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  • Writer's pictureLiss McKenzie

Tandem Breastfeeding Tips for Twin Moms - Transitioning from Bottle to Breast

Twin mom nurses one twin while the other is sleeping on her shoulder

The first month with my twins was exhausting. Trying to sort out the schedule and logistics of getting two babies fed, burped, changed, swaddled and settled back to sleep, took a lot of trial and error. Add in trying to recover from my c-section, keep myself fed and hydrated, and make time for pumping, cleaning bottles, doing laundry, cooking and getting sleep myself... made it nearly impossible. Those early days were long but flew by at the same time. The babies were too young and small (born at 36 weeks) to get a good latch or feed efficiently at first, so I spent 5 weeks exclusively pumping and bottle feeding, with the exception of doing some latching practice here and there when I had time and help during the day.

If you haven't read part one of my breastfeeding journey, you can do so here, where I share more about my experience over those first 5 weeks and the tips I thought would be most helpful for new or expecting twin parents hoping to breastfeed. I also shared some more general tips preparing for twins, and surviving those first few weeks in this blog post. And have my must haves for new twin parents including all my favorite breast, bottle and tandem feeding products here. I also share story highlights, guides and reels with my tips and experience on my instagram page. I hope that by sharing my experience, I can help another twin mom navigate this incredibly difficult stage without feeling like she is alone or without support. If you are reading this and struggling, please reach out to me through this website or my Instagram - I will do my best to help!

Triple Feeding & Tandem Practice

The week leading up to our visit with the twin specific LC, I made more of an effort to get the babies to the the breast each day. I would have my husband or mom help me get the boys in a tandem position on my breast friend nursing pillow and adjust their latch while keeping them in position. Then I would massage my breasts and prod them (use a wet cloth on their arm, pump their arms, tickle their feet etc.) to keep them awake and actively feeding. I preferred the my breast friend nursing pillow at first because it was firmer than the TwinZ and sat higher up around my waste to hold the teeny preemie babies closer to my breasts.

Twin mom tandem nursing newborn twins on breastfeeding pillow

Based on what I was told by the lactation consultants and public health nurses I had seen, I was worried that having them on the breast too long would tire the babies out before they got a whole feed, so I would cap this nursing session at 10 mins and then top them up with a bottle of previously pumped milk. This is what is often referred to as triple feeding - nursing, pumping, bottle feeding. Trying to do this on my own was really challenging because of how long everything took, and how difficult it was getting them in and out of tandem position. I told myself I would give it one week of triple feeds, one week of getting them on the breast every daytime feed, and then if I hadn't seen any improvement, I would stop and go to formula. Having that short term goal really helped me push through, because at the time the whole process was extremely difficult and defeating.

Hayden (Baby A) was easiest to latch, so I would latch him first and then work on Barrett. The most difficult part for me was getting the babies in and out of position on the pillow, and burping them once they finished. After a few days of practice and a lot of trial and error and research (aka watching twin mom tandem nursing videos), I started attempting tandem feeds on my own. I found the easiest way was to set them up in a pack n play with raised bassinet in front of the couch. The twinZ pillow fit inside the bassinet perfectly and allowed for easy access to grab the babies while I was in position on the couch with my feeding pillow strapped on.

twin mom tandem burping twins after breastfeeding

When one baby finished nursing, or seemed like they needed a break, I would lift them up on my chest and burp them. If the other baby finished at the same time I would lean back and hold the baby on my chest in position with my cheek/shoulder, and lift the other baby on the other side. Then I would cross my hands over each other and pat their backs with my opposite hands (special thanks to my mom for showing me this method). With practice this became a lot easier and my favorite part was the double chest snuggles and contact naps that would often follow our tandem nursing sessions (once we were passed the triple feeding nightmare).

Unfortunately since they weren’t yet getting full feeds at the breast, I would have to transfer them back to the pack n play for their top up bottles. I was grateful for the help from my mom or husband so that I could pump while they fed the babies the bottles. The triple feeding schedule was so time consuming and I dreaded needing to pump after nursing. But I was committed to keeping up my supply in the hopes of one day fully transitioning to breastfeeding and therefore not having to pump as often.

twins tandem bottle feeding pumped milk

Transitioning from Bottle to Breast

It was a late afternoon when Jackie arrived for the breastfeeding consult appointment. We had arranged it for a time when we knew the babies would be waking for a feed so she could watch my method and offer support and tips. Having a lactation consultant who had specific experience with twins added a layer of comfort and trust. Just hearing from her that it was still possible to break the bottle preference and get the babies exclusively nursing, was a huge boost in motivation for me.

A few key tandem breastfeeding tips for twin moms:

  1. Use a Hakka before latching the babies to help start the let down sooner and therefore get the babies to latch easier (they would often get frustrated with the delay in getting milk since they had been used to a bottle which had no wait for let down).

  2. Use rolled up receiving blankets to wedge behind the babies backs/butts and folded cloths under their heads to keep them in position and latched, and free up your hands for adjusting latches, massaging your breasts to help the flow of milk etc.

  3. Use pillows to prop up the nursing pillow in the front and sides so the babies won’t roll off the pillow and the pillow sits higher to get the babies in a better position.

  4. Use a slow flow nipple (dr browns ultra preemie) and pace feed so they have to work just as hard at the bottle as they do at the breast to get milk. If the bottle is easier, they will hold out knowing they get the top up after nursing.

  5. Place them in the bouncy chair after feeds instead of laying them down, so they would be inclined for at least 15-20 mins after a feed, which would allow their stomachs to settle to help with reflux.

