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Can I breastfeed two or three babies? Does a mother of multiples have the time and energy for breastfeeding? In this section, we will see how multiple babies of different ages can be breastfed.

video: Can you breastfeed twins?

Many mothers manage full or partial breastfeeding just fine. Breastfeeding multiple babies is possible with the help and support of the spouse, relatives or friends, health care professionals and peers. Help with household work and encouragement from family and/or friends promote the mother’s ability to focus on breastfeeding multiple babies. Mothers often feel that they need more practical help, support from their loved ones, information and encouragement. Do not hesitate to ask for guidance and advice while you are still in hospital.

A considerable percentage of mothers don’t breastfeed in the way they would like to. However, babies need their mother more than they need their mother’s milk. A decision to discontinue unsuccessful breastfeeding attempts can also provide you with more resources to cope with the often hectic daily life with multiple babies.

video: First breastfeeding guided by midwife

Breastfeeding positions, aids and variations

Mothers breastfeed their babies one or two at a time. When the mother is still learning to breastfeed her babies, she often feeds one baby at a time. When they are comfortable with breastfeeding, some mothers start feeding two babies at a time. Different breastfeeding positions for twins can be found on the internet in the Hyvä alku monikkovanhemmuuteen – Ammattihenkilöstön opas monikkoperhevalmennukseen guide (available in Finnish only).

video: How to breastfeed twins?

It is recommended that mothers familiarise themselves with breastfeeding aids. Twin breastfeeding pillows and electric breast pumps have proven particularly useful.

Families will become familiar with a number of different variations: continuous full breastfeeding, partial breastfeeding, a combination of the two, and occasional or continuous pumping of breastmilk. According to mothers of triplets, they seldom succeed with full breastfeeding but it is not completely impossible.

video: Breastfeeding help for multiples

Support from professionals

According to the doctoral thesis by Kristiina Heinonen (2013), mothers of twins wished that they had received more information and guidance on breastfeeding in the maternity ward and at the child health clinic after the babies were discharged from hospital. Many mothers felt that they had not received adequate instructions for breastfeeding. This complicated their ability to cope at home and increased their stress. However, these mothers had expressed their wish to be able to breastfeed. They felt that the breastfeeding question was not taken seriously at the child health clinic, even though it was important for the mothers. Multiple mothers are also very motivated to breastfeed small premature babies.

According to Heinonen, the lack of breastfeeding instructions may actually be the child health clinic staff’s attempt to reduce mothers’ feelings of stress. The parents, however, felt that a matter that was important to them was being ignored. Therefore, it is important that the parents clearly express their wishes concerning breastfeeding.

Open discussion and the expression of different perspectives are important in order to reach mutual understanding and avoid misunderstandings. Then the parents would also have the opportunity to receive the individual support they need in their situation.

Challenges of breastfeeding

Successful breastfeeding is a challenge, particularly if the babies were born prematurely or/and are ill. Daily life is often hectic. The mother may have to admit that it is not possible to continue breastfeeding. Mothers may feel excessive guilt and stress related to giving up on breastfeeding. Therefore, it is advisable to talk about the feelings evoked by the discontinuation of breastfeeding. The parents should keep in mind that stopping breastfeeding does not prevent the development of good parent–child interaction.

Differences between babies

Keep in mind that babies are different individuals. Breastfeeding may be easier or harder depending on the baby. The mother may experience feelings of inadequacy if she feels that she cannot respond to the needs of two or three babies similarly or simultaneously. Knowing that there are natural differences between babies in this respect may help the mother feel better.

For mothers, breastfeeding can give a feeling of closeness to the baby. They may also feel that breastfeeding one baby at a time is practically the only opportunity they have to focus on each baby as an individual. If breastfeeding does not work for one reason or another, bottle feeding can involve very similar feelings of closeness and individual encounters with the baby.

Questions and assignments:

What do you think about breastfeeding?

How would you like your breastfeeding to be? / How can I help my spouse to succeed with breastfeeding?

Who can you ask for support with breastfeeding – the child health clinic, your spouse, a breastfeeding support person? What kind of help and support or encouragement would you like to receive for breastfeeding?

What would be a good place for breastfeeding twins or triplets in your home?

If there are older siblings in the family, consider in advance how they can be kept occupied while the babies are being breastfed. Depending on their age, you can tell your older children that breastfeeding takes some time. Let them be with you while you are feeding, if possible. If possible, show the siblings photos of them being breastfed as babies.

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