Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tandem Breastfeeding

I'd like to preface everything I'm about to say with this: I am not a lactation consultant or a doctor.  However, I am passionate about breastfeeding and will do everything I can to offer suggestions and encouragement if it's something you choose to do. 

I'd also like to clear up a big lie: Breastfeeding (if done correctly) doesn't hurt.  That's ridiculous.  It hurts.  I can't even begin to describe how uncomfortable it is in the very beginning.  I'm not sharing this to scare you, but I think it's important to understand that even when it's done correctly it can still hurt.  I know many who have given up because it was painful so they assumed they were doing it the wrong way.  I called my pediatrician one afternoon because I'd pumped an entire bottle before realizing the milk was pink due to blood. (FYI: It was fine to give the bottle to the twins.)  That?  Was painful.  However, I nursed my twins for 15 months.  I'm not sharing this to brag--I'm letting you know I breastfed correctly... and it still hurt.  The moral of the story: The pain subsides and the result is so worth it.

Now that I've hopefully cleared up an urban legend, let's talk about tandem breastfeeding (nursing two babies at the same time).  We will have a Top 10 Favorites post dedicated to nursing must-haves, but I will go ahead and throw out the big one right now:  The My Brest Friend Twins Plus Nursing Pillow is essential.  It is a game changer.  My only complaint is its ridiculous name (I still apologize when I tell someone what it is called--for some reason I feel partially responsible).  It will henceforth be referred to as "The Nursing Pillow" (TNP) because I just can't type its actual name without feeling like a fool.

I think the easiest way to explain tandem breastfeeding is step-by-step instructions.

At the Hospital
1.  Bring TNP to the hospital.  Otherwise, you will be strategically placing six pillows around your poor body every three hours.

2.  Ask your lactation consultant to show you how to tandem nurse.  I loved my lactation consultant but she wasn't going to show me until I repeatedly asked her.  Unless you hire a night nurse, you will never have the luxury of having a specialist right there beside you.  Take advantage of her (but always say thank you).

3.  Download an app on your phone that keeps track of nursing sessions.  I used "Total Baby."  During the first few months you are running on fumes so the last thing you want to do is remember when you last nursed and which twin was on each side.  This keeps track of everything for you.  Here's a screenshot of my nursing schedule for Jude when they were three weeks old:

At Home
1.  At first, tandem breastfeeding is a bit like a 7th grade dance.  It's awkward, no one knows where to put their hands, and you're just counting the minutes until it's over.  The best thing you can do is have everything in place before you begin.  That includes the following:
a. TNP
b. A boppy (used to support one baby while you're burping the other)
c. A huge glass of water
d. Your phone with the app pulled up
e. One or two additional pillows (While I rave about TNP, I still needed an additional pillow for balance.  It's hard to explain but you'll see what I mean once you're there.  Without an extra pillow you're bound to have at least one twin roll off.  I'm kidding.  Sort of.)
f. Two burp cloths
g. Your husband (if he's available)
h. Your twins (they're essential for this process to be successful)

2.  Change their diapers.  We always changed them before I nursed in case they fell asleep directly after.  We stuck to the eat/play/sleep schedule but in the very beginning, "play" can last as little as five minutes.

3.  Put two burp cloths on TNP--they will be used while you're burping the babies but are also nice to keep leaks and spills from getting on TNP.  Once you're "locked in,"  put each twin on TNP with their foreheads almost touching and their bodies following the curve of the pillow (it's called the "football hold").  I put them down on their backs and would "roll" them towards me when I latched each baby. Jude had an excellent latch from the very beginning while Sloane did not.  I would latch Jude first because he would get things going (ahem), and that would entice Sloane. 
NOTE: I remember watching a YouTube video on how to tandem nurse and was thoroughly annoyed because the lady put her twins next to her body and it was like a magnetic force--they latched effortlessly and immediately.  I'd just spent 15 minutes trying (unsuccessfully) to get Sloane to latch.  As I mentioned above, it gets easier.  I promise.

