Tandem breastfeeding twins is possible and it doesn’t have to be difficult. We’ve outlined the essential gear, positions, and the exact process to make breastfeeding twins straightforward and easier.
What You Need to Know Before You Start Tandem Breastfeeding
Tandem breastfeeding might look like juggling babies (as raising twins so often feels), but you needn’t master any special tricks to pull it off.
It is such a special, unique part of mothering twins, and reading up on tandem breastfeeding twins BEFORE you begin is going to help you start off on the right foot.
The most important thing to know before you start tandem breastfeeding is how to breastfeed. Not a typo!
It seems obvious, but the key to tandem breastfeeding success is to have a good knowledge of how to latch and breastfeed one baby. Each baby should be able to latch and feed independently before you can tandem feed.
While some babies latch easily and moms are tandem nursing from day one, a LOT of twin moms don’t start tandem nursing until their babies are older, sturdier, and more efficient at eating. Once you do start, it can take time and practice so don’t worry if you don’t get it right away.
If you try and try again and it isn’t working out, maybe wait a couple of weeks or even a couple months and give it another go! You may be surprised.
But ultimately, some twin moms get the hang of it and it works great and others just don’t. You can absolutely breastfeed your twins one at a time, it is just preference!
The Essential Gear
Two breasts. This one is like the middle square of Bingo, it just feels so good to checkboxes
Pillows. There are three ways pillows will be used to aid tandem breastfeeding:
- To support your babies while feeding. Head to our article My Brest Friend Twin vs. Twin Z to help you decide on a good twin-nursing pillow. These pillows also help support mom a bit.
- To support your babies before and after feeding. Two Boppy pillows make perfect landing zones to plunk your twins down before or after feeding, especially because they will keep your babies upright after feeding to help prevent reflux
- To support yourself while feeding. Grab a stack of regular pillows to help you get comfortable and to bolster this or that.
Additional Helpful Gear
Receiving blankets. More props for propping! Roll these up and use wherever a little lift is needed.
Burp cloths. For burping, duh. Or, you can use more receiving blankets instead.
Nipple shields. If your preemies still need them (when they are ready to latch sans nipple shields, make sure you work on latching independently before tandem feeding)
TV remote. Speaking of preemies, these angels may spend a good 40 minutes of half-asleep feeding every couple of hours in the early days. So if you want to keep the TV remote at your nursing station, no judgments here (try The Letdown on Netflix, it takes an honest and funny look at motherhood)
Nipple cream. Your nipples may be sore in the early days while they adjust to feeding two babies, and those babies are learning to latch properly. Breast milk works best actually, but if you haven’t yet got the knack of hand expression (or are too sore to do so)…try a dab of Honest Company Nipple Balm. It soothes and heals but is safe to use for breastfeeding, even without wiping off.
Water bottle with a straw. This may sound silly but it is kind of easier to drink from a straw when you are balancing two babies on your lap, and some moms swear it actually helps them hydrate better
A snack. Breastfeeding twins requires a lot of energy so keep an easy snack like a protein bar nearby.
Toys. This only applies to older babies, but if one finishes before the other they will need a distraction (lest that distraction becomes their still-feeding sibling)
A place to sit. This can be as fancy or not fancy as you want it. Some parents like to purchase an extra-wide glider (Read: Best Gliders for Twins) in which mom can tandem nurse her twins, while others prefer to use the bed, couch, or floor. Wherever you choose, make sure you keep all the items on this checklist within easy reach of your station.
Tandem Feeding Positions
There are a few different ways you can tandem nurse your twins, and as silly as it may feel, familiarize yourself with them before you have two wiggly babies in your arms.
If you take a breastfeeding class, be sure to ask the instructor for a second baby so that you can practice!
Double football hold
“Hut, Hut, hike!” This is the most popular tandem hold and works well with the twin nursing pillows.
With a double football hold, you will have the tummies of each baby wrapped around your sides, legs pointing in opposite directions-towards your back. You can use a hand to support each head and neck.
This position is also good (when using a nursing pillow) if you need to free up a hand to help with latching or breast compressions. For a visual aid, check out some Sunday Night Football!
Football and Cradle Combo
For this position, tuck one baby under your arm like carrying the aforementioned football. The head of the football twin will sort of rest on the legs of the cradle twin.
The cradle baby will have their belly up against yours, with her legs pointing in the same direction as her twin’s (that is, both pointing toward the left or both pointing toward the right), and her head rested in the nook of your elbow.
Your hand and forearm supports the back of the baby like you are….cradling her!
Double Cradle or Cross hold
As described above, with the cradle hold the head of the baby is “cradled” in the nook of the elbow, with belly across your front, legs underneath the opposite breast.
To breastfeed two babies this way, you will have their bodies make an “X” across your front, thereby earning the name “cross hold.”
Their legs will be pointing in opposite directions in your lap, and one baby is somewhat stacked on top of the other.
This one is only for older babies, once they can sit up on their own.
You will straddle one baby on each leg facing each breast like they are riding a pony!
Wrap your arms around them to keep them steady.
You can recline in a recliner or on the bed with pillows behind you instead of sitting straight up while nursing. Any combination of holds that is comfortable for you can be used in a laid-back position.
A laid-back double cradle draws your shoulders back and the babies can rest more along the sides of your body as opposed to being stacked in the front. Try placing pillows on either side of you in bed to support your arms.
