Breastfeeding Twins: Our Story So Far

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I came across an entire website recently that is devoted to breastfeeding twins.. and it has a spot where women share sort of their personal journey of breastfeeding almost the same way that one would share a birth story.

I figured it’s worth writing about because this is actually one of the first things everyone asks me when they find out I have twins!  And they seem rather shocked when I reply that yes I’m breastfeeding them exclusively. Honestly even my pediatrician and lactation consultant seem a little shocked that both girls are so gigantic and have never even been supplemented on formula!

This is not due exclusively to some heroic effort on my part, though I can’t say it’s been a walk in the park..

The truth is that I almost feel like I was born to breastfeed twins because I have/had a pretty massive oversupply. The force of my let-down used to blow poor Jasper away!  I had to block feed him (meaning one breast per feeding only) to keep it down but it still was pretty out of control.  The twins struggle with my let down as well, especially poor Sasha because like Jasper she has Laryngomalacia which causes her to choke often when feeding.  The fire-hose effect of the let down just makes that even more likely to happen!

But, when breastfeeding twins (particularly not in tandem -more on that later) an oversupply is a blessing, not only because it means I have plenty of milk for both babies but because with the massive amount of milk that they transfer during my let down, then only need to be on the breast for about 5-10 minutes each. That’s not to say they don’t linger longer when they feel like it, but I’d say they average about 10 minutes each. Thank GOD. Otherwise I would literally feel like they were attached to my boobs 24/7!

The last time my Lactation consultant came for a home visit we weighed Willow before and after a feeding but we unlatched her about 5 minutes in (or maybe she choked and came off, I can’t remember!) and just for fun measured her after. She had taken in 5 ounces in that 5 minutes! And like I said they both nurse longer than 5 minutes so I really think they are taking in at LEAST 6 ounces in a complete feeding, which is a lot.. and probably explains why they are gigantic chunk-a-lunks!

So that’s the good part. The bad part is that we have/have had some latching issues which are challenging.

For one thing, Willow has an incredible pinchy latch and her suck is SUPER STRONG.  So what happened in the hospital was that we started out tandem feeding and thanks to Willow my nipples were getting sorer and sorer..culminating to the day at home a week or two later when I called a L.C. to the house out of desperation, crying because they were so sore and I couldn’t take it anymore!

Willow, my "pinchy latcher!"

She wisely advised me to give myself permission to NOT tandem feed them. This allowed me to much more effectively control Willow’s latch and even unlatch and re-latch her if necessary – this is really challenging to do when you don’t have any hands free like you don’t when you tandem feed newborns!  Also because Sasha chokes and comes off sometimes it’s much better to have free hands to take her off the breast and hold her upright while she starts breathing normally again. I do hope that someday when they can essentially latch themselves we will be able to tandem feed, but for now sequential feeding is working OK for us. Besides, I rather like the one on one time with each baby which can be all too scarce when caring for twins!

To address Willow’s painful latch, I went to the same craniosacral therapist who had worked on Jasper to try to get Willow to loosen up her vice-like grip on my nipples. The other problem we had was that she wouldn’t open her mouth at the breast! It was sooo frustrating. I would try everything: tickling her nose with my nipple, tickling her lips, expressing some milk onto her lips.. her response was either pursed lips or she would “lap” the milk up off her lips like a little kitten!  In those moments I would put her down on the bed and wait for her to cry and then basically force my breast into her mouth at which point she would start sucking incredibly vigorously but tightly and too shallow and destroy my nipple.

In craniosacral she worked on loosening Willow’s latch and she also helped me position Willow and showed me how to wait for her to open her mouth on her own which she did once I started positioning her better.  It was completely pain free during my visits with her! I am unable to recreate that completely pain free nursing like we had in those sessions probably because I’m not latching 100% correctly but also because Willow’s latch regresses to pinchy when she uses the pacifier (which requires a tight pinchy latch to keep it in her mouth!).. it undoes a lot of the good loosening work that the cranial sacral  achieves. But hey, not using a pacifier with twins is not really an option – not unless I want exponentially more fussing and screaming!

