By Melissa Clark Vickers, IBCLC
But What About Sleep?
Sleep is an important priority for mothers of twins. Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is laughable, at least to begin with. The rule of thumb for any new mother — and especially moms of twins — is to sleep when the babies sleep. If you are lucky they will nap at the same time! Some moms find they can take their twins to bed with them, making nighttime feedings as easy as possible. Others attach a crib to the side of their beds at the same level and remove the side railing nearest the bed. Both babies sleep together in the crib and mom can just reach in and grab the baby who needs nursing. Having the babies in a nursery down the hall may sound good in theory, but it will mean you have to be wide awake to go to your babies in the middle of the night. There will be plenty of time for their own room later on!
Sometimes the issue is not so much sleep, but fatigue. Make sure you are eating nutritiously and drinking plenty of water. Your body will make good milk, even if your diet is poor, but you’ll feel much better if you take care of your nutritional needs. Many moms of twins find that eating 6 smaller meals a day works better than the traditional 3 a day. Look for easy-to-fix nutritious foods that you can keep on hand and snack on throughout the day. Keep a sports bottle filled with water next to your nursing area, as well as a stack of clean diapers and wipes so you don’t have to get up any more often than is necessary.
A Word About Supplements
Should you give your breastfed babies formula? That’s a question you’ll have to answer for yourself, based on your situation and such things as whether you’ll be going back to work, whether you can pump while you are at work, and even whether you want someone to help with the feedings. There are risks associated with supplementing with formula, however:
- It may decrease your milk supply. Remember that your breasts make milk based on how much milk is removed. If your babies are taking something else besides your milk, then your breasts will compensate by making less milk.
- Your babies may have a difficult time switching from bottle back to breast. Drinking from a bottle requires baby to use his tongue to block the bottle nipple holes and his teeth to clamp down to stop the flow of milk long enough to swallow. The nipple sits in front of his mouth, and he sucks from the bottle with his lips closed around the nipple. Breastfeeding involves using the tongue UNDER the nipple and is used to actually strip milk from the breast. The nipple is far back in baby’s mouth and the mouth is open wide. Some babies have no problem switching back and forth, while others can’t handle switching. If you plan on using a bottle (regardless of what goes in the bottle), it helps to at least wait 3-4 weeks or so, until your babies are nursing well, and your milk supply is well established.
- Formula-feeding carries with it a higher risk of allergy and disease. Study after study shows the unquestionable superiority of breastmilk when it comes to lowering risk and/or preventing allergies and both major and minor diseases. Caring for one ill baby is hard enough; caring for two can be especially trying.
Remember that there are a lot of ways other folks can help you out and give you a break besides taking over feeding. And dads need not feel left out, either. Babies learn very quickly that dads are pretty neat, but for different reasons than moms!
If you are concerned about your babies’ weight gain or whether your milk supply is adequate, get professional help. An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) can assess how things are going at the breast, and your doctor or other health care professional can observe your babies for any signs of difficulties.
The Good Old Days?
Having and breastfeeding twins can be wonderful and tiring. There will be times that you’ll long for the “good old days” when life was simpler and you didn’t have two tiny infants totally dependent on you for all their needs. And then, you’ll be nursing those babies at your breast and they’ll give you simultaneous grins, and you may just find yourself redefining what the “good old days” really are!