Pumping for Twins 101 – What You Should Know

| Reviewed By Sarah Schulze, MSN, APRN, CPNP

Expectant mothers of twins may often have doubts about their ability to produce enough breast milk for both infants. They may also face challenges in finding the right method to pump milk for both babies at the same time.

How do I pump enough breast milk for twins? You pump enough breast milk for twins by pumping on a regular schedule. How often you pump will depend on if you are pumping exclusively or also breastfeeding. The key is to pump consistently enough to keep your supply strong enough for two babies.

When you decide to start pumping, it’s important to have the right equipment and to know what tricks will increase your milk supply. Small details can make a difference when it comes to getting enough milk.

It is possible to pump for twins so you have enough breast milk stored for them to use. It takes some planning, and it’s wise to know what to expect before you start.

What Type of Pump Do I Need?

Technically, you can use any pump. However, the best option if you have twins is to invest in a double electric breastpump.

It allows you to pump from both breasts at the same time. Since it’s electric, you won’t wear yourself out pumping both sides manually.

Electric pumps help you get the most milk out faster, and that’s essential when you are pumping and caring for two.

Breast Pump Flange Size

A breast pump flange is the part that fits to your breast while pumping. You need to ensure you have the right size flange so you can get the most milk without pain or blocked ducts.

Most flanges are 24-27 millimeters, but you can find smaller or larger sizes depending on your needs. When determining the right size flange, you want only the nipple or a very small portion of the areola to fit inside the tunnel part of the flange. When the pump is suctioning, the nipple should move freely without rubbing the inside of the flange. 

If you have pain or marks on your breasts after pumping, check your flange size and see if you need to replace them with something that fits better.

When To Start Pumping

When you need to start pumping depends on your situation. If your twins are premature and spending extra time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), start pumping immediately.

This will bring your milk in and get your supply started. It will also provide nutrients for your children while they develop.

If your twins are born full term, you have a little more leniency when it comes to pumping. You can give yourself a week or two to establish good breastfeeding habits before you have to start pumping. 

How Much Milk Should I Be Producing for Twins?

How much milk you produce will depend on a variety of factors. There is no set amount that you will automatically produce because you have twins. Most babies will only eat an ounce or two at a time during the first few weeks, and the demand increases from there. 

Good weight gain, frequent wet diapers, and content babies between feedings are the best indicators that your supply is adequate. 

How To Encourage Letdown When Pumping

There are tricks to encourage letdown when you are pumping. Warm compresses, gentle massage, and using the more rapid let-down setting on your pump can all help get the milk flowing.

Increase your oxytocin level by doing things to remind yourself of your babies as well. Keep a picture or video of your twins near to help stimulate letdown.

Use a blanket or something else that smells like your baby. 

The most important thing to do to help letdown occur is to relax. That’s not always easy when you are caring for two babies and sleep deprived.

However, if you’re tense, then it will be harder to get your milk down while pumping.

How Many Times Per Day Should I Pump for Twins?

Pumping schedules vary. If you pump exclusively, this means pumping every couple of hours during waking hours and possibly a couple of times during the night. 

If you aren’t pumping exclusively, you may opt to pump after you breastfeed. In that case, pump after every other feed unless you need to bring in more milk.

It’s best to wait about 30 minutes after breastfeeding your babies before trying to pump.

How Long To Pump Per Session

If you use a double electric breastpump, your pumping sessions likely won’t last more than 15-20 minutes. Every person is different and supply will vary, but 15-20 minutes is a good average.

How To Combine Breastfeeding and Pumping

If you decide to combine breastfeeding and pumping, it’s important to breastfeed your babies first. When you finish, you can then get in a pumping session about 20-30 minutes after the feeding.

Your body will respond to the demand, so you should still be able to pump after your babies have nursed and get milk.

Can You Exclusively Pump for Twins?

It is possible to pump exclusively with twins. In fact, some moms prefer it because it gives them a bit more freedom.

When you exclusively pump and have milk put back in the freezer, you aren’t the only one who can feed the baby. This can make it easier for you to get extra sleep or go back to work.

How To Clean Breast Pump

You need to clean your breast pump regularly to make sure there’s no bad bacterial growth.

Remove all milk leftover from pumping. You will need to remove detachable parts each time you pump and rinse them in a