Lining up support
You might not think of support as something to plan for in advance, but with multiples, calling in the reinforcements early is a necessity. Help can take many forms. If relatives or friends volunteer to pitch in, don't hesitate to accept. If you can afford it, hiring a postpartum doula or night nurse for the grueling first few weeks can make all the difference. Or have your mother and mother-in-law take turns helping out. Consider connecting with a support group. The National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC, nomotc.org) has almost 500 clubs across the nation and provides resources for parents of twins, triplets, and beyond. Many have special groups for brand-new parents, and some will even recruit members to bring dinner or babysit in teams of two. Don't wait until the third trimester to start lining up the reinforcements. Almost 60 percent of twins are born early, so you'll want friends, family, or paid help to be on alert a month or two before your due date, just in case. It's also helpful to read up on caring for preterm infants.
Many mothers of multiples wind up striking a happy medium, nursing as much as they can while also supplementing -- with pumped breast milk, formula, or both. Whatever combination you choose, keep a notebook and jot down who eats what when so you can make sure each baby is getting enough.
Try to get the twins as close to the same schedule as possible by feeding both when one is hungry. "It's more time-efficient and helps increase milk production," says Joan Y. Meek, M.D., director of the pediatric residency training program at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children & Women in Orlando, FL, and editor of the American Academy of Pediatrics' New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding. This works better if your babies are similar in size; if one is much smaller than the other, she may need to eat more frequently than her larger sibling.
Try nursing both twins at once right away because it helps bring the milk in, but don't get discouraged if it doesn't work immediately. Some moms swear by the "cross-cradle" position, in which the babies rest on a pillow with their legs intertwined, while others do better with a "double football," in which each baby gets tucked beneath an arm. Alternate the side that each baby feeds on, as one baby may have a stronger suck and you want both breasts to receive the same stimulation, advises Marianne Neifert, M.D., the author of Dr. Mom's Guide to Breastfeeding. A twin nursing pillow, like the EZ-2-Nurse Twins Inflatable Nursing Pillow, is pretty much essential. Nurse higher-order multiples one at a time to help you avoid the pitfall of bonding with them as a unit rather than as individuals.
You may want to breastfeed exclusively for a few weeks to establish the habit before beginning with supplemental bottles. Have Dad or Grandma introduce the bottle, as many babies will reject it if they know the breast is close at hand. This may persist, even when you are consistently bottle-feeding, so you might want to continue having Dad offer a bottle in another room (making sure to trade off so each baby gets a fair share of breast milk). An excellent book for mothers of two or more is Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding & Caring for Twins or More! by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada ($15; available at lalecheleague.org).