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Families and friends are always amazed when I mention that I am still breastfeeding my 2-year-old twin boys. Having twins is a very different experience from having a singleton with respect to rearing and baby care but for me having twins has become a normal part of our family life. Once you overcome twin shock, you realize how lucky and blessed you are to not only have one baby but two. Unfortunately, although the incidence of twins is increasing due to fertility drugs and treatment, many mothers are discouraged from even attempting to nurse two babies. Mothers of twins need to know that breastfeeding their babies is realistic and possible, you can successfully nurse two babies for as long as the three people involved wish to do so. Breastfeeding twins can sometimes be a challenge but the inherent rewards that come out of this experience usually more than compensate for any drawbacks. Mothers just need to seek out a little bit more help and organization at the beginning but once the wheel is rolling it becomes very hard to stop this great bonding relationship.
The health benefits of nursing twins are no different than for a single baby. Each baby receiving breast milk will have a reduced risk of developing asthma, food allergies and eczema; in addition s/he will be less likely to suffer from diarrhea, and urinary tract, respiratory and ear infections. Breastfeeding may help in the development of the nervous system and contribute to increased intelligence quotient. Breastfed babies might also be at a lower risk of childhood cancers, insulin dependent diabetes mellitus and chronic bowel diseases. Breast milk is easily digested therefore resulting in less gas, colic and spitting up. Twins have a higher incidence of premature birth. Preemies benefit immensely from all the benefits of breast milk. The composition of the milk changes at each feed and as the baby gets older as well. Once the mature milk comes in, the composition of milk varies as well for mothers of twins. It is higher in fat, protein and immunoglobulin. No formula can compete with this golden milk that adapts and changes at each feed.
Of greatest importance, breastfeeding affords the baby closeness with its mother that bottle-feeding does not allow. Many mothers of twins find it difficult to bond with two babies at the same time; the great thing about nursing them, especially together, is that it allows you to really connect with the babies as four eyes stare at you or play in your hair. Mothers of multiple are also usually at greater risk of postpartum depression but it usually does not occur as readily in breastfeeding mothers. Some of my best memories are of my boys holding hands in the middle together while nursing or when one brother would stroke the other’s head. You never forget special moments like these.
The mother also benefits from nursing her twins because as the baby starts to suckle right after birth, the mother’s body releases the hormone oxytocin,which helps contract the uterus, decreasing postpartum bleeding. Since milk production burns about 500 to 1,000 calories a day, the nursing mother returns to her pre-pregnancy shape or weight faster than the non-nursing mother. Research shows that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of the mother developing breast, uterine and ovarian cancers.