Is the breast best for multiples?

Breast (Feeding) For Success

Newborns generally nurse about every two hours, so if you're exclusively pumping it's ideal to keep this same schedule (during waking hours). The biggest hiccup for moms of preemies is that it's nearly impossible to get to the breast pump every two hours when you're running to the hospital to visit your babies in the NICU. Genna's tip: "Pumping doesn't have to be spaced out evenly to be effective." To fit in those eight to 10 sessions a day, cluster your pumping sessions when you can (every 45 minutes to an hour and a half), just enough to make up for the time you need to be away.

Just like moms of singletons, if moms of multiples make it through the first two weeks of breastfeeding they are more likely to breastfeed long term. Unlike moms of singletons, moms of multiples experience a much faster dropout rate during the first two weeks because, says Genna, they don't get the help they need.

"I strongly urge moms of multiples to touch base with a lactation expert while they're still pregnant so they can get set up for success, make arrangements for the best pump, and find somebody they can relate to and call on once the babies arrive," Genna says.

Maureen Doolan Boyle, a mother of triplets and executive director of MOST (Mothers of Supertwins) Inc., an international support network for families of multiples, says that if you're going to be successful at breastfeeding you need to have realistic expectations from the start. "Most moms aren't told that it's extremely unlikely to be able to breastfeed two babies at once until the babies have accurate rooting or neck control. The result is that moms immediately become frustrated and feel like a failure because the woman pictured in the breastfeeding book looks so happy."

Boyle adds that in the beginning, moms have to learn each baby's breastfeeding subtleties. For this reason, she says, "it's exceptionally important for moms with babies in the NICU to have the opportunity to nurse each child individually for two days before they're discharged."

Another consideration: Whether you'll be bottle-feeding or breastfeeding, you're probably not going to be able to feed your babies on your own right away. Unless you're half-octopus, you'll need someone to help you:

  • position (and re-position!) the babies;
  • burp the babies during and after each feeding; and
  • calm any baby who's waiting for his turn to eat (a pacifier or finger comes in handy as a sucking substitute).