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Breast Feeding Twins and Triplets

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If the thought of breastfeeding one baby has ever seemed overwhelming to you, imagine what it’s like to breastfeed twins or triplets. Believe it or not, it can be done.
Today’s New York Times has a beautiful essay written by a mom who delivered her triplets prematurely at 26 weeks.
At the incubator, I stared through the plastic cover, unsure if I was allowed to put my hand through the side window. A nurse appeared, urging me on: “It’s O.K., you can touch them. Just be gentle and don’t rub. And talk to them — they definitely recognize your voice.”
I opened the window and placed my finger on Baby A’s leg. His knee was the size of an acorn.
The nurse also told me the boys needed my highly nutritious colostrum and pending breast milk and that she would return with bottles and suction cups.

The story is more focused, however, on the mom’s decision not to “reduce” the fetuses from three to two, as her doctor counseled her to consider.
“You need to consider reducing to one or two fetuses. In triplet pregnancies the babies often are born very premature with a lot of complications. You may be saving the lives of the other two by eliminating one.”
While I am a feminist who believes in abortion rights, this was not the choice I had in mind. To spend years and tens of thousands of dollars trying to conceive a baby only to end with discussions of an abortion seemed to me an especially cruel twist of fate. But what would we do if the triplets were born with serious handicaps? It seemed an impossible choice.

What hasn’t weighed on me, as our boys have grown healthier and bigger (they’re now 4 and thriving in preschool) is our decision not to reduce. I often look at them and ask myself that impossible question: Which one wouldn’t be here?
But I feel no righteousness about our choice, only luck. Time and again I run into mothers at the playground with twins who notice my triplets (it’s hard not to) and gently ask whether I faced that decision, only to then confess their deep guilt at having reduced from triplets themselves.

On a totally different note, at the Oscars last week, Melissa Etheridge’s wife, Tammy Etheridge talked about breastfeeding her twins. The Celebrity Baby Blog had this story:
Joan Rivers asked Tammy if she had exercised to get back into shape after giving birth to the twins. Tammy said, “No, I’m breastfeeding, I don’t have to do anything else.” Joan said, “Your breasts look great, so keep nursing!”
If you want to learn just how to feed triplets or twins, here are some good links from Kellymom, Mothering magazine and La Leche League.
To the moms out there who do breastfeed multiples…I’m in awe.



3 Responses to “Breast Feeding Twins and Triplets”

My multiples weren’t premature, so I didn’t have to deal with the NICU at all, but I did have to pump for about 2 1/2 months until my son “got it” and figured out how to latch. This said to note that my breastfeeding relationship didn’t start out all that smoothly, but now it is SO much easier than anything else would be. I can nurse the babies down to naps and at night, I nurse for head bumps, I nurse through teething. It may be harder to get started with multiples, just because the more babies there are the more likely one of them will have an issue, but it is worth it. My collection of tips on breastfeeding twins is at http://twinkies.bastetweb.com/2006/12/01/breastfeeding-twins-tips

I just wanted to say that KellyMom.com ROCKS! LLLI and Mothering are great but Kelly is pretty much a one-woman-show. She is very helpful and truly dedicated to helping others.

I’ve been looking for information on breastfeeding triplets. In the website I link, written by a Midwife in “Malawi”, she asserts (about a woman from that African country whom she assisted in the birth of triplets:
“It was necessary to supplement her breast milk with some formula milk ( after all we women only have two breasts!) It is rather expensive and totally unaffordable for most of our women. I promised we would visit 2 days later and bring more milk.”
I thought she was wrong, because it should be a matter of supply&demand and not of the number of breasts we have… However, how could she give formula to mothers in a 3rd World Country with unhealthy water conditions? Can it be that not all midwives are completely informed about breastfeeding? She also sometimes talks of “topping off” with formula…
Thank you if you read this post. And thank you for writing it; now I know it IS possible to breastfeed triplets.

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