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Sleepy Twin

Mary Zink
Lancaster, PA, USA
From: New Beginnings, Vol. 29 No. 5-6, 2009, pp. 12-13

The ultrasound tech leaned over and asked, "How many babies are you having, dear?" I am sure my eyes were wide with shock as I replied, "You tell me!" She smiled and said, "Congratulations, you are having twins!" After the initial shock wore off, I giggled through the whole appointment, marveling at the two little lives inside me. As I left, I knew only two things for sure: my life was going to change totally, and I wanted to nurse my twins. I called my husband, who was living half the country away, and gave him the big news. He giggled, too, and then we spent a week planning our new lives.

When I was eight months pregnant I quit my job and moved with my two children to be with my husband. I found the local La Leche League Group and attended the September meeting, two weeks before I was scheduled to have a cesarean section. I was pretty confident that I could nurse my twins, since I had already nursed my first two children for over a year each, but I thought that I could use some support in my new home.

I delivered two healthy babies at 38 weeks, both weighing over six pounds. I had wanted to nurse right after delivery in the recovery room, but a hospital policy and lack of private space kept my babies and me apart for about four hours following their births. Still, I was not worried. I was an expert, right?

Well, it was not so easy this time. Annika, who was the elder by one minute, latched on right away and learned to nurse well within a day or two. Nursing Freya was another matter altogether. She could not latch on, and her tiny mouth did not fit my seemingly gigantic nipple. Plus, she was so sleepy that when she did latch on, she just fell asleep within two or three minutes. She was losing weight quickly.

The nurses suggested giving her some formula. I asked for a breast pump, and kept asking every person I saw until I got one the next day. I started pumping after every nursing and used a syringe to feed the babies whatever milk I managed to get out. I saw the lactation consultants at the hospital, but it was one of my nurses who finally helped me get Freya to latch on properly on the third day after her birth. She was still so sleepy, though, and was continuing to lose weight. The nurses had stopped suggesting formula, though, now that I was pumping and syringe feeding her regularly.

We all went home four days after they were born. Annika was nursing like a champ. I recorded the times of every feeding and diaper change for both babies. The next day was our first trip to the pediatrician. She asked me to continue writing everything down for Freya, since she was still losing weight and had now lost more than ten percent of her birth weight. I needed to nurse her every two hours around the clock, pump and syringe feed her, and then bring her back in two days for another weight check.

I began to wonder whether my painkillers were causing her sleepiness, so that day I switched to just a mild analgesic to see what would happen. The next day, Freya woke up. She latched on and nursed with vigor for the very first time. I knew in my heart that we had turned the corner! It took a month, but, with the support of my in-laws, pediatrician, and especially my husband, Jeff, Freya started to gain well and we never looked back.

Annika and Freya are now a year old. In the past 12 months, I have learned a lot about myself as a mother and about nursing.


Sleepy Newborn. Information sheet LLLGB No. 2702, 2008. Available from

Consejos para despertar al recien nacido soñoliento (Tips for Rousing a Sleepy Newborn) LLLI, 2009. Available from

Tips for Breastfeeding Twins. Information sheet LLLI 2009. Available from

If you are facing the challenge of nursing twins, here are my tips.

  1. Nurse each twin separately until they learn how to latch on well and get into the groove of nursing. Then, to save time, try to nurse them together. I used a foam nursing pillow designed for twin-nursing, and it was a big help.
  2. If your babies are cranky try nursing first. You will feel like a non-stop milk machine but, with two babies to feed, you will be spending a lot of time nursing. Accept this and nurse often, on demand. Your reward will be healthy, chubby babies, and an abundant milk supply.
  3. Do whatever you can to maximize your amount of sleep. The first two weeks I just stayed in bed with my babies. I got an Arm's Reach co-sleeper, and put both babies in it. Whenever I could, I took a nap, that often meant twice a day.
  4. Hold off with offering a pacifier or bottle. I waited until the twins were three months old. Because they were satisfying all their sucking needs at the breast, I built up a good milk supply and always had enough for two babies. Never forget that supply and demand are intricately linked when you are nursing.
  5. In my experience, nursing twins more than doubles your anxiety. The major barrier to success with nursing any baby is a lack of confidence. Throw away all the formula samples you receive.
  6. Get support. For me, that meant going to an LLL meeting every month, no matter what. There I met new friends in my new city, got all the support and advice I needed, and felt normal at least once a month. That was (and still is) so important! Thank you Red Rose LLL!
  7. Make sure your pediatrician will support you. If s/he suggests formula, resist and find another doctor with more experience of breastfeeding management.
  8. Some say to switch sides with the twins after each nursing, some say each day, and some say to assign a breast to each twin. For me, it worked best to assign one breast to each twin per day and switch each night. This way I didn't get lopsided or have milk supply issues when Freya was sleepy and not really sucking well. I used a ring that I switched from hand to hand to remember who got which side.
  9. Stay away from naysayers and doubters. If people say you can't possibly do it, get away from them. If you can't avoid them, give them the phone numbers of your LLL Leader (ask first) and of your pediatrician. Let these two key supporters fight that battle for you while you focus on your adorable babies. If they continue to try to undermine you, let them know that the subject of feeding your babies is closed for discussion. Perhaps your best friend or significant other can have this conversation with them.
  10. When you think you can't do it, take a nap or get away for a little bit, then try again. Never give up on your goal!
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