My tandem feeding story
My name is Nseko and I live with my husband Will. I’m also mummy to two beautiful 6-month-old twins old called Zemirah (my girl) and Zephaniah (my baby boy).
Finding out that you’re pregnant is a great joy and I found out when I was 6 weeks into my pregnancy that we were expecting twins. I remember looking at the screen as the sonographer did her checks, anxiously waiting to see if everything was okay. I won’t forget the moment she turned to look at me and said “I can see that it is a twin pregnancy”. I just burst into tears!
A few months before falling pregnant with our twins, I had had a missed miscarriage. Because of this, and the emotional trauma of it, I worried a lot during my pregnancy. Knowing that I was pregnant with twins doubled the worry. I also had bleeding when I was 8 weeks pregnant, which was a scary moment in my pregnancy.
However, because it was a twin pregnancy, I had frequent scans, which helped to put my mind at ease. I enjoyed my pregnancy as much I could. I am still in awe of how amazing the human body is and its functionality in bringing life into this world. I didn’t experience many symptoms during my pregnancy other than feeling extremely tired and having backaches during the first trimester and then later on in my third trimester.
A premature birth
"I didn't mind whether I breastfed or bottle-fed with expressed breast milk or fomula. My priority was ensuring that my children would be getting the nutrients that they needed, whatever method I used."
Our twins were born early at 33 weeks and spent two weeks in hospital. As a result, we ended up missing our antenatal class, which I am sure would have been a great opportunity to discuss issues surrounding breastfeeding. But I was blessed and fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful women such as my mother( who used to be a midwife), my mother in law (a former nurse) and my sisters and friends, who were able to share with me their knowledge and different experiences of breastfeeding, which I found helpful!
I would say that I had a relaxed approach to breastfeeding. I was open to the idea of it, but I was also aware of all the issues that could affect my ability to do it, such as having a low milk supply, the babies having difficulties with latching on, etc. Personally, I didn't mind whether I breastfed or bottle-fed with my expressed breast milk or formula. My priority was ensuring that my children would be getting the nutrients that they needed, whatever method I used.
Because they were premature, my babies had not developed the ability to suck-swallow-breathe, which impacted breastfeeding. Instead, they were fed through a nasogastric tube, with both formula and my expressed breast milk. With support from the amazing neonatal team at the hospital, I started breastfeeding 5 days after they were born.
Both children had difficulties latching at first. I can see with hindsight that I was anxious for them to latch on, as established feeding was one of the criteria’s needed for them to be discharged. But I also knew that this was something that could not be rushed and was happy for them to take their time to develop the suck-breathe-swallow reflex. Although they were able to latch on and feed, they were still fed through a nasogastric tube using my expressed breast milk or formula to ensure that they were having enough. When they were 34 weeks old and a few days, they stopped being fed through the tube and were breastfeed alongside being bottle fed, using my expressed breast milk.
My plan had always been to get to at least 6 months of breastfeeding. I am now at the 6 months point and I am still breastfeeding at least twice a day, alongside bottle feeding, using both my expressed breast milk and formula. We are currently in the process of weaning the twins onto solids.
How I feel about breastfeeding
"However you feed your children, I'd say it's very important that you do what is right and suitable for you and your babies."
Although my twins haven’t always been exclusively breastfed, I have loved our breastfeeding journey. Initially, I found it rather time consuming because I would feed them individually. But I soon decided to use the tandem method, which I have absolutely loved. I have found it to be less time consuming and it has helped with enabling a good feeding routine for both babies. Breastfeeding in all honestly, has been more fun than I thought it would be and it’s been an amazing experience in terms of bonding with my babies. As my twins have gotten older, feeding has become much easier because they now have better head control.
My advice when breastfeeding twins is to make sure that you get comfortable first before placing your babies to feed. I use a ‘twin feeding pillow’ which is comfortable as it provides support for my back, as well as a cushion to place my babies heads.
However you feed your children, I’d say it’s very important that you do what is right and suitable for you and your babies.
What is tandem feeding?
If you have twins it may help you to try tandem feeding, which means feeding your babies at the same time. Breastfeeding can take time and patience, so the obvious advantage of tandem feeding is that you won’t need to keep switching from baby to baby and spend all your time nursing.
It may be easier to spend some time feeding your babies separately at first, so you can all get the hang of it. Tandem feeding should be easier when your babies are a little bit older and stronger.
Just be aware that you have 2 little babies with 2 personalities, which means they’ll probably have differing appetites and nursing patterns. If so, you could try letting your hungrier baby dictate the feeding schedule of both and carry on tandem feeding. Or you may need to feed your hungrier baby more often. Some mums feed their babies on demand during the day and then tandem feed at night.
The important thing is to do what works for you. If you are struggling with tandem feeding, you could alternate bottle-feeding one baby while nursing the other. Or you could nurse one after the other.
Whatever you are doing, it will help to write the details down every time you feed, including which baby you’ve fed, on which breast and for how long. You’ll likely be very tired and this will make it easier for you to remember what you’re doing. It will also help when you’re talking to your health visitor or getting advice from a breastfeeding support group.
Tandem feeding tips
- Think about buying a nursing pillow designed especially for twins. This can make it easier to position your babies. Be aware that these can be pricey – you could try looking on Ebay, Facebook marketplace, or Gumtree for something secondhand.
- Find the right nursing position for you. Your midwife, health visitor or lactation consultant can show you the different ways you can hold your babies. It may take a little time to work out what’s most comfortable for you and your babies.
- Alternate breasts. Remember to switch breasts for each baby at each feeding so both breasts are stimulated equally.
- Take care of your breasts. Breastfeeding more shouldn’t cause your nipples to get cracked or sore. It may help to use lanolin cream after every feed.
- Ask for help. Your midwife and health visitor are there to support you. The Twins Trust also has more information about breast and other methods of feeling multiple babies.