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Breastfeeding Toddler Twins

Marilee Poulson
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
From: New Beginnings, Vol. 29 No. 5-6, 2009, pp. 14-15

One of my favorite authors, Karen Gromada, is a marvelous strength and a helpful, calming voice for mothers of twins. She reminds us in her book, Mothering Multiples, that nursing multiple babies can be an overwhelming task.* It is time consuming, emotional, potentially scary, and messy. Nevertheless, choosing to breastfeed my babies probably saved my sanity.

Breastfeeding Katrina and Camryn came relatively easily to me right from the start. I didn't have to pump, as so many mothers do. I quickly learned that adapting my schedule to the babies' needs made us much happier. This meant nursing my babies as often as they wanted, for as long as they wanted. I am sure these frequent and long nursing sessions from early on encouraged my body to make enough milk, even for two, with no supplementation with formula.

That is not to say that I did not worry about them getting enough milk. They were so tiny! I think most moms worry about feeding their newborns enough. Frequent weigh-ins at the doctor, along with counting diapers and nursing sessions reassured me they were indeed getting enough.

My two-year-old, Sophie, often felt left out. She presented a much more difficult challenge than both the newborn twins put together! I had nursed Sophie for about ten and a half months, though not exclusively. I was not completely convinced, however, that breastfeeding was best for my children and me until I nursed my twins.

This extract from an essay entitled "It's Not Really about The Milk" by Diane Wiessinger describes my own nursing relationship with Sophie compared to that with Katrina and Camryn.

"You won't ‘get it' at first. At first it's all about technique, and position, and time, and swallowing, and soreness, and feeling as if your whole world has narrowed to Feeding The Baby. Those of us who have enjoyed nursing our children are on the other side of a great emotional gulf from you. We can't explain it, we can only try to help you across the bridge, to where you can see for yourself. If you stay caught up in this as a feeding method, you may never get all the way across the bridge. But oh, the view from the other side!" See http://www.normalfed.com/Why/notreally.html

I don't think I ever really "got it" with Sophie. With the twins, though, I have crossed the bridge.

Nursing my babies over the last year has taught me that the essence of mothering is nurturing. It requires organization, patience, love, and work.

Katrina and Camryn still nurse. I don't know how that happened. I didn't intend to have nursing toddlers when I started out over two years ago. But here we are. People ask me when I plan to wean them. The answer is: we'll stop nursing when it stops working -- either for them or for me. We'll keep at it for a while longer. You can rest easy that they probably won't still be nursing when they go to kindergarten.

When the babies were a year old, they were still nursing as often as they did at eight months: five or so times during the day, plus two or three times at night. They were much easier to nurse at one year, though, than they had been at eight months. They would crawl or walk over to me to nurse. I didn't have to use a big pillow or spend lots of time arranging babies as I needed to do when they were smaller. Nursing was a nice time for me to relax and for them to reconnect with their mommy.

At 12 months, they were not very interested in solid food. They would eat some but mostly just play with it. Since they were getting most of their nutrition from nursing, I didn't have to worry about "forcing" them to eat solid food. When they got sick a few times, I was glad that they could still get so much nutrition and antibody-packed milk from me.

During the first part of the second year, it was a comfort and support for me to be able to attend La Leche League meetings. In our local Chapter, there is a meeting specifically for mothers nursing babies over a year. LLL is an invaluable source of accurate, evidence-based information about breastfeeding, and a wonderful support for mothers facing similar adventures. These truly are mothers who know.

From about 15 to 18 months of age, my babies gradually went from seven or eight nursing sessions a day to four or five. They were sleeping longer at night and during the day they were more interested in playing with their big sister, and with each other, than they were in nursing. They also started eating a lot more solid food.

I went back to work when the babies were 17 months old, by necessity, and they went down to three nursing sessions per day: once before I left for work, once when I got home from work, then once just before bed. I considered pumping while I was at work, but, in the end, I decided not to. I did get some fullness at first; however, my body was so used to making milk on demand that it was no problem to nurse them less often during the week and more often at the weekend.

Then, when they were about 20 months old, I began to work a four-day week, and had to leave for work before my babies woke up, thus taking the nursing sessions down to two per day during the week: once when I got home and once just before bed.

Currently, my toddlers nurse twice a day on the four days that I work, and between three and five times per day on the days I don't work. Some days they don't nurse at all. Some days they nurse more.

For some reason, before I had children, I thought that if they could ask to nurse then they were too old. I'm not sure why I had that idea. In fact, it is really good for my babies to be able to tell me when they want to nurse. They use sign language or say the word "nursing." Toddlers can be reasoned with, so I can explain to them that we will nurse later if it's not a convenient time for me. We very rarely nurse outside of our house, now. I can cut nursing sessions short if I'm in a hurry and tempt them with something else (toys, food, TV). Of course, this doesn't work all the time. They sometimes resist and cry when I try to put them off -- normal toddler behavior when being told they can't do something that they want to do.

I know nursing for two years and beyond is not for every mother and child. But it is working for our little threesome!

 

*Gromada K. K. Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More. Third revised edition, Schaumburg, IL: La Leche League International, 2007.

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