If breastfeeding is so natural and easy – then why is it so damn hard?? And what’s with all the different breastfeeding positons?!
Yes, you may say this to yourself at some point in the beginning of your nursing career — especially with nursing multiples! Getting started is not without its challenges, as I’m sure you’ve heard already.
There is a HUMP that you must get over before hitting your stride. But don’t worry, with a little persistence and perseverance, you will get there. Point being: Almost everyone struggles in the beginning. You are not alone. I repeat: EVERYONE struggles in the beginning with breastfeeding (well, almost everyone).
In my opinion, the key to a successful start is all in the latch. There is a method to the madness that you must learn. Few women are able to figure it out on their own. It’s not as easy or obvious as you would think!
If either of your babies has a bad latch, breastfeeding will hurt. Plain and simple.
Start when you are still in the hospital: make sure to have the nurses or lactation consultants observe your babies’ latches. The hospital has experienced nurses and lactation consultants at the hospital WAITING to help you. And if they don’t offer, you should *insist* on seeing one. Please don’t be shy about this.
** Note — It might be a good idea to print this out and have your partner or mom/sister read it to you when it’s go-time. I know that sounds silly, but you’re not going to remember this in detail. It will put you at ease if times get tough.
** Also note — while eventually you may want to tandem feed your duo, it the beginning, it is very much advised to nurse each baby individually. This is because tandem feeding is HARD, and you want to be sure each of your babies has a proper latch (and that you are all comfortable with the nursing process) before you begin tandem feeding (gotta walk before you can run!). Therefore, as you read, picture yourself nursing Baby A, handing that baby over to your partner (or someone else), and then starting the process over with Baby B. Read more about nursing twins (in the long term).
Okay, here goes…
In a nutshell, you want your baby’s mouth to be open very WIDE in order to scoop as much of the nipple and areola in as possible. WIDE OPEN – almost like a yawn.
Depending on your baby, the whole latching procedure requires some precision, like trying to refuel an F-16 midair. If your baby’s mouth is not open wide and he is only sucking on the nipple itself, this is where the trouble starts.
How to latch:
1. Don your favorite nursing pillow. (When you do eventually tandem feed, you’ll want a pillow to fit BOTH babies simultaneously. See more on nursing pillows for twins.) Get comfortable and take a deep breath. Find your happy place.
2. Have your partner hand you a baby – any baby will do. Put your baby on his side (on the pillow), cupping his body around you like a capital ‘C’.
3. Since baby will have no head control, grab the base of his head as shown below. (This is the view from above.) ** In reality, your baby’s head will approach your breast below at a diagonal.Sketches by Jack Newman, M.D.
4. CHIN coming in first, bring your baby’s nose to your nipple in order to get him to root around and open his mouth. Take your time! Some babies do this instantly without hesitation, others need more encouragement. Rub your nipple or finger on baby’s lower lip in order to tease it open (this is where patience and practice come in…).
WAIT UNTIL BABY’S MOUTH IS WIDE OPEN BEFORE PULLING HIM ON. Whatever you need to do to get his mouth open, do that thing.
** As a practical matter, this part is hard. The reason is because your baby will be crying out of hunger and possibly flailing around. Your instinct will be to get him latched on as soon as humanly possible because OMAGAH, he is starving – just listen to that crying(!!) – and I need to get him food, STAT!
Resist this urge to rush through it. Have someone talk you through it to keep your head straight. Remember that baby is not going to die by having to wait an extra 30 seconds to get milk (although it will feel this way).**
5. When his lower jaw is gaping open, pull him onto your breast, scooping as much of the lower areola in his mouth as possible (see below). Scoop, SCOOP, you can do it!Sketches by Jack Newman, M.D.
6. Ouch, I know. NOW: Count backwards from 10 to 1.
When your baby first latches on, a little pain is normal. This will go away over time. I used to scream out: MAMMMMA MIA!!!
However, if the pain is not improving after you’ve counted down to 1, something probably ain’t right. You need to remove him and start over.
This process can be very frustrating and requires a LOT of patience and a little bit of bullet-biting. The problem, you see, is that unlatching your baby can also be painful. Dang, that suck is strong!!! It’s like having a little piranha attached to your boob.
