What Are the Benefits of Breastfeeding Twins?

Breastfeeding Mom with Twins. Jade and Bertrand Maitre / Getty Images

For mothers of multiples who are trying to make a decision about breast feeding their babies, it may be helpful to examine some of the benefits of breastfeeding.

The benefits of breastfeeding are two-fold. There are benefits for mom, but there are also benefits for babies. Let's start by looking at some of the ways that breastfeeding benefits babies.

Breastfeeding Benefits for Baby Twins

Infant multiples are often born early and born smaller than singleton babies.

Breastfeeding can help compensate when there are deficiencies. For example:

  • The process of nursing aids the development of the jaw, teeth, and face of infants.
  • Breast milk offers protection and immunity from illness, infections, and allergies.
  • Some studies indicate that breastfed babies have higher IQs.
  • Breast feeding may limit the risk of obesity in young children.
  • Breast feeding may reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
  • The close contact with their mother during the process of nursing helps babies feel secure and enhances bonding.

In addition to offering benefits to babies, mothers of multiples also benefit directly from breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding's Benefits for Moms of Multiples

  • Breastfeeding aids mom's recovery after childbirth, by stimulating the uterus to return to its normal size and shape more quickly.
  • Mothers who breastfeed can lose weight and return to their pre-baby weight more quickly.
  • Breastfeeding can reduce a mother's risk of cancer, such as breast cancer.
  • Mothers who breastfeed may be less inclined to experience postpartum depression.
  • It's convenient! There's nothing to mix, reheat, or store. No worries about making a midnight dash to the store because you've run out. It's ready when mom is, and available whenever the babies are hungry.
  • It's economical! Bottles and formula can cost families hundreds of dollars, but breastfeeding is free.

In addition, new information brings to light the risks of not breastfeeding. A 2010 study reported that a lack of breastfeeding in the United States is costing lives and billions of dollars. "The United States incurs $13 billion in excess costs annually and suffers 911 preventable deaths per year because our breastfeeding rates fall far below medical recommendations." The study acknowledges three factors that increase the risks and costs: SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), necrotizing enterocolitis, a condition often suffered by preterm infants, and lower respiratory infections. Multiples are often at higher risk for these conditions. And the study's authors claim that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of these and other illnesses.

World Health Organization guidelines recommend that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. Other U.S. government agencies, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concur.

However, a 2011 survey found that U.S. mothers fell well short of that recommendation. Only 3/4 of mothers initiated breastfeeding and less than 15% were still exclusively breastfeeding when their babies were six months old. While those figures reflect all mothers, the challenges of nursing multiple infants make it even less likely that mothers of multiples will meet that goal. Despite the overwhelming evidence that favors breastfeeding, sometimes moms of multiples simply can't make it work. Physical and logistical limits hinder even their best efforts. Yet many do find success and are able to enjoy the benefits.

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