Along with sleeping, the act of feeding is what will take up the vast majority of your newborn babies' lives for the first 3 months or so…and yours for that matter. There are two options you have in terms of feeding your babies: breastfeeding or formula feeding.
How you are going to feed your twins may be one of the big questions that cannot be answered until they actually enter the world; you may plan to formula feed your babies but once they are born you may find you are a natural at breastfeeding and do so for the next 12 months and beyond, you may plan to breastfeed but find that, for whatever reason, it is not the path you take, or you may have to do a combination of the two.
Regardless of what happens, as long as your babies are fed, cuddled, kissed and loved, then you have given them the best start in life.
This will be a broad overview of feeding twins; ask your doctor or medical practitioner for more detailed or in depth advice.
Breastfeeding is one of the many marvels that you may experience post-pregnancy. It is possible to breast feed twins; heck it is possible to breast feed quadruplets, but it does take time, patience, support and organisation. And just to answer a few of those "I want to know but don't want to ask" questions going around your head: no, it doesn't hurt more feeding twins than a singleton; no, you won't have milk leaking everywhere; yes, you may feel slightly like a milking station for awhile.
You know your babies and your capabilities and your beliefs and your own opinions; do what is right for you and your family.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association discusses the importance of understanding how breastfeeding feeds works in order for you to believe that you can do it.
Breastfeeding works on a supply=demand process; the more your babies feed, the more milk your body knows how to make.
If you have twins, the double stimulation of them both sucking at your breast teaches your body how much milk to produce for your babies. When a baby sucks at the breast, or the mother uses a breast pump, two hormones are released which are vital to the breastfeeding process: prolactin; which stimulates milk production, and oxytocin, which releases the milk from the breast.
Working in unison with each other allows quality milk to flow to your babies via a "let down" or "milk ejection reflex" the mechanism by which the milk is made available to the babies (Australian Breastfeeding Association).
You can choose to breastfeed your babies at the same time or individually; whichever works for you. Individually-fed twins then can be held in the same way a singleton baby is held whilst being fed, that is, lying across Mum's body with Mum supporting baby's head.
If you choose to feed your twins at the same time there are different holds you can adopt such as the "football hold" where the twins are held to each breast lying under Mum's arms (much like a football - only don't run at heavily padded men with mouthguards whilst doing this), or the "diagonal hold", where the twins are held to each breast with their bodies running parallel to each others on a diagonal across Mum's body.
The football hold is commonly taught to Mum's who have delivered their twins via Caesarean section as it keeps their bodies away from the incision site. Either way, experts recommend using a twin feeding pillow (available in baby stores) or pillows or rolled up blankets (available in your own home) to give added support to your babies' heads during simultaneous feeding. The nurses in the hospital, or your midwife or doctor, will be able to give you more information (maybe even some pictures to get the complete idea) of these holds, to give you the maximum chance at successful feeding.
Regardless of if you are breastfeeding simultaneously or individually, correct attachment is the most important element to learn, as poor attachment not only leads to sore and cracked nipples (ouch!) but your babies will not be feeding to the best of their ability and consequently will not settle easy, will not sleep well and will just be all round cranky pants'.
To combat this, the Australian Breastfeeding Association say that "feeding your babies one at a time in the early days will give you a chance to concentrate on one baby and one breast and to learn the signs of correct attachment. This will make it easier for you when you start feeding them together."
For further information on correct attachment or breastfeeding twins, see the Australian Breastfeeding Association website.
If you are formula feeding your babies, you must ensure that you follow the instructions on the side of the formula tin; too much formula added can upset newborn tummies and too little will mean the babies are not getting the required amount of nutrition.
Babies that are formula-fed receive adequate nutrition and grow, develop and learn as readily as babies that are breast-fed. Formula companies themselves acknowledge that breastfeeding is the best choice for babies, however babies on formula thrive just as much. In a room of 100 adults, would you be able to tell who was breastfed and who was formula fed?
In the way of equipment you will need: infant formula, bottles, teats and sterilising equipment as all the gear must be sterilised after every use; you can use a microwaveable steriliser, the boiling method, a steam steriliser or the Milton method - see the side of a Milton's bottle available at your supermarket. You can use any brand of bottle you wish as long as you ensure that you use a newborn teat as the flow is slower and lighter than other teats.
Babies that are formula-fed will generally feed as regularly as breast-fed babies however as they get older their time between feeds may be stretched longer as the formula can fill babies up; especially in the later stages of the day when a Mum's breast milk is more diluted - which is natural.
There are formulas available that are thickened and some companies make specialist night time formulas exactly for this purpose - to fill the babies up and help them sleep longer. There are also specialist premature infant formulas but only use these if you have been prescribed them by your doctor or paediatrician.
Always discard any unused formula, always wash your hands before making the bottles up and always follow the instructions on the tin. A helpful hint for Mums (and Dads) of twins is to make up a days worth of formula, say a litre, and store it in the fridge; this way you are not making individual bottles on demand.
A combination approach
Some parents of twins will employ a combination of breastfeeding and formula feeding to sustain their twins. An example of this could be; Mum going back to work and Dad staying at home with the babies.
Mum may breastfeed the babies in the morning before work and then Dad bottle feed with either expressed breast milk (see the Australian Breastfeeding Association website for more details) or formula during the day and Mum feed upon returning home and during the night OR Mum may breastfeed during the day and then Dad formula feed over night to allow Mum to get a good nights sleep!
Expressing breast milk, if possible, would be the better option in these circumstances but expressing takes time so if it is not viable, you can use a combination approach.
For more information about breast feeding or formula feeding, talk to your GP or paediatrician. Just remember: lots of people out there have opinions about how babies should be fed and will share their thoughts, whether they are positive or negative, with you. But you know your babies and your capabilities and your beliefs and your own opinions; do what is right for you and your family.
Vicki Morris is an author, a teacher and self-taught mother of identical twins Zake and Kaeleb. Her book Double or Nothing! A Guide to Twin Pregnancy is due for release next year. Discuss twins & multiples in the Essential Baby forum.