4.  When they are about halfway through a nursing session (the time is different for everyone, but in the beginning mine nursed for 25 minutes total), I would stop to burp.  Once they were both unlatched, I moved Jude to the boppy.  Then I picked up Sloane and burped her using the burp cloth that had been under her head.  Once Sloane was burped, I put her on TNP, picked up Jude from the boppy, put him on TNP, and then moved Sloane to the boppy.  Then I would burp Jude.  Once Jude was burped, I put him on TNP, picked up Sloane and put her back on TNP.  The boppy is not entirely necessary but I felt more comfortable burping a baby and not having to worry about balancing the other on TNP.  If your husband is available, by all means, take advantage of his help and let him burp one baby while you burp the other.

5.  Now that both babies are back on TNP, continue breastfeeding for the remainder of the time. 
NOTE:  If Jude started on my right side, he ended on the right.  However, I switched sides each feeding.  If Jude nursed on my right side at noon, he nursed on my left side at 3p.  Once again, this is why having a phone app is so important!  Who has time to remember that?!

6.  When they are finished nursing, repeat step #4.  In the beginning, the entire process lasted around 45 minutes.

A few tips:
1.  Michael woke up during the night and helped with every feeding.  The extra hands were invaluable.  While I was gathering everything listed in step 1, he was already working on step 2 (changing the babies).  We always split burping duties, which made it go by so quickly.

2.  Tandem nursing helps with scheduling.  If one baby wakes up and is ready to nurse, wake the other baby up.  I know they say "never wake a sleeping baby" but they must've never had twins.  Hurumph.  It didn't take long before the twins were both on the same schedule and I no longer had to wake one.  Trust me, they will go back to sleep just fine.  No permanent damage done.

3.  DON'T FORGET TO EAT.   Breastfeeding twins burns a ridiculous amount of calories.  Eat.  And then eat some more.  And then eat a little bit more. 

4. This is not a tip--this is just a sweet picture of my babies at one-week-old.  They'd just finished tandem nursing and were passed out on TNP.  To this day it is one of my favorite pictures of them!

Like everything else, tandem nursing takes some time to get used to but before long you'll be breastfeeding like the lady on YouTube.  My twins tandem nursed until they were a little over three months old.  I had BIG babies and they outgrew TNP quickly.  I could have done it another month but by that point I enjoyed nursing them one at a time.  Most moms of twins are able to tandem nurse far longer.

Here's a picture of Jude and Sloane after exclusively breastfeeding for six months.  I'd say they enjoyed it as much as I did.  Check out those rolls! :)

Jude and Sloane at 15 months--these pictures were taken the week before I stopped breastfeeding (they're now 16.5 months). 

 Did you tandem breastfeed?  If so, what tips/tricks can you offer the group?

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  1. I am having twin boys in a month and have been very nervous about tandem breastfeeding. I have the TNP but otherwise am completely clueless! This is so helpful and encouraging, thank you for sharing!

  2. Thank you for sharing! I am due in June with my twins and have to say that breastfeeding is like a foreign language to me. This post is more helpful than any pregnancy site can offer. Instead of scaring me like other sites do, you've actually given me the confidence that I can do this. :) You & Amber are very smart girls for starting this blog.

  3. I wish I would've buckled down and bought that nursing pillow...I used two boppy pillows on top of each other and while it worked pretty darn good, it would've been nice to have a larger surface.

  4. My twins are 16 months old and these tips are GREAT!! They would have been amazing had this blog existed while I was pregnant :) I know that is the point of this blog now... :) First off, if you are pregnant with twins and are serious about breastfeeding and are debating whether to buy the breast friend twin nursing pillow....BUY IT NOW!! It is pricey but I don't think my journey would have been as successful without it...Secondly, it is so funny, my story it kind of opposite yours...I couldn't tandem feed the twins very well at all for a couple months! They were just so small, and wouldn't latch right (which can cause problems), etc. But around 2 months or so I started tandem feeding them and didn't stop until they were 1 year old! And YES breastfeeding hurts everyone at first I don't know why the LCs aren't more open about that...

