Breastfeeding and Pumping for Twins

I’ll never forget the day that we went in for our first ultrasound with our second pregnancy. My husband happened to be in town and came with me. We’d been through two miscarriages since the birth of our daughter, and I was nervous about whether the baby was OK. I knew something was happening when I watched our midwife tear up and start pointing at the screen saying “look at how many!” We were having twins!

I was fortunate with my pregnancy – we made it to 38 weeks and I got my dream of a VBAC. Both of our boys stayed in my hospital room and came home right away, it was such a different experience than with our daughter. I knew I wanted to nurse again, but found that the path to success in exclusively nursing and pumping for twins was a bumpy one. I did find some tricks along the way, though, that helped me have peace of mind while back at work, and helped me learn a lot about my body and what it was capable of.

The first was around tandem nursing. It took me a week or so, but I realized that tandem nursing was only going to work for us when the boys were strong enough. I wanted so badly to tandem nurse right away, but between latching problems and a lazy nurser (I’m looking at you Graham), it just wasn’t working. So we became an assembly line whenever I had help – I’d nurse one baby and someone would hold the other. We’d switch back and forth until both were asleep, or at least had full bellies. It wasn’t always pretty, but we stuck to it and it got us through those first few months. At night I followed the same routine, but solo. I’d just nurse one baby and then the other, keeping the babies in the middle of the bed and “plank-style” switching sides throughout the night. My husband and our daughter slept in the guest bedroom when he was in town so that the boys and I had enough space.

The second lesson I learned was about pumping enough milk. I had struggled to make enough milk for my daughter, and had initially stuck to a pumping schedule like what you typically hear – 20 mins should be plenty. Well, for me, that was 100% untrue, and I figured it out with my boys. My letdowns are 10 minutes, yes you heard me, 10 minutes apart. Nursing or pumping they are still the same timing. So I found I needed to pump for 40 minutes, or 4 letdowns, to get enough milk. And I needed to pump quite a few times during the day to keep up with their needs – on the way to work, before lunch, after lunch, and on the way home. I had blinds installed in my office and I dialed in to meetings when they overlapped with my pumping schedule. I normalized it and my team was amazing and supported me.

The third, and probably most painful, lesson I learned was that nursing twins can go hand in hand with mastitis if you’re not careful, especially when balancing pumping and nursing. But I learned some tricks to keep it at bay. I massaged my breasts while I was nursing the boys and while pumping to keep all of my ducts open, I used coconut oil every single time I pumped to help with the movement of the breast in releasing milk, I changed positions with the boys to make sure that they were helping me empty my breasts, and I made sure that I switched the boys regularly between sides. I also ate raw garlic cloves whenever I felt like I had a clogged duct or some sensitivity and bumped up my water consumption. It didn’t taste very good, but it worked like a charm!

My boys are now a year and a half and recently self-weaned. We survived through the teething, kicking each other while nursing, pinching, pulling off the breast mid-letdown to grab the other brother’s face, and the incredible moments where they were both asleep in my arms in the chair where we nursed at bedtime. I’m here to say it can be done. It’s not always pretty or easy, but it’s possible, and with a good sense of humor, a lot of patience, and a large supply of unrefined coconut oil you’ll miss it when it’s gone.

Mandy Long

A Chicago native and mother of three, Mandy has spent her career in healthcare technology. Her most recent position was as the Vice President of Product Management at Modernizing Medicine. Prior to joining Modernizing Medicine in 2014, she was Vice President of Product Management for Experian Health (previously Passport Health Communications). Prior to Passport Health, Mandy held a number of senior leadership positions at Epic, including Application Success Owner, Install Process Owner, and Senior Project Manager. She was recognized as one of the Most Powerful Women in Health IT and received a 40 Under 40 award.