Breastfeeding with twins

Exactly one year ago, I had just arrived in the Netherlands. Including a bulging belly, almost 30 weeks pregnant with my twins. I was so happy to trade the heat wave in Spain for a climate where it cooled down to about 18-20 degrees at night.

My story of breastfeeding with twins began then. Upon arrival in the Netherlands. My mother had managed to score a book on breastfeeding at the flea market during King’s Day and I began to browse leisurely. But unfortunately I didn’t get to read much more than 10 pages, because I had a lot of work to do. Combined with my low energy levels, reading was not really something that made me happy. Let alone got energy.

Fortunately, there was hope as my maternity leave started in mid-August. When you have twins, you may take leave a little earlier. Just as well, because if I had waited another 2 weeks, I would have barely had leave. When it was finally August 17, little did I know that I was already about to give birth 4 weeks later.

Breastfeeding webinars for twins

During my leave, I had registered with the midwife for a breastfeeding physical. Once the time came (I was 32 weeks) I felt anything but fit to bike (let alone walk) downtown around 7:30 p.m. and then sit there and listen for another two hours. It just didn’t work out for me! Fortunately, though, there are many breastfeeding webinars from NVOM (Dutch Association for Parents of Multiple Births) that I have studied extremely well. Fine anyway, because it was totally focused on how to breastfeed with twins.

In fact, the book I had was mainly focused on feeding 1 baby, which is of course substantially different from when you want to breastfeed two babies (or more!). Just the act of latching on is different, because how do you latch on to your second baby when the other is already at the breast? You always need help then. Although I did discover twin mothers who became so adept at it that they could do it on their own. Kudos!

Prenatal Colating

When I was about 34 weeks, they told me at the hospital that you can start prenatal pumping at 35 weeks. This means pumping by hand so you can already start milk production. They recommend this for women who know they are going to have a cesarean section. A planned cesarean section is always scheduled around 38 weeks. So I still had time, I thought. I ended up trying prental pumping maybe 3 times, because Tomas and Mika were already there at 35 weeks and 5 days. It was time they thought!

Breastfeeding after cesarean section in twins

After delivery (cesarean section due to plancenta previa), I was taken to my room immediately after the recovery room. The boys were in the neonatology ward. Tomas on the ventilator and Mika in the incubator. They were both already being bottle fed, but through a feeding tube. These were crazy times. Fortunately, Tomas was able to come off the ventilator after only a few hours. And was able to keep himself warm enough that he only needed to be in a heat bed. Mika had to spend almost 2 weeks in the incubator. Not having your babies with you is not natural and there are consequences. Especially for breastfeeding.

As you can imagine, initiating breastfeeding in this situation is rather difficult when you do not have your children with you all the time. The ideal picture of giving birth at home, children in bed with you, your own environment, privacy…especially privacy was not there. Instead, your body just had major surgery and then you also have to put a pumping device on your chest 8 times a day. Without having your baby right next to you. And one floor up had to go through and long hallway to be with them. Of course you could pump in the neo ward, but I always felt embarrassed. Privacy? That didn’t really exist, a curtain, that’s it and all the beeping sounds of equipment, nurses talking, other parents with premature babies….You can imagine that you’re not really relaxed then. Breastfeeding didn’t work for the first few days. This seems to be normal with a C-section, but when I was still having trouble after 5 days, I got help from the hospital lactation consultant. She recommended smaller pumping shells to me (which were barely there), it just still didn’t get going.

After over a month of trying with pumping, medication (domperidone) it still wasn’t going well. Therefore, in consultation with the lactation consultant, I stopped with difficulty. It felt like failure. As a woman, you don’t have those two things on your body for nothing, do you? I didn’t have much time to think about it. Caring for twins is intense and at the same time very special.

Vegan follow-on milk

The next dilemma immediately popped up. What kind of formula will you give? Of course, as a vegan, I don’t want to give animal-based artificial food. There are also many conflicting stories about whether you can give vegan formula before they are 6 months. Also, the jars of vegan milk powder were incredibly expensive: 48 euros for 800 grams. At the kruitvat you pay less than 8 euros for 800 grams. Therefore, this math for twins did not hold up. I simply could not afford this. No matter how bad I thought it was. So this turned out not to be an option.

Donor mother’s milk from the milk bank

Then I was advised to see if you could get donor milk (from a vegan woman). Unfortunately, that was not logistically/technically possible. We don’t have a car and in that case, try to easily find someone around the corner who is vegan AND has too much milk. Besides, I was the only one of us two with a driver’s license that allowed me to rent a car, so well.

Breastfeeding with twins

Acceptance no breastfeeding with twins

Ultimately, this journey has been one of acceptance of not being able to breastfeed with twins. Accepting that sometimes things are the way they are and not getting too frustrated about it. Besides, I knew: we are going to raise them vegan (and if not vegan, then veg) as much as possible anyway. And that helped. We are now 10 months along and I am enjoying being able to give them legumes, tofu, lots of vegetables, whole grains and lots of yummy fruits*.

For vegan moms who are in the same boat: be kind to yourself. It’s great when breastfeeding with twins succeeds, but there’s no shame if it doesn’t. Or if you need to supplement with follow-on milk. It’s all a lot already (especially if they are/are your first child/s) look at what is possible for you and know that once they get solid food, you will definitely make a difference here by feeding them vega(n)! By the way, then make sure you supple them liquid B12

*I have read myself up on this and I do give egg very occasionally, for example, to make sure they don’t develop an allergy to it.

Want to read more?

Useful website for more information on breastfeeding with multiple births: