You are pregnant and it has now been confirmed you are carrying twins. Your reaction… Worried? Surprised? Overwhelmed? How will you cope with two babies at the same time, when even one can be a huge challenge?
You may be apprehensive or concerned about birthing twins or about possible complications during the pregnancy. The next anxiety might be breastfeeding. Many mothers find that feeding one baby to be a challenge. But nursing two babies – how is that possible? Rest assured that Mother Nature has that covered as well, and the female breasts are more than capable of achieving this. So whether a mum has one baby, two, or even triplets, her breasts will respond and provide sufficient milk for any of these scenarios.
A mother’s breast works on the simple demand-and-supply basis. The more milk demanded, the more the milk ducts produce. As soon as a mother begins to nurse, production kicks in, and as the baby sucks, the breast is filled up as well. Of course, all of this depends on the individual mother and how much time she can devote to feeding her babies and enjoying these precious moments.
Science and copious research tell us that breastmilk is the best foundation for life – not just for survival, but for the benefit of a human’s entire life cycle. It provides optimal nutrition in a baby’s first six months of life and then some: protection against various types of cancer (not only for baby but also for the mother), obesity, diabetes and many other health problems. It is linked with a positive effect on the IQ and the optimal development of the jaw and hearing. It also promotes mother-child bonding and leads to greater self-confidence and feelings of security. Recent brain imaging science reveals that a breastfeeding mother and her baby are linked by simultaneous brain messages.
In La Leche League we share and pass on years of mothers’ experiences in how to cope and start to breastfeed. At a group meeting one mother said, “I felt overwhelmed at first…how to juggle two restless babies: getting them both latched on simultaneously was practically impossible. Over time I found it took a while longer but was easier to breastfeed them separately.” Another said, “For me it was the bonding. I could do it best with one baby at a time.” Do talk to your midwife and find out what her views are on nursing and whether she is supportive of breastfeeding. Personal birth attendants or doulas could also give you much-needed support and confidence in the early days of motherhood. And try to organize a support team to help you after the birth with household matters and cleaning, if you can. One LLL leader was able to breastfeed exclusively for six months, with absolutely no supplements of any kind, but she had wonderful household help. After struggling with feeding her twins together, she switched to one at a time. The other baby was placed happily in a swing, which gave it comforting gentle movement and a feeling of security.
Teens as Mothers
Often teenage mothers are technically very savvy, yet lack the hands-on knowledge to even contemplate breastfeeding. Teenagers can be overwhelmed by an unexpected or unwanted or even forced pregnancy. They may be unprepared or even unaware of their pregnancy, and the thought of breastfeeding could be overwhelming. Yet they and their babies will greatly benefit from the gifts that breastfeeding gives throughout the whole life cycle. Because they have not reached complete maturity and are still developing themselves, teen mothers need more nutrition, care and support. In many countries, breastfeeding is part of the school curriculum, with breastfeeding mothers coming into the classrooms to give hands-on practical advice – something that is highly helpful for teens.
Breastfeeding can be part of the whole life cycle, whether for a baby, teen, mother, or even for a grandmother supporting her daughter or other family members during this time. All over the world, nursing mums can find loving support, knowledge and encouragement from La Leche League leaders and in group meetings with other mothers.
By Joanna Koch
Joanna has been a La Leche League advisor since the early 1990s. A mother from one of her groups launched the idea of Mothering Matters (now Family Matters) in 1994 which has now developed into a successful online website, helping mothers, fathers and families over many years. Joanna has three children and eight wonderful and loving (and breastfed) grandchildren.
Illustration by Albina Nogueira
Albina Nogueira has been a primary school teacher since 1992, and a writer and illustrator since 2006. She currently lives in Switzerland and teaches Portuguese. She is also the author of Letters to Grandparents and Hairdresser. To find out more visit: http://albinanogueira.blogspot.ch/ or see her books on Amazon.