Baby, baby, baby...
Is it possible to effectively breastfeed twins or triplets? Yes! And, it's worth the effort. Breast milk delivers the nutrients and antibodies babies need in an easy-to-digest form. Breastfed babies tend to have lower risks of respiratory tract, gastrointestinal and ear infections. Plus, they experience less frequent health problems such as eczema, diabetes, obesity and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. Breastfeeding also provides advantages for new moms, including valuable bonding time with the baby and a weight-loss boost. The price also is right!
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. Continue breastfeeding as you slowly introduce solid foods. Ideally, moms breastfeed until babies are at least 12 months.
Nursing multiples is demanding. Healthy moms who are breastfeeding exclusively need about 500 extra calories per baby per day during the first six months following pregnancy and then it lessens to 400 more calories during the second six months. And, you need to drink more, too. To achieve this higher-calorie goal, eat a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, fat-free or low-fat dairy and whole grains. Also include foods rich in iron, calcium, vitamin D and folate.
For optimal brain development, breastfeeding mothers should get adequate omega-3 fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. Choose fatty fish that are lower in mercury, like salmon or sardines, twice a week or talk with your health care provider if an omega-3 supplement might be right for you. (More “Advice About Eating Fish” is available for breastfeeding mothers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.)
How does breastfeeding work when there are two or three bundles of joy? Tips for breastfeeding moms of multiples:
- Find a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant can help instill confidence and answer concerns along the way.
- Get the first and second babies on the same schedule. Try pumping some breast milk in advance and feeding one child expressed breast milk from a bottle while you nurse the other two.
- Accept help from a partner. Your significant other can take over the role of changing diapers, soothing and playing with the babies. This allows mom time to rest and focus on feeding her children.
Notes on Nursing Premature Multiples
It's not uncommon for multiples to arrive a little early. Premature babies may have digestion issues and breast milk is easier on their tiny tummies. But, preemies often have trouble latching on and sucking properly. If your babies struggle to breastfeed, pump to keep mom's milk flowing. Then, when the babies are older, they may be able to breastfeed directly.
Premature babies may not be ready for solid foods as soon as full-term babies. Work with your healthcare providers to identify feeding cues that will move the child forward. In the toddler stage, children born prematurely may experience developmental delays. This may make mealtime a challenge. Practice patience and repetition.
Whether you're feeding one, two, three or more babies, never underestimate the power of a team. To give your babies the best start in life – it “takes a village” to feed multiples!