To unlatch your baby, wedge your thumb or your pinky into the corner of his mouth or under his lip in order to break the suction. Yes, he will freak out and cry. IT’S OKAY. If he latched on poorly, he can cause a lot of damage in a very short amount of time, so do get him off asap and try again.
Yes, it’s frustrating. You may cry out in pain and/or frustration.
This is all normal (sorry). Keep your eyes on the prize.
This is what a successful latch will look like (below). You will also know because it won’t be very painful after the first 15 seconds or so.
Sketches by Jack Newman, M.D.
Lucky you, Mama of Multiples…now you get to start the process all over again with Baby B! (Look at it this way, the more practice, the better!)
** In time… your little rock star self will be able to get each of your babies on in the dark with your hands tied behind your back. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. In the meantime, take your time. Practice makes perfect.
Nursing multiples is definitely a different beast than nursing a singleton baby. Though you may only nurse one at a time (like you would with just one baby), there is simply more to consider. As someone who has been through it before – I’ve nursed a singleton and twins – I thought these tips and tricks for nursing multiples may be helpful:
- Lactation consultants can be super helpful! If the hospital where you are delivering offers this service, take advantage of it. They can teach you a variety of breastfeeding positions, and help you learn what works best for you and each of your babies.
- Again, a great twins nursing pillow is your friend. I personally loved the Twin-Z and My Brest Friend Twin Nursing Pillow.
- Again, don’t stress about tandem nursing right off the bat – it takes time and practice; first, work on each baby’s latch and nursing technique individually, ensuring that each infant is able to maintain the latch and successfully suck and swallow. When you’re sure each baby has this down, and you feel confident and ready, you can begin to think about tandem nursing your duo.
- Though tandem nursing certainly is a time-saver, it may not be your (or their) preferred way of feeding. If tandem nursing doesn’t work well for you, it’s okay to feed them both individually, or even have someone else feed one with a bottle (of pumped milk, or formula—whatever works best for you), while you nurse the other; for the next feeding you can switch, and nurse the baby who received the bottle last time, while that baby gets the bottle at this feeding (and so on, and so forth). There are lots of creative ways to feed your twins, and a lactation consultant who has experience with multiples can absolutely help with this.
- When/if you do begin tandem nursing, it’s helpful to get one baby in position and latched first, and then have your partner (or parent, friend, postpartum doula, nanny, etc.) hand you the other baby. You may even want this person to help position baby in your arms/nursing pillow so you can more easily guide her to latch. As time goes on and you and babies get the hang of tandem nursing, it will get easier to get both babies to your breast by yourself.
- Most of your daily water intake will go towards your milk supply, so…bottom’s up, mama! Drink lots of water each day to keep up your supply and stay hydrated.
- Shirts are optional. No, seriously. At the beginning, when I was nursing my twins seemingly around the clock, I just didn’t wear a shirt (or if I did, I wore a loose fitting one with an easy-to-unhook nursing bra underneath). All modesty went out the window – I got seriously comfortable flashing our “helpers” constantly!
- Make sure you are nursing or pumping approximately 8-12 times within each 24-hour period. If your babies aren’t able to breastfeed right away due to being premature, or for any other reason, pump this same amount to prepare bottles and ensure adequate milk supply.
- If you suspect clogged ducts, mastitis, thrush or experience any other painful breast problems, seek help from your doctor right away. It’s better to take care of these issues sooner rather than later.
- Most importantly: go easy on yourself. If nursing doesn’t go exactly as you planned (or if it doesn’t even go at all…), it’s okay. Fed is best! Just do what works for you and your babies!
There is sooooo much to say about breastfeeding, but I really wanted to focus on the latch in this issue. For more information about how to get started breastfeeding, check out La Leche League. Another wonderful web-based reference is KellyMom.com. Sadly, there aren’t many great books out there on the topic, but a good one is The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. For multiples-specific breastfeeding information, a good book is Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More!
If you desperately need a laugh about the situation, I highly recommend the book Breastfeeding is a Bitch (But, we lovingly do it anyway) by Cassi Clark.
Nursing two (or more) babies is no joke, but you got this Superstar Mama (any Mom of Multiples is allowed to call herself that)! For more specific info on breastfeeding multiples, check out our piece on Breastfeeding Twins.
Oh, won’t you tell a friend? I’d be much obliged.