So things really improved 3 weeks ago at our second visit to the Craniosacral practitioner. But a week or so later a new problem emerged which is that both girls (but Willow much more than Sasha) are “clicking” excessively at the breast. This clicking is actually them losing suction which means air is getting sucked in to the belly.. which means gas.  Also, with Willow this means that even if I latch her deeply, during my let down she starts clicking and losing the latch and getting shallower with each click which traumatizes my nipple slightly.  I’m debating what avenues I can pursue (if any) to try and address the clicking or just hope they grow out of it soon.

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Chunky Monkey Sasha!

Just as an aside, my attitude about pumping and building a stash has been much different this time around. With Jasper I built a huge stash, most of which went to waste after he weaned. You don’t NEED a huge stash if you are going to be pumping each feed that they take a bottle for, which is what I will be doing when they go to daycare in a month (and what I did with Jasper).

Part of the other reason I waited so long to start pumping was that a) I didn’t want to exacerbate my oversupply and b) it’s much harder to pump when you have two babies emptying both breasts at every feeding! With Jasper he only ever took one breast at a time, so I would pump the other breast.

But a week ago I did start pumping ONCE a day after their 5-6am feed.. If I wait 30 minutes after they are done I can get another 6 ounces.  So that’s what I will continue to do for a little while and re-evaluate in a few weeks, or when my freezer starts getting overtaken with Lansinoh bags – whichever comes first!

That’s my breastfeeding story so far – just in case anyone was interested ;)

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Ivy says:

With my third, I had all the issues you are having. Matthew had the same pinchy latch, would not open his mouth, and was always clicking while nursing.
One thing that helped us was to lather up my nipple immediately before I latched him. Then when he latched on to the nipple instead, when he sucked, he would draw more breast into his mouth since it was slippery from the lanolin. It was the only thing that truly helped.
As far as the clicking goes, nothing I did ever helped with it and I tried A LOT of things. He did outgrow it after a few months though.
I have a crazy oversupply as well and a very powerful let down as well. I have actually had to take supplements to cut my milk supply back as I was getting mastitis every single month from too much milk. It is crazy how much of a problem oversupply can be!
I think you are doing an amazing job! Keep up the great work super mommy!!
Oh and random question, are you going back to work next month? Do you work a separate job from your photography or are you just planning on resuming your photo business full time then? I ask because I started a photography business this year and I love to see how other photogs do things :)

Loa says:

Amazing story. I forget how I Found your blog but have been reading for a couple of years now. As a mother of two, both I have nursed, I kinda feel like the latch thing is sometimes just another stage thing. With my son, he latched great at birth and didn’t have any problems, then One day at 2 mos he started sucking different-snapping on the nipple requiring me to constantly pull him off and relatch. After totally breaking down my nipples, and me going crazy, suddenly he just stopped-And he hasn’t done it since. If there’s no tt, maybe use a shield until the nipples heal a little, but I think you just have to keep relatching until they do it proper. I agree with the pacifier, I too needed me for my sanity because I had a 2 year old to care for also.

Susana says:

Ariana, I don’t comment often but have followed your life since becoming-home and I just feel compelled to comment today. You are AMAZING. What an inspiration. Seriously, I have learned so much from you and i have no idea how you do it all. Your little girls are beautiful! I hope you are able to enjoy them (I have no doubt that you are, I just have no idea how you do everything.) In awe. You are a rock star. That is all.

jbhat says:

You are amazing. I think it’s truly wonderful that you are working so hard at this. And yes, they are just gorgeous babies. Good job to all of you! And yay to read (in your reply to a comment) that Jasper is being the darling big brother that we expected him to be.

jbhat

Amber says:

Thank you for sharing about bfing twins. Your girls look healthy and so adorable!! Good job, Mama!

Kimberly says:

Isaac’s lip tie made the biggest difference in our nursing, but, yeah, not a pleasant experience. Whatever you decide, I hope you can get past the pain soon!

samantha says:

You are doing a great job. I remember those early days and weeks of nursing my own twins (who are now 5) and it was exhausting. I didn’t start tandem feeding until they were over 6 weeks simply b/c it hurt too much~we also had latching and soreness (although back then I doubt that “sore” would have been my word of choice to describe the agony). I’m sure you know but there are twin nursing pillows you can buy (we used My Breast Friend) which will make it possible for you to tandem hands free if you ever decide to go that route. Although I understand what you mean about the one on one time. When I finally started single feeds after they hit 6 months I realized how much I missed just nursing and cuddling one baby!
Best of luck, it’s a wonderful joy having twins :-)

ariana says:

@Abigail you are much too kind – really I just consider myself lucky that I don’t have supply problems and that we have the means to see lactation consultants, Cranialsacral practitioners etc..AND that I had some knowledge of these types of issues from breastfeeding Jasper. I can so easily see how it would be insanely overwhelming for anyone missing any one piece of that puzzle!

