Breastfeeding twins and managing the challenges
Breastfeeding your babies helps provide them with a great start in life as it is the best way to help them meet their nutritional needs. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months of your baby’s life, potentially longer if your twins were born prematurely. This is because premature babies may experience slight delays in developing the skills they require to start on solids.
It is encouraged to continue breastfeeding beyond 6 months alongside solids to help meet your babies’ growing needs. Read more about introducing solids to your baby.
Many new mothers do not know that breastfeeding requires more calories than your first trimester of pregnancy! Producing milk and breastfeeding a single baby requires an additional 2,000-2,100 kilojoules (kJ) or 500 calories per day, which is the equivalent of adding 1 cup of full cream milk, a banana, and a piece of wholegrain toast spread with 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter to your regular daily food intake. Unfortunately, there is currently no agreed target for energy intake levels while breastfeeding twins.
Breastfeeding triggers an increased demand in your body for certain vitamins and minerals, including iodine. A woman’s requirement for iodine increases from 220 micrograms (mcg) per day during pregnancy to 270 mcg per day while breastfeeding.
Continuing to take your pregnancy nutrition supplement while breastfeeding will help you to meet this increased requirement for iodine. You can also include breads made with iodised salt, and fish and seafood, to help you meet your new daily iodine needs.
Other vitamins and minerals you may need more of whilst breastfeeding include vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin B12 and folate.
Dietitians recommend eating an additional two portions of vegetables each day to hit your new goal of seven daily servings of vegetables while you are breastfeeding. Additionally, incorporate wholegrains such as oats, brown rice, wholegrain bread, pasta, rice and wholegrain crispbreads into every meal and some of your snacks, to ensure you reach your new daily target of nine servings of cereals daily whilst breastfeeding.
Find out what a portion of each of these food groups looks like and how many portions you need to consume each day while breastfeeding.
High protein foods such as lean meat, chicken, fish, seafood and eggs can also help you to reach your additional needs for vitamin B12. If you follow a vegan diet, ensure you take a B12 supplement whilst breastfeeding. You should also speak to your healthcare professional for specific recommendations.
If you are unable to breastfeed or choose not to breastfeed, these nutritional demands and recommendations may not apply to you. Seek advice from your healthcare professional should you have any concerns about your nutritional requirements after delivering your babies.
It seems obvious that breastfeeding comes with the need for even more fluids each day to help support breastmilk production. Many breastfeeding women experience a huge increase in thirst whilst breastfeeding.
The recommended total fluid target for breastfeeding women is around 3.5 litres per day. However, this may vary for you depending on how much breastmilk you are producing each day (which can be tricky to measure!).
You should aim to get 2.6 litres from water, milk and other drinks such as herbal teas. Foods that naturally contain lots of fluid such as fruit and vegetables can also help you reach your total daily fluid target.
Some top tips to help ensure you get enough fluid:
– Ensure wherever you feed your babies you have a dedicated large water bottle that can be opened easily so you can sip frequently whilst feeding
– Listen to your thirst cues and respond promptly- Use fluid filled foods to your advantage as a snack, such as vegetable soups, smoothies or vegetable-based juices, fresh fruit, and vegetable sticks such as cucumber, celery and carrots
– Check the colour of your urine, aim for a pale yellow colour to indicate adequate hydration. (Note: some multivitamins rich in B vitamins can make your urine appear yellow despite your hydration status)
Keep snacks handy
Keep one handed snacks close by that will nourish and energise you when breastfeeding your twin babies, especially after a sleepless night, so that you don’t end up being tempted to reach for your third cold coffee of the day!
Choose snacks that will provide slow-release energy and provide additional nutrients that you need while you are nursing twins. Some examples may include:
– 3 small wholegrain crackers with tomato slices and 2 sandwich-sized slices of cheese
– A slice of wholegrain toast topped with avocado or peanut butter
– A smoothie made with a2 Nutrition for mothers™, and your favourite vegetable or fruit
Is there a way to naturally boost breastmilk supply?
Many mothers to twins and multiples are concerned that they will not be able to produce enough breastmilk to support their babies. Based on the theory of supply and demand and per Australian Breastfeeding Association, your body will ensure that your breastmilk supply meets the demand of your babies.
Ensure you are consuming enough calories each day. Keep a particular focus on wholegrain foods to help meet your additional daily needs.
Be wary of products, such lactation cookies or biscuits or other snacks, promising an increase in breastmilk supply. Often these are high in fat and/or sugar and may contribute to increased breastmilk supply by increasing total energy or calories. These products can also contribute to an excess energy and can lead to weight gain or a slowing of post-partum weight loss.
Your healthcare professional may recommend specific medications, known as galactogogues, to help support adequate breast milk supply when nursing twins. An example of a potential natural galactogoue is fenugreek seeds, which has been shown in a small study to improve breast milk supply. However, more research is needed in order to confirm the findings of this small study.
Managing breastfeeding twins may mean you need help from your partner, family, friends or the guidance of healthcare professionals. Reach out for support to ensure your own physical and mental health is prioritised as you nourish your babies.
If you are concerned about your breastmilk supply or are having trouble breastfeeding, speak with your healthcare professional or seek expert advice from a lactation consultant for personalised advice to help you breastfeed your twins. You can contact the 24/7 Australian Breastfeeding Association hotline on 1800 MUM 2 MUM (1800 686 268) for over-the-phone support.
Article written by fertility & prenatal dietitian & nutritionist Stefanie Valakas, The Dietologist.