You can also do a double football hold by placing a twin nursing pillow on your lap with your knees bent and feet flat on the bed or footrest.
This is also referred to as “biological” nursing and is a wonderful solution for poor latching because gravity works in your favor to achieve a deeper latch.
This is another position that requires the babies to be a little older, or in other words, less floppy. However, nursing while lying down can be a lifesaver-it enables mom to get a bit of rest when babies are still feeding frequently at night. This is a favorite of co-sleeping parents.
You will lie on your side, with one baby laying on the bed on his side and facing your bottom-breast.
Your other hungry hippo will nurse on the top breast, with his body laying across yours.
Get out your protractor: You will need to be angled back slightly so that your body can support the top baby, so place pillows behind you to sink back into. Ahhhhhhh……
How to Tandem Breastfeed Twins
You practiced all the positions, but now you have two REAL babies chomping at the bit…what do you do?!
Here’s what you do: Sit (cross-legged, or with feet flat and knees bent depending on the position you are using) with twins on either side of you in Boppy pillows.
Place your twin nursing pillow around you, adding any extra pillows/rolled up receiving blankets as needed to bring the pillow up to the level of your breasts.
If you feel like you need to lean forward to nurse, then add more support to bring the babies to you and save your back! Place one twin on the pillow, and then the other.
You may need to use additional pillows or blankets to keep them propped up or to prevent them from rolling back when they are still very small. A burp cloth or washcloth can be placed behind their head if extra support is needed there.
Getting them all set up can be tricky in the beginning, so it can be really helpful to have someone around to hand you the babies and stuff padding here or there.
It may seem like a lot of work at first, but pretty soon you and your twins will be pros and all the extra props won’t be needed. Once both twins are snuggled in close, latch one and then the other. Always hook your better latcher first. And there you have it!
4 Pro Tips for Successful Tandem Feeding
Tip #1 Get Help
In the beginning, it may be overwhelming to try tandem nursing alone, especially if those babies are hungry and crying.
Take advantage of in-house lactation consultants while you are in the hospital or have a Lactation Consultant pay a visit to your home to help you with latching each baby independently. Establishing a good latch with each baby is essential for tandem-feeding success!
A Lactation Consultant can also show you how to position the babies to tandem feed even if they aren’t ready quite yet.
Once home, get help from another person to position the babies until you are comfortable doing it alone-especially if you are recovering from a c-section!
Tip #2 Invest in a Good Twin Nursing Pillow
Honestly, it a good nursing pillow can make all the difference. Don’t make tandem breastfeeding any harder than it needs to be!
Twin-nursing pillows are designed to help you tandem feed-just get one.
Tip #3 Latch Correctly
When latching each baby, make sure that their head, neck, and shoulders are in alignment. Would you want to eat while looking over your shoulder? No!
Place your hand/elbow (depending on position) at the base of the head, not on the back of the head as this can inhibit their sucking ability.
When ready to latch the baby, place your thumb and forefingers in a c-shape, and gather your nipple and areola between them as if you were making a boob-sandwich!
Press in slightly with the thumb so that the nipple will point upwards into the roof of baby’s mouth. Brush your “sandwich” over the upper lip and when baby opens her mouth, press your breast down towards the bottom lip and into the mouth.
This will help your baby get a good mouthful of breast, and the nipple against the roof of the mouth will trigger the sucking reflex. The lips should flange out like a lil’ fishy! Congratulations, you are breastfeeding your baby! Now just do it again…
Tip #4 Skin-to-Skin
If you are having trouble latching one or both of your twins, try some skin-to-skin.
Place them in just a diaper and lay them against your chest, head between your breasts. It may sound crazy, but it can really work!
Sometimes baby’s instincts kick in and they will wiggle their way over and latch themselves. Worst case scenario you enjoy a nice snuggle with the babe!
Pros and Cons of Tandem Breastfeeding
The most obvious advantage of tandem breastfeeding is saving time!
Being able to feed both babies at the same time makes scheduling easier and you don’t have to worry about occupying a baby while they wait their turn.
Hidden bonus? Tandem breastfeeding is really good for milk supply. Like double-pumping, stimulating both breasts simultaneously can give you a greater prolactin boost than stimulating them one at a time.
Tandem breastfeeding is tricky to learn and can be frankly overwhelming in the beginning. But hang in there, you can do it!
Also, some moms feel like you miss the bonding with each baby when tandem feeding. If this is the case, you might like to feed one at a time on occasion for a little mommy-and-me time.
How to Burp Twins After Tandem Breastfeeding
Now you’ve positioned, latched, and fed your babies. Wait…how are you supposed to burp them without sending someone slip-sliding off the pillow?
You have two choices: A) Burp one at a time, or B) Burp both at the same time.
A. This is a simple, one at a time approach. You can put one baby down in their Boppy and burp the other baby by your preferred method. There are three ways to burp a single baby: 1) On your shoulder, 2) laying across your lap, or 3) Sitting in your lap, leaning slightly forward with their jaw supported by your hand.
B. Alternatively, you can leave both babies on the nursing pillow and roll them onto their tummies. Pat their backs at the same time until you hear those satisfying (sometimes not-so-little) baby burps. Whatever you are more comfortable with!