@Tamara do you mean most twin moms have to pump to increase their supply or to be away from baby? If it’s the later it’s just because I am still on maternity leave and haven’t really had to leave them for more than 2.5 hours.. but all that will come to an end soon (right after the new year!)

@Kimberly, I’m familiar with posterior tongue tie as Jasper had it and it was clipped by Dr. Corylos (not sure how to spell that!) in Long Island, from what I understand she’s was like THE authority on TT in the U.S, though the LC I’ve been seeing for the girls also told me about Dr. Kotlow! I’ve considered making an appointment with the LC who diagnosed Jasper’s posterior tongue tie in case that might be the problem. But to be honest – As long as the girls are growing insanely well and aren’t in terrible pain and super fussy from the excess air I’m really reluctant to put them through the procedure. But we will see.. I actually just did a feeding with Willow where she really did a number on my nipple so in moments like those I’m really motivated to figure it out!! :)

@Cathy, I wonder if Dylan was Tongue-tied? Clicking and losing weight (not being able to transfer milk properly) are classic signs of it! Jasper is AMAZING with his sisters.. I mean it’s truly unbelievable how much he loves and takes care of them without any hint of jealousy!

Cathy Mahoney says:

Wow! You are obviously doing a marvellous job! So interesting how different kids are, Kilian used to suck strong and often and stopped himself after eight month. Dylan had trouble, also had that clicking and couldnt hold the vacuum. We tried with everything,I pumped additionly, we also went to cranio etc but he continued to lose weight so I had to add formula. At least he breastfed before each bottle until about 4month. It was very interesting to read your story! How is jasper doing ? All the best!

Kimberly says:

Sorry, my phone is being weird. Anyway,the choking, pinchy latch, clicking are all signs of ties & it’s definitely worth checking out.

Good luck! You’re awesome for sticking with it, with twins, with difficult latching. My first child (Jasper’d age) nursed beautifully for years. Nursing one baby with a poor latch has been hard. Two is impressive!

Kimberly says:

Long time reader, first time poster.

I highly recommend having your girls checked for tongue & lip tie. My two month old has had many of the issues you’ve described (he also has laryngomalacia!) & the tongue & lip ties were the culprits.
There is a facebook group called Tongue Tie Babies Support Group. If you post pictures there, experts will help you out. Also, the (national? -wide?) expert on tongue tie is Dr. Kotlow in Albany, NY.
There is a

Tamara says:

Congrats on your success so far and thanks for sharing– I think the more twin mommas who share their breastfeeding stories, the more expectant twin mommas will understand that it IS possible to do! Amazing that you can nurse newborns in just 10 minutes a pop.. what a blessing….! Even when I tandemed for the first several months, I was looking at 30-40 minutes for the session, so you still come out faster doing it individually! Even more amazing is that you’ve managed to get this far without pumping… THAT is pretty unique among the few other twin mommas I know who managed to EBF. And I’ll bet it makes your life SO MUCH easier!!

PS: Those girls are BEYOND adorable! I can’t wait to meet them!!!

Suzette says:

Those girls are precious!!! Loved reading your story. I tandem nursed my twins because it just happened to work out. But you just gotta do what makes sense for you and I”m glad you are finding a rhythm that makes everyone happy.

Abigail says:

You are an inspiration. And I can never get enough pictures of your little girls. So adorable!

Amy says:

I am so jealous! Joshua was a ‘super sucker’ too and I needed a LC to help us because I had terrible sores and some bleeding. After getting help things were better but I was *lucky* if I got 3oz when pumping and he ended up needing a little bit of formula (just one feeding a day) for a few months until we added solids.

I love seeing photos of all three of your babies! Jasper is such a handsome little man.

Wendy says:

What a very interesting post. I never really thought about the challenges of breastfeeding twins! I know with my son, I too struggled for a short period of time, especially the pain, but I am so glad I didn’t give up. The twins are just dorable!!!

I am so mega impressed by you! KUDOS! That is such dedication, and the girls are obviously reaping the rewards. Yay!

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