Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How We Roll with Twins: Feeding

When I found out I was having twins, I desperately wished someone would tell me exactly how they handled having two babies at once.  I would walk up to total strangers if they had kids who looked to be the same age and upon confirming that they had in fact survived baby-dom with twins, I hit them with a barrage of questions that could put even the longest tax form to shame.
Me, looking for all the answers.

With the exception of a few wonderful friends (both old and new), I mostly received vague bits of wisdom in answer to all my queries.

“You’ll be fine; it’s exactly like having one baby except there are two.”

“It gets so much easier once they are older.”

And my personal favorite:

“We found a night nurse to be invaluable.” [Chris’ comment on that?  “Umm, isn’t that what you’ll be doing?”]

Of course, now that I’ve been through the first few months of motherhood with twins, I realize it is not just possible, but quite likely, that we mothers of twins forget exactly what it’s like at the beginning.  So for anyone who is interested or is expecting twins and desperately needs to know, here is how we fed our twin boys.  Exactly.


Before I had the boys, I always pictures myself nursing them.  I breastfed both of my girls exclusively for the first 9 or 10 months and loved it.  I loved the bonding time, and more than that I loved not needing to worry about cleaning/heating bottles or measuring formula in the middle of the night.  I was hopeful that I would find a way to nurse both boys at the same time, as I knew the time it would take to nurse them separately would border on impossible.

Once I actually had the twins in my arms, it became apparent that I would need to nurse each baby separately, at least to start with.  Ryan seemed to take to nursing pretty quickly, but Joel had a very difficult time latching.  By the end of our hospital stay, I had gotten both boys to latch at the same time exactly once, and that was with the help of 6 pillows, two blankets, and a lactation consultant.

When we came home from the hospital, I diligently tried to nurse each baby every three hours.  After 24 hours home, neither baby had had a wet or dirty diaper, but both appeared to have a healthy set of lungs which they used simultaneously to alert us of their displeasure.  We ended up giving each boy one of those ready made 2 oz formula samples, which they sucked down like they hadn’t had a proper meal in days (perhaps they hadn’t).

After several visits with a lactation specialist, a lot of frustration and an enormous amount of shame and guilt, I stopped my failed attempts at nursing.  This was not an easy thing for me to do, and it didn’t help that the ‘literature’ the hospital sent us home with bordered on propaganda with its formula and bottle shaming.  In the end, I threw out every piece of paper that made me feel like a contender for worst parent in the world if I couldn’t breastfeed exclusively, and kept the few pages which offered practical information on storing pumped breastmilk and how many ounces a day a newborn should be eating.  I decided that what was best for my babies was whatever kept my family the most sane, which for us, was bottle-feeding.

**I should note that I know several mothers of twins who successfully breastfed, which is spectacular!  But this is not the right place to come for information on how that works.


The trickiest part about bottle-feeding was figuring out how to feed both boys at once.  Following the most oft given advice on twins: feed one, feed both, sleep one, sleep both, we wanted to make sure the boys ate at the same time.  For the first few weeks, Chris and I were both present at every feeding, each feeding one boy.

But alas, Chris couldn’t stay home from work forever.  And even if he could have, both of us getting up at night for every feeding was taking its toll.  We found that the easiest way for one of us to feed both boys was to sit on the floor (or bed or couch) and lay the boys on their backs on either side of us.  We always put their heads on burp cloths in case one or both babies forgot how to swallow mid bottle and was secretly just drooling all the milk down the side of his face.  I won’t name any names.  Joel.

An early technique.
It’s not a perfect system: the boys are pretty much flat on their backs but for the minor incline caused by my rear end sinking further into the mattress than theirs.  I’m not sure what the effects of flat-on-your-back-eating are, but it’s something we are willing to risk.  It’s worth it to preserve the schedule.

Yup, I just said schedule.  I know a lot of moms prefer to feed their babies on demand.  That’s wonderful.  Your babies are eating!  I also know a lot of moms prefer to feed on a schedule.  That’s wonderful.  Your babies are eating!

For me, putting the boys on a four hour feeding schedule was the key to my sanity.  Because the girls have school and extra curriculars that we need to work around, I decided to nudge the boys toward a 7, 11, 3, 7 feeding schedule.  The times are not set in stone, but on a typical day, the boys eat within a half hour of those times.  They have been on this schedule since they were about 5 weeks old.

And I love the predictability.  Love.  It.  I love knowing exactly when I will need to have bottles ready, and when I will need to find a place to feed the boys.  Because it is rather difficult to feed them both at the same time when we are out of the house, I usually plan to be home during those times or with a friend who can feed one baby. 

The schedule also ensures that the boys are not hungry and desperate for a bottle during a time when I can’t feed them (i.e. if I’m walking Allie to/from school or getting Coco on or off the bus).

Finally, I’ve found that for us, the 4 hour feeding schedule works really well with the boys’ naps.  More on sleep later.

Currently, Ryan and Joel are almost 4 months old, and they take about 6 ounces per feeding during the day, plus a 4 ounce bottle at night.  Depending on when they wake at night, I sometimes split their morning feeding in order to preserve the 7, 11, 3, 7 schedule.  For instance, if they wake at 5 am, they might have 4 oz then, and another 4 oz closer to 8 so that they’ll be okay until 11 am.


Let’s not sugar coat this.  Pumping sucks.  Ha!  In more ways than one.  It evilly combines all the disadvantages of bottle feeding without any of the advantages of breastfeeding.  [Obviously with one exception: your baby is getting breastmilk, which is amazing!]

When you are pumping, you still have to deal with washing and heating bottles, and you also have to deal with finding a discreet place when you are out in public.  Not only do you have to find the time to feed your baby, you have to find the time to pump.  Which means waking up in the morning before the baby does, using baby’s nap times for pumping instead of sleeping or getting things done, and can still result in being hooked up to a pump whilst your baby, or in my case babies, scream in their cribs.

I pumped for three months with the boys and was able to provide breastmilk for about half of their diet.  So I just chose my favorite boy and gave it all to him.  Kidding, kidding!  They each got breastmilk about every other bottle.

It was wonderful providing the benefits of breastmilk to the boys, and it was worth it to give up every moment of potential free time to do it…until it wasn’t.  I gave up pumping because I wanted to sleep until the babies woke up in the morning.  I wanted to be able to watch a show at night with Chris without the ‘psh psh psh psh’ of the pump as background noise.  I wanted to take the kids to the zoo all day without worrying about finding a place to pump.  I wanted to spend more time playing with the boys.  I wanted to have time to sit around and drink coke and read.  I mean, exercise.  The disadvantages of pumping began to outweigh the benefits of feeding the boys breastmilk, and for me, it was time to stop.

Bottom line?  If you are happy pumping, that’s awesome, keep going!  Your baby is eating!  If you are not happy pumping and you want to give your baby formula, that’s awesome.  Your baby is eating!

This blog post is entirely too long—get to the point.

In short, my advice on feeding twins is this:
 1.  Feed them at the same time.
 2.  Use a 4 hour feeding schedule.  (A lot of twins start their lives in the NICU and are on a 4 hour feeding schedule from birth anyway!)
3.   I’m not going to lie.  That night nurse would have been nice.

These boys are fed formula on a schedule.  Do you see how they suffer!?!


  1. haha! i'm with you on all of the bottom lines :)

    1. Yes! Thank you for filling me in on the wonders of the 4 hour feeding schedule. :)