As mothers of preemies, we learn that our breastmilk is the perfect food for our babies.
Within hours of giving birth, we are encouraged to begin pumping, so our babies will benefit from our milk. The breastmilk of preemie mothers has special nutrients, is easier to digest, and can reduce the risk of infections.
Although breastfeeding is a natural physiological process, it’s not always intuitive or easy to get our babies latched and nursing.
For mothers of premature twins, it is especially challenging. Often babies become more familiar with bottles in the NICU. While their mothers, in turn, become well acquainted with their hospital-grade double electric pump.
Kathryn Stagg, IBCLC is a U.K. based Lactation Consultant, certified through the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants. She is also an expert in supporting breastfeeding mothers with multiples.
What makes her unique is, in addition to her professional experience as an IBCLC, she successfully breastfed, and tandem nursed her twin boys.
A while back, I interviewed Kathryn, about nursing twins, this time she’s here to offer guidance for breastfeeding premature twins.
Breastfeeding Premature Twins
Could you share your advice for a twin mom who plans to breastfeed and knows her babies are going to be born prematurely? How should she prepare, before, and after the babies are born?
If she has some warning and her health professionals think it’s safe to do so, she could do some antenatal hand expressing and collect the colostrum. This would give her a head start.
What would you recommend for a twin mom whose babies arrive unexpectedly premature, and she didn’t have time to prepare for breastfeeding ahead of time. If she only has the energy to do one thing while her babies are in the NICU, what should it be?
She should be supported to hand express her colostrum preferably within an hour after birth, but certainly within 6 hours after birth. Then to try to hand express every 2-3 hours from then on. Once her milk begins to come in she can move on to a hospital grade pump and continue to express every 2-3, not leaving it longer than 4 hours overnight.
After the Birth
What should mom do if it’s been 2 or 3 days since her babies were born, and she’s pumping every 3 hours, and she’s just getting drops?
If babies are stable enough for kangaroo care this can really help. Massaging the breast before and during the pumping session can help massively. Having photos of babies, a video, some clothes, or a blanket that smells of them can really help. And trying to relax, not watching amounts, listening to music, watching comedy, chatting to friends or family can improve. Ensuring the pump is efficient (a hospital grade pump is recommended) and that the cones fit correctly will have an impact on yield. If milk volume continues to be low then exploring whether there is a medical issue for this would be a good plan.