the process.
So, to save you the time and hassle of doing your own research, I have shared with you all the tips I came across and which worked best for me.
Of course EVERYONE is so different and may see different results with each technique/product so it may take some trial and error, but at least you will have a go-to list of things to try.
I hope it helps your breastfeeding journey.
Breastfeeding is meant to be the most natural thing in the world – isn’t it?? Well not in my world it wasn’t, and looking back I wish someone had advised me to spend more time reading and learning about breastfeeding before my babies arrived.
Breastfeeding is a skill that both mummy and babies need to learn. Learning ‘on the job’ is always a challenge, but learning on the job while you are seriously sleep deprived and hormone crazed is just impossible.
Talk with your midwife/obstetrician about it and if they are not supportive of you breastfeeding multiples (surprisingly many will advise you it’s not possible!!) then find someone who is.
Better yet, seek out a lactation consultant and meet with them BEFORE you have your babies.
The number one reason for low milk supply is poor latch and failure to sufficiently drain the breasts so the first thing to do is make sure your babies are latching correctly.
I STRONGLY recommend seeking the help of a lactation consultant as soon as possible (before they are born would be ideal). You will have the most success at breastfeeding if you seek help within the first few days following their arrival to establish that crucial latch.
If your babies aren’t latching correctly, they won’t be draining the milk sufficiently to trigger your body to make what your babies need.
Also, while there is a great push to get twins tandem feeding, I found it easier to focus on one baby at a time in the early days while you are learning. Each baby will have their own feeding needs and style, so it makes it much easier to get one sorted and latching well, and then focus on the other one. Much less overwhelming.
Feed Them Regularly
It’s very easy to get drawn into feeding ‘by the clock’ however this can be a killer for building supply. Your babies know when they are hungry and some days they might need to feed every hour or two – especially if they are fueling a growth spurt which occurs every few weeks in the early days.
This extra feeding frenzy is just your babies building the milk supply up to match their growing needs. Often these feeding frenzies can be misinterpreted for low milk levels, but as long as you go with the flow and increase the feeding frequency to match your babies needs, then this should be enough to boost your supply. Tiring, but essential.
And remember they may not go through these growth spurts at the same time…
In the beginning, I was very confused about how long I was meant to feed for. Some advice said 20 minutes maximum, others said as long as your babies will feed for.
The key was ‘active feeding’.
I had one ‘slow and steady’ feeder and one I nicknamed my vacuum cleaner. In the early days, Miss Slow and Steady would easily take around 40 minutes to feed and Miss Vacuum would be all done in around 25-30 minutes so go with what your babies want/need.
Just watch for the active sucking and swallowing movements.
If they have gone to sleep or are just comfort sucking then take them off and either wake them up and get them active sucking again, or if they have had a good sustained period of active sucking then put them to bed and start again when they next wake up.
I had a serious love/hate relationship with my breast pump, however expressing is a great way to boost your milk supply. It is also essential if your babies are premature and not feeding at all or not efficiently enough to establish/maintain adequate supply.
Add a 10-15 minute pumping session after or between feeding your babies. Expressing while performing breast compressions is even more effective. See here for more information
Also, just something important to remember – it’s so easy to get caught up in the numbers. It’s clear to see exactly how much milk you express so it can give you a false impression of how much milk your babies are getting when they feed directly from you.
Babies are FAR more efficient at removing milk from a breast than a breast pump, so just because the bottle says you only pumped 100mls, your baby may be getting more.
A great trick I learned from one of my midwives was to weigh baby before and after a feed to give you a rough indication of how much milk they had taken.
I’m going to be cautious with what I say here, as of course the number one priority is to ensure your baby is well fed and nourished. So if adding formula top ups into your feeding schedule to ensure your babies are properly nourished is what you have been advised to do then absolutely follow this advice.
From a breast milk supply perspective, adding formula top-ups means that baby is then not taking milk from you so will be affecting the volume of milk your body will produce. Something to consider. It took me a while to take the leap of faith away from top-ups (with the close support and supervision of my lactation consultant) but please consult with your healthcare professional before making any changes to your own babies feeding schedule.
Your diet, fluid intake and rest
I’m not even going to talk about rest, as it’s just ridiculous to ask a twin mum to find time to rest – it just doesn’t happen in the early days (unless you are one of the lucky ones with lots of support).
Diet, and especially fluid intake are however important. In the early days I was drinking around 4-5 litres of water a day. It sounds like a lot but if you think about it, YOU need 2 litres and then your babies will take around 750-1000mls each per day once they reach 1 month old and breastmilk is around 85-90% water.
You can also check out our article Breastfeeding Twins – Your Dietary Requirements to help give you an idea of the extra nutritional requirements you will have while breastfeeding twins.
Milk Boosting Tips & Tricks
If you are still feeling that you would like to boost your supply or improve its quality a bit more then you could try some of the following well known supplements to increase milk supply and/or quality.
Add a bowl of porridge in either for breakfast or as a snack.
One of the best ways to include Brewer’s Yeast into your day is to include it into a Breastfeeding Power Smoothie called Tigers Milk. There are LOADS of variations of this recipe but here is the one I used. Start with 2 per day and you should see an improvement in supply within 2-3 days.
Tigers Milk Recipe
Place the following into a blender:
2T Plain Yogurt with Acidophilus
1T Brewer’s Yeast
A handful of your favourite fresh or frozen berries
Top up to 500ml with full cream milk
Blend until smooth. Makes your 2 drinks for the day.
There are LOTS of recipes for Lactation Cookies available. Check out our Pinterest board “Tips & Tricks for Breastfeeding Twins’ for some of our favourites.
Add something like a Complan or Protein drink into your day as a snack (not a meal replacement). It’s a good idea to have it early afternoon to help give a boost before the evening feeds.
Have a Protein rich snack one hour before feeding
Lots and Lots and Lots! I can’t stress this enough
This combination of herbs was my go-to remedy for boosting supply. Fenugreek has been used for centuries by breastfeeding mothers to help boost milk supply.
Naturopaths recommend Fenugreek is taken in conjunction with Blessed Thistle as it is far more effective in combination. I saw results within around 24-36 hours taking 2 tablets 4 times per day of each herb, but it can take up to two weeks to see the full effect.
There are prescription medications that can be prescribed to you by your Obstetrician or Doctor and these can be very useful for boosting supply. There are some side effects so talk with your medical professional to see if this could be an option for you.
Most of the lactation teas contain Fenugreek which is a known milk supply enhancer. It’s also a lovely way to boost your fluid intake. Most teas recommend 3 – 4 cups per day.
This option takes the buy-in of your partner and/or support network, as it involves you going to bed with your babies for 2-3 days and doing nothing but concentrating on feeding them (your support team needs to feed you and look after everything else).
You relax as you are not having to do anything except feed your babies, and your babies can eat as and when they need thereby boosting your supply. It’s also a great excuse to get some time out.
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