Nursing Two Babies When You Are Home Alone: One Step at a Time
There is the rule never to wake a sleeping baby. Then there is the guideline to feed your multiple babies at the same time. Clearly, these are contradictory. I wouldn’t always wake my twin girls. I couldn’t bring myself to do it if one was learning to sleep longer stretches. So I created my own madness, especially at night. During the day, though, I did feed them at the same time since I have two breasts and two babies and let-down is simultaneous. Made sense to me. Around 8 months, though, the babies were too wiggly and interested in each other. I started feeding one at a time until they were old enough to calm down again to nurse without turning their heads with my breast still attached or pushing off with their feet like tug of war. It was nice to get one-on-one time, but it obviously made feedings take twice as long for those few months.
It is a bit tricky to burp the babies by yourself, but you will eventually be able to nurse one while you burp the other and then switch. You can also burp both by crossing your arms behind the babies’ backs as they lean against your shoulders.
To nurse independently feels like quite an accomplishment, but it did happen and got easier. Here’s one suggestion based on what I did:
First, put the babies one at a time in a safe place where you are nursing. For me, I took up the whole bed with pillows, which I felt was safest, though I did use the couch too. Place one baby securely on one side of where you will sit. Then, pick up the other baby and get yourself seated and lay that baby down on the other side. Then, situate your Boppies and pillows. Next, pick up one baby and put the baby on one Boppy and repeat for the next baby. Then, latch one baby and then the next baby and you will be efficiently nursing both babies. It sounds like it is in slow motion, but, believe me, when your babies are crying, you will get fast and it will be a bit chaotic for a few minutes.
Now, which baby do you latch first? Do you take the one who screams the loudest, or alternate so the “quieter” one is being rewarded too? Well, that’s tricky and I don’t have the answer. I like to think I was fair and tried to alternate babies as I did breasts (believe me, I kept charts and kept track of everything for way longer than I needed to), but I’m sure I tried to quiet the loudest one who was getting on my nerves a bit more than the one waiting patiently.
Anyway, so they both are nursing and then they fall asleep. Now what? You are stuck under a pile of pillows and multiple babies. If there is no one else to help you transfer a baby to a place to sleep and you don’t want to take a nap right there after you detach your nipples, then you can do the reverse procedure. Gently shift one baby ON THE BOPPY (that is important if you want to minimize the chances of the baby waking up) off your lap onto the bed and prop with another handy pillow. Then, take other baby to a sleeping place and hold your breath that you are successful and run back for the other one.
Okay, so the transfer while asleep didn’t work well all the time and yet somehow I managed to stay hopeful. Until you learn to nurse lying down your life will pretty much suck as you give suck, but hang in there! It’s totally worth it.
I admit I nursed the babies IN THEIR CRIBS sometimes to get them to just go to sleep and not have to worry about the transfer. Helps to have a low crib with low sides for that, but it hurts your back and when you look at your deflated boobs that fall to the bottom of your ribcage you’ll remember sadly the times when you told yourself “I don’t care what happens to my boobs, just go to sleep darn it!”
Night Feedings: The Bookends
Once I learned how to nurse lying down my whole world changed! I co-slept* for close to 6 months and slept between the babies, flipping back and forth all night long. It helps NOT to look at the clock in the middle of the night and just go back to sleep. Unless, of course, you have to burp your baby! For many months, my husband and I had a routine that felt like walking on egg shells and I’m sure there is a better way and at least a hundred other ways, but it’s what worked well enough for us.
At night, I would nurse one baby to sleep lying down (at less than 2 months we started this I think). My husband would bring me the other baby and I would oh-so-carefully flip over and nurse the other baby while he would scoop up the first baby to burp and then return to me when she was finally asleep. Then, he would take the second baby to burp and return to me. If I was lucky and they were totally out, I could escape between them for a couple hours, but sometimes they would wake up and we’d have to start over. If I got away, they would inch towards each other so when I got back into bed, I had to shift them so I had space to sleep in the middle. I felt like I was bookended, though. And my back was uncomfortable since I couldn’t really stretch out. Truthfully, I could sleep a lot better than if I had to get up and put a baby back and forth in a crib and do it again an hour later, since I was a sucker and wouldn’t wake them at the same time. In fact, the arrangement we had with co-sleeping (and I know it isn’t for everybody) worked well BECAUSE they didn’t wake at the same time. It was definitely cramped, though, even in our king sized bed.
