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The First Year - Breast Feeding
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions:
Can I breastfeed two or more?
Yes, mothers can absolutely breastfeed more than one baby. Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis. The more the breasts are stimulated by suckling the more milk they will produce.
What breastfeeding positions can I use?
There are a variety of breastfeeding positions, all of which may be useful to you. The most common position is the cradle hold, where a baby is cradled in one arm and feeds from the opposite side. For mothers of multiples the rugby hold (also called the football hold) will be the most useful, as it most easily facilitates feeding two babies at a time. Each baby's side is placed nestled closely against your side, with your baby's feet and legs tucked under your arm.
Experiment to see which position(s) suit you best.
Do I feed the babies together or separately?
Once you are comfortable breastfeeding one, you may find that it saves you a lot of time to feed two babies together when at home. This may take a little practice.
If you are feeding triplets you can feed two together and then one separately.
Do I assign each baby a side?
There is no need to assign each baby a side, altough if feeding twins you may do so if you wish.
What if my babies arrive early?
The sucking and swallowing reflexes do not fully mature until about 36 weeks of the pregnancy. The baby needs to coordinate the reflexes simultaneously to drink milk. This is known as the 'sucking - swallowing - breathing' sequence. If your babies are born before 36 weeks, they may spend time in a Special Care Unit or Intensive Care Unit, and may be unable to breastfeed until they are developmentally ready to do so.
The staff in your SCU/ICU will encourage you to express milk for your babies and will advise you on the development of the reflexes needed to breastfeed your multiples.
Is it possible to combine breast and formula feeding?
Yes this is possible and many mothers of multiples breastfeed, but “top-up” with formula. Remember that any breastmilk your baby receives has positive health benefits.
Do I need to buy any special equipment for breastfeeding?
Good quality and supportive nursing bras are essential if you are breastfeeding. Independent lingerie shops or the lingerie department in department stores can measure you and provide you with specialist advice and guidance in this area.
It is also a good idea to invest in a special twin breastfeeding pillow, as this makes it a lot more comfortable to feed more than one baby at a time.
Why do many mother of multiples express milk?
The sucking and swallowing reflexes do not fully mature until about 36 weeks of the pregnancy. The baby needs to coordinate the reflexes simultaneously to breastfeed. As the average gestation of a twin pregnancy is 37 weeks, and less for triplets, many multiples are born without fully matured feeding reflexes. Many mothers of multiples choose to express milk in order to give their babies the benefits of breastmilk, even if they are unable to breastfeed. (Expressing is a way to take milk from your breast without your baby suckling).
What are the benefits of breastfeeding my multiples?
Breast feeding offers major health advantages for all infants, whether born singleton or from multiple pregnancy. It also provides benefits to the mothers.
The HSE lists the following as just some of the benefits:
Benefits for babies
The health benefits of breastfeeding for babies include less risk of:
Breastfed babies also have:
Benefits for mothers
Breastfeeding has other benefits too
What can I do to prepare myself for breastfeeding more than one?
La Leche League and Cuidiu run breastfeeding meetings and classes. They have expreienced leaders who can guide, advise and support you in making the decision to breastfeed your multiples.
A professional Lactation Consultant, who you can see in your maternity hospital, is another source of high quality advice and support. You can pay a private Lactation Consultant to visit you at home when you are back from the hospital with the babies.
Your antenatal classes will probably cover breastfeeding. Your maternity hospital also runs breastfeeding classes.
It is very useful to talk to other mothers of multiples who have breastfed, and their partners who have facilitated and supported this. Why not come along to an IMBA Information Evening near you or your local IMBA Multiples Club to find out more?