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Raising and feeding twins

8-minute read

How do I manage a sleep routine with twins?

A good sleeping routine for you and your babies is important. If your twins are born prematurely, they might spend time in neonatal care. The noise and frequent handling that babies are subjected to in hospital can affect their sleep routine. You can help them develop a good routine by massage, music and setting up good sleep patterns.

In the early stages, you may want to have both twins sleep in the same cot, particularly if this was done in neonatal care. However. it’s a good idea to be flexible about it. For example, one baby might be comfortable in a cot and the other might prefer a bassinette.

Sometimes one twin is settled and the other is not. The settled twin usually gets used to the unsettled one and won’t wake up. If both twins are unsettled, if possible have someone who can help you.

With both babies, always follow safe sleeping guidelines. The Australian Multiple Birth Association also has information on settling and routine. If you can get your babies into a good sleep routine, you can use that time to catch on sleep for yourself.

How do I feed my twins?

Breast milk is the best nutrition and it is particularly important for twins, who might be smaller than other babies. Mothers can produce enough breast milk to feed more than one baby.

Starting to breastfeed twins might be a challenge if you are unwell or exhausted after your delivery. Newborn twins usually need small frequent feeds, because they can’t stay on the breast for a long period.

If your babies are premature and small, they might have a weak and ineffective suck. This might cause a delay in breast milk production.

Sometimes one or both of your babies will need to supplement their feeds with expressed breast milk or formula. You might be advised to do this if they are not gaining weight well, or if one baby is smaller or weaker than the other. Weigh your babies regularly and talk to your doctor, lactation consultant or early childhood nurse if you have any concerns.

It is tempting to allocate one breast to each baby, but it's best not to. Babies will grow and develop better if they feed on both sides. Swap at each feed to help you balance your milk production, especially if one baby has a much stronger suck.

Any amount of breast milk is good. But if you can’t exclusively breastfeed, or don’t want to, you can use mixed feeding (breastfeeding and formula) or full formula feeding.

Time management

You have the choice of feeding twins together or separately. It makes sense to feed twins at the same time if you can, although you might choose to feed them one at a time in the early days when you are first learning how to breastfeed.

Feeding at the same time: When one baby wakes up for a feed, wake the other baby. This will help you to have as much time as possible between feeds to rest or sleep. To do this, you might need help at feeding time to position or support the babies.

Feeding one after the other: If you don’t have support at feeding time, or if one or both babies are small, it can be hard to get both to the breast with a good attachment. In that situation, you might want to feed one baby at a time. But it will be easier if you change to feeding together when you can.

How do I hold my twins when breastfeeding?

There are many ways to position twins, depending on their age. There is no ‘right’ way – choose whichever position works best for you and your baby. Some examples are shown below.

Twin, football, clutch or underarm hold is the easiest and most practical position for small babies when you are on your own. It is the most comfortable if you have had a caesarean section, as there is no pressure on your stomach.

Front ‘v’ hold allows you to lie back and is useful when feeding at night or, if you can, sit comfortably.

Parallel hold is easier when babies are older because you have less control of their heads in this position. Both the babies lie in the same direction.

A useful piece of equipment is a twin-feeding pillow, which was developed to help twins feed together. These firm pillows create a supportive surface and make it much easier to latch babies to the breast.

Your doctor, lactation consultant and early childhood nurse can give you advice relating to positioning, pillows and equipment to make feeding your twins easier.

Images showing different positions for breastfeeding twins.

What is the ‘twin bond’?

Even before they are born twins touch, hold and hug each other. The bond can be very strong and you might feel left out. It’s important to accept this, while knowing you will still be a significant person in their lives and you will have your own bond with them.

If you have other children, you might notice that their behaviour gets worse for a while. They might have tantrums, be aggressive towards the twins, go backwards in their development or withdraw. It is important you have one-on-one time with your other children so they don’t feel left out.

Twins might also feel sibling rivalry with each other. While it was good to bond and share a womb as twins, it’s a whole different story to share a toy or a mother as a toddler.

How do I get out and about with my twins?

You may find it harder to get out and about with your twins than other parents who have single babies. It helps to be organised by making sure the nappy bag is well stocked with nappies, wipes, formula and snacks. You might also need plenty of help and support from friends and family to get out.

Is there anything I should be before my twins start preschool?

Some twins who were born early have problems with their hearing and eyesight. It is good to know whether or not there are any problems like this before your twins start preschool and school.

As newborns, your twins would have probably had the newborn hearing test which picks up any hearing problem at an early age.

Preschoolers should have a health check when they are turning 4. Your local GP can do this.

Some twins who were born early have problems with their language or communication. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

How do I prepare my twins for school?

Before your twins start preschool it's a good idea to give them some practice. They may be used to keeping each other company but it is very different in a classroom with other children.

Pack their lunches and have them eat outside under a tree. A story hour or a craft session at your local library teaches them to sit quietly in a group and these activities are free.

Taking your twins to the local playground lets them have fun on different play equipment and lets them meet and play with other children. That all helps them get ready for preschool.

Same or different classroom?

Many parents of twins find this a difficult decision. This is a very personal decision for you, your twins and your family. If your preschool is small, you might not have a choice as all 3 year-olds may be together in one class.

If you have a choice of separate classes, think about are whether or not your twins depend on each other or easily make friends with other children. Are there are any family issues like divorce that may affect their ability to cope separately? You can talk to the school and see what they think as well.

Where can I get more information about raising twins?

Support is important. As soon as you learn you are having twins, it's a good idea to seek support from your partner, family members and professional organisations like the Australian Multiple Birth Association. Family and friends can be a valuable source of practical help and support.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2020


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