  5. From one twin Momma to another- I am SO proud of you, both!!!! I was a strict "pumper" with my twins after one month... 2 rounds of Mastitis made me go to pumping. This blog would have been so helpful at the time. Maybe I would have given it another try! What wonderful advice. Way to go Momma's!

  6. Great post! I am nearing the end of my 12th month of tandem nursing (phew!) and here's my only input: I stopped switching sides when the twins were about 8 months old and it actually ended up being a great move for all of us. It turned out that putting my over-aggressive eater on my more finicky/sensitive side (left) was causing a lot of problems (mastitis, recurring plugged ducts, milk blisters, etc.) and once I just let her nurse exclusively on the right side and my son on the left, things got a lot better. I do think it's important to rotate them in the beginning, however, to build up supply. So there's my two cents!

  7. Reading this really makes me wish I would have breastfed longer! And I definitely wish I would have had the TNP!

    I second Ann Marie... SO proud of you both!!

  8. To this day, I still wear a hair pony tail rubber band on my wrist that keeps track of which side my boy nursed on last. I switch it to the other wrist at each feeding.

    I never switched side mid-feed. My girl had such terrible latching issues at first, I didn't want to disturb her. And the logistics were just too much for me. We didn't burp them until after they were completely done eating.

  9. I loved tandem nursing my twin boys. I tandem nursed for nine months and then exclusively pumped. I just made up my mind that we were going to make it work no matter what. I was able to pump so much that my boys are still getting breast milk three months after I stopped pumping. My husband works nights so I did all night feeds solo. It was crucial for me to keep a stock of high protein food. The best tip I have is eat when your babies eat and keep your hospital water cup filled with water all the time!

  10. I agree that sometimes it hurts!! I have been exclusively breastfeeding my twin boys for 4 months now and hope to continue until they are a year old! I have TNP and it is definitely helpful. I didn't tandem until they were a little bit older because I thought it was hard to keep them both latched when they were really little without help. Now that they can latch on easily it is much easier. I actually prefer solo feeding so I only tandem in the morning when they 1st wake up and right before bed. Sometimes if they are both hungry at the same time, I tandem but most of the time they just want to play and not eat! So I end up solo feeding them anyways! I also solo feed in the middle of the night because they don't usually wake up at the same time. But I will wake the other up to eat if he hasn't woken already. I enjoyed this post and love this blog already!

  11. My boys are now 6 months old. We have done a whole mix of solo breastfeeding, tandem breastfeeding, pumping, and formula bottles. We weren't able to tandem breastfeed exclusively (alone) until about 2 months. I love doing it for a speedy feeding, but we are entering an eye-gouging, face pulling phase where feedings tend to be more productive feeding solo. I also solo nurse at night since I don't wake the sleeping baby. More wake ups for me sometimes, but sometimes one will sleep thru when the other doesn't. I usually tandem now for sure for their first feeding to establish the schedule and their bedtime feeding so they go down at the same time. And yes, it hurt, a lot, in the beginning. But FINALLY everything clicked and it has been such an incredible experience ever since!

  12. I'm new here, and I am so happy I stumbled on your blog! My b/g twins are 13 weeks old and I am exclusively breastfeeding them. (They will not take bottles yikes!) I was tandem at the beginning but my daughter needed a little more attention with her latch and still does. I am feeding them one after the other which I actually really love but my question is for naps and schedules how did you so things. Right now one of them is always about 15 min behind the other which is fine because they are napping in different rooms but is this always how it was for you as well or did you have another method to the madness!? Thanks so much and I'm so happy there is such an awesome blog like this to follow!

  13. How did you decide when to wean and what was the process?

  14. How did you decide when to wean and what was the process?