Breast-feeding twins: Making feedings manageable

Planning to breast-feed more than one baby? Here's help breast-feeding twins or other multiples, from getting positioned and ensuring an adequate milk supply to combining breast-feeding and formula-feeding.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you've decided to breast-feed your multiples, congratulations! Breast-feeding will provide many benefits for you and your babies. Still, breast-feeding more than one baby can be challenging. Understand how to get started and where to turn for support.

What are the benefits of breast-feeding twins or higher order multiples?

Breast milk contains the right balance of nutrients for your babies. The antibodies in breast milk will boost your babies' immune systems. Breast milk also has special benefits for babies who are born prematurely, as are many twins and higher order multiples. Breast milk is easier to digest than is commercial infant formula — especially for premature babies who have smaller, less mature stomachs and intestines. If your babies aren't able to nurse at first, you can pump breast milk to be given to your babies through a feeding tube.

Beyond the health benefits for your newborns, breast-feeding is likely the most convenient and least expensive way to feed your babies — and it might help you lose weight after you give birth. Breast-feeding twins or other multiples also ensures frequent interaction between you and each of your babies.

Should I breast-feed my babies at the same time?

When you start breast-feeding your babies, feed each one individually. This will give you a chance to see how well each baby latches on to your breast and address any issues. Consider creating a 24-hour chart to record how long and how often each baby nurses, as well as the number of wet and soiled diapers for each baby. If you feed your babies pumped breast milk, record how much they take at each feeding.

Once you've established breast-feeding with each baby, how you breast-feed is up to you and your babies. Some mothers find that breast-feeding two babies at once works well and saves time. Others prefer to breast-feed each baby separately. Likewise, some babies might show a preference for individual feedings. Try different approaches or a combination — such as breast-feeding one baby at a time at night and two at the same time during the day — to see what might work best.

What positions can I use to breast-feed my babies at the same time?

There are several ways to breast-feed two babies at the same time. What's most important is choosing a position that feels good to you and your babies and enables a correct and comfortable latch.

For example:

  • Double-clutch or double-football hold. In this position, you'll hold each baby in a clutch or football hold. Position a pillow on each side of your body and your lap. Place each baby on a pillow beside your body — almost under your arm — so that the babies' legs point toward the back of your chair. Make sure each baby's back is supported by the inside of your forearm. Use the pillows for arm support. Secure the babies' bottoms with the insides of your elbows. Keep the babies' heads at nipple level. Place the palm of one hand at the back of each baby's head to provide support.

    Alternatively, place both babies — head to head — on pillows directly in front of you. Be sure to keep your babies' bodies turned toward you, rather than facing up. Use your palms to support each baby's head.

  • Cradle-clutch combination. In this position, you'll hold one baby in the cradle position — with his or her head on your forearm and his or her whole body facing yours — and the other baby in the clutch position. If one of your babies has an easier time latching on to your breast or staying latched, place him or her in the cradle position.
  • Double-cradle hold. To use the double-cradle position, you'll place both of your babies in the cradle position in front of you. Position your babies so that their legs overlap and make an X across your lap.

At first, you might want help positioning your babies. Enlist someone to help you get situated until you get the hang of simultaneous feedings. Consider latching first the baby who tends to need more help getting started.

April 09, 2015 See more In-depth