  6. And probably the most impactful tip for me, was that sometimes babies just need time to grow and get stronger before they can effectively nurse. It wasn’t too late to transition them from bottle to breast and it was very much still possible if I remained consistent. The more time I spent practicing with them on the breast instead of giving them a bottle, the easier it would be to transition.

Getting that confidence boost of knowing I was on the right track and it wasn’t too late to get them exclusively breastfeeding was all the motivation I needed to keep going. Once I figured out the method to tandem feed myself, I started increasing the number of times I nursed each day (I always bottle fed at night so my husband could take a shift and I could ensure they were getting in a full feed in the most efficient way so we all could maximize our sleep).

Twins sleeping while mom holds up a bottle of pumped breastmilk

Slowly I saw improvements in their latches and how long they stayed awake at the breast. On July 27 (4 days after seeing Jackie) I remember only pumping 3mls after a feed. I felt amazing knowing that the babies must have fed well as I would typically pump more than double that in a session.

At my next appointment with the IBCLC she was shocked at how much had changed. The babies ate 60mls in 10mins and both had a great latch. She told me I could start dropping pumps after feeds and only pump when my breasts felt full after nursing. I started slow dropping one pump in the middle of the day for a week and then another and so on. Eventually, at about 8-9 weeks post partum I stopped pumping during the day, and only pumped before I went to bed and through the night. Dropping those pumps made a huge difference in my mood and I was so glad to see my supply continued to meet or exceed their demand.

Schedules and Keeping/Boosting Supply

Once we got to a place where the babies were able to empty my breasts and make it a full 3 hours between daytime feeds (around 8-9 weeks), I felt a lot more confident in getting out of the house and tandem nursing on my own. Having a schedule and monitoring wake windows set us up for better stretches of sleep and I was finally starting to enjoy the time with my babies.

8 week old twin schedule

Around that time (8 weeks/4 weeks adjusted) we moved the babies to their cribs for at least 1-2 naps per day (instead of in the pack n plays on the main floor), and started doing a quick bedtime routine before putting them down in their nursery for the night. You can see our bedtime routine, and learn more about how we set good sleep habits early one to help us when we were ready for sleep training, on my Instagram page.

After the 6:30/7pm nursing session, I would stop breastfeeding for the day and switch to pumping for the night. I would pump before going to sleep around 9pm, so that my husband would have fresh milk for their next feed which typically fell somewhere between 10:30-11:30pm. He would tandem bottle feed them and get them settled and back to bed before going to sleep himself. That way, I would get a solid 4-5hr stretch of sleep before the middle of the night (motn) wake-up.

twins tandem breastfeeding

Since the babies were gaining a good amount of weight and no longer needed to be woken up to feed every 3 hours at night (even though they often still woke every 3-4hrs), I would sleep until they woke me up (between 1-3am) and have a bottle of previously pumped milk ready to go for the feed. I established an oversupply early on by sticking to my 3 hr pump schedule the first 4 weeks, so always had pumped milk in the fridge or freezer. Even though I would tandem nurse the babies on my own during the day, I still chose to do bottles for the middle of the night feed because the babies would be so sleepy and hard to keep awake. With a bottle, I could monitor how much they were eating so I knew they had full feeds, and didn't have to worry that they may wake up hungry shortly after putting them back down. I also preferred to pump at that time so I could fully empty my breasts when my prolactin (the hormone which helps produce breast milk) was at its the highest between the hours of 1am-5am.

Since I was still pumping 2-3 times a day/night, I took advantage of a few pumping hacks to help save time. I wish I had known some of these earlier on, so here is my top list of pumping hacks/tips for boosting (or keeping) supply:

twin mom using double electric hands free pump and nursing bra

1. Use a double electric hands free pump & pumping bra - having the freedom to move around and not be plugged into an outlet was so important to save time as a busy mama. This meant I could multi-task while fitting in my pumps - bottle feed the babies, do dishes, fold laundry, eat, drive - you name it! While the handsfree pumps aren't quite as efficient at emptying your breasts as the hospital grade outlet ones, once you have your supply established, they are a huge convenience and well worth it in my opinion.

2. Keep a mini fridge in your master bedroom - since I did the majority of my pumping sessions at night, and we have a two story home, I preferred having a mini fridge in my room to store my milk and pump parts. Definitely look up the fridge hack and pitcher method, as they save so much time and washing of pump parts and bottles! It might not be for everyone, but its something I wish I knew about earlier on in my pumping journey and it worked great for us!

3. Use a salad spinner to dry your pump parts after washing/sterilizing - line a salad spinner with a paper towel and throw all of your pump parts inside. After a few spins, those parts will be completely dry!

4. Boosting supply by pumping - check your pump parts are the right size and are working correctly, make sure you are eating and drinking enough, do something relaxing while you pump and do not look at what you are producing (trust me, this makes a difference!), pump as frequently as possible and after a feed or two if you are nursing (supply and demand - the more you pump/extract from your body, the more your body will produce), power pump in the morning when your prolactin is the highest (ensure one pump is between 1am-5am).

I can't tell you how relieved I was to drop those pumps and gain confidence tandem breastfeeding my twins. I am so glad that I decided to keep trying and didn't give up when the first lactation consultant told me it would be too difficult to breastfeed. I went on to breastfeed the boys until they were 18 months, one of the most difficult and most rewarding experiences I've had as a mother. It certainly didn't come easy and there were several challenges along the way, but I hope reading about my experience gives another twin mom confidence that it is possible, and tips to make it a tad bit easier.

As always, please reach out in comments, by email or DMs on my Instagram page if you have any questions or if I can help further. And be sure to subscribe to my blog be notified of my next post where I will be sharing more tandem feeding tips and feeding on the go/getting out of the house!



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