Congratulations on the birth or anticipated birth of your babies. The new little people who have entered your life can be a source of joy for you and your partner. As well as the busy times ahead, you can look forward to the multiples of hugs and kisses from your babies.
Some mothers find breastfeeding one baby demanding. Breastfeeding three or four or more could be viewed as a definite challenge. But many mothers succeed.
If breastfeeding is what you have always wanted, then being able to breastfeed these babies will be even more rewarding, as others before you have discovered. At times the rewards may seem small and mixed up with the challenges; be assured though, this is not a situation that is unique to parents of multiples.
There are lots of great reasons to breastfeed
Breastfeeding is important for the health of mothers and their children. Its importance is probably even moreso for babies born prematurely or if their health is vulnerable in any way. Breastfeeding saves you time and a lot of money. For more information about the importance of breastfeeding, see the Health outcomes associated with infant feeding and Breastfeeding your premature baby articles.
Can one woman produce enough milk?
Yes. People sometimes doubt it's possible to make enough milk for two babies, let alone more. Knowing how breastfeeding works will help you understand how this is possible. It can give you the confidence to continue breastfeeding even when your babies are demanding and you, or others, begin to question your milk supply. It will help you keep up a plentiful supply so you can breastfeed for as long as it suits you and your family.
The basic rule about milk production is that it is made on a supply = need basis. This is a short way of saying the more often a baby feeds at your breast and removes milk (need), the more milk is made (supply). This is why mothers of multiples are able to make enough milk for their babies. The extra stimulation of three or more babies sucking means that your body will produce the extra milk they need. Knowing this can help you cope, especially on bad days when your babies seem extra fussy or hungry and you feel like you can't possibly have enough milk for them. Understanding that supply equals need can reassure you that when your babies asks for extra feeds, simply by responding, your breasts will continue to make the amount of milk your babies need.
When a baby sucks at the breast, two hormones are released: prolactin which stimulates milk production, and oxytocin which releases the milk from the breast. This release is called the let-down or milk ejection reflex. It is important because it is the mechanism by which the milk is made available to the babies. With the let-down working efficiently, it requires little effort for a small or sick baby to obtain milk.
ABA's booklet Breastfeeding: twins, triplets and more contains great information collected from mothers who have breastfed their multiples; building and maintaining your milk, feeding positions and rotation of feeds, expressing, complementary feeds, managing at home, and tips in the parents' own words. This booklet can be purchased from the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
"I'm very glad I did breastfeed them for 16 months, and put the effort that I did into their babyhood as it is such a short time. It was always me that cuddled and fed them while helpers did the housework. I'm sure if I had bottle-fed I would be saying 'you feed the babies while I do this'. I really feel as if I have mothered them and have a very close relationship with each of them ".
© Australian Breastfeeding Association Reviewed November 2015