So, at 6 months, they moved to their own room with their own cribs and I got my space back. Then, I nursed them in their room and transferred them back to their cribs, but I’d end up nursing one on the floor and would just plain fall asleep until the other one woke up hungry and I’d repeat the process. The floor wasn’t any better than being squished, but I wanted to move them out of my bed so this is what I did for way too long.
Once we dropped the night feeding at 18 months, the girls started sleeping really well through the night. I wish I had dropped the night feeding sooner! It is just so hard to know what to do and there is so much information and so many opinions out there. Remember, this is just what we did…and I’m not even saying it worked well, it’s just what we did to get through. You will figure out your own rhythm and, as long as it works well enough for you to get through the day, it works.
When to Stop Pumping: When it No Longer Makes Sense
I was lucky enough to be home with my girls and was able to breastfeed them for most feedings. The girls got a bottle of breastmilk at least once a day that was given to them by another family member and I could do other things during that feeding. When the family was no longer around and I realized I was the one who was giving them their once-a-day bottle, I decided it was time to stop pumping, which was perfect as we were going out of town and I really didn’t want to deal with it on the trip. I pumped for almost a year, very frequently at first, then about 3 times a day for a couple months, then down to once a day to just have some in the fridge in case I needed to go out or take a break. And you will need breaks. While you might feel like a cow at times, you are doing something so incredible that only you can do and it will not last forever.
Weaning: Nice and Slow
I was the one who was ready first. I was tired of having my breasts tugged on to the sides (by the end when the girls were older, I would lie down and they would each lie down next to me and nurse, but they would pull my breasts and nipples so that now my nipples are permanently angled out to the sides). My back hurt from leaning over (I know you are supposed to bring the babies up, but when the only comfortable position is with the babies cradled on your lap while sitting on the floor, that isn’t an option). I needed to sleep through the night for once. I didn’t enjoy nursing anymore, and I felt really guilty about it. So, I knew I was done. Plus, I was going away for a wedding a few months later and wasn’t sure how that would otherwise work. But we took our time since we weren’t really in a hurry and the girls had expressed no real desire to stop nursing for comfort.
We dropped about one feeding a month. The night feeding was the first to go at 18 months. That was hard since I was used to nursing them to sleep, but we all survived that stage.
Next, we dropped the session before bed, which was the easiest, remarkably, to drop. We replaced nursing with tons of cuddles and an extensive routine of hugs and reading with cow’s milk in a new cup with a straw. In fact, we built up getting big girl cups for so long that the girls were super excited when we finally brought them out.
After several weeks, I did the same routine for the feeding before nap. That one took longer because, instead of nursing the girls to sleep, they were awake in their beds and chatted for a long time before they would eventually sleep. But they did.
Finally, the last feeding we dropped was the one in the morning. That one was the hardest for me to let go since I could nap a bit while they snacked upon waking. Again, we just distracted them and gave them milk in a cup first thing and it was no big deal.
By 22 months old, I wanted to be sure we were done so I could leave for my friend’s wedding and come back to kids on cups and have my now unrecognizable body back. It worked. I was more sad than I thought I’d be, probably because of the guilt. But they were ready too. Within 3 days of weaning, there were no more questions. One of my daughters developed a habit of stroking the flab under my arm once she was weaned as a seeming substitute, but even that has worn off now. Every so often, the girls point to my breasts and say “when we were babies, we drank milk from your breasts” and I’m glad they will always know that I did that for them. My two breasts did their job for twin babies and are now retired.
*For more information on co-sleeping safety guidelines, see: http://cosleeping.nd.edu/safe-co-sleeping-guidelines/
Amanda S. is a SAHM mom of twin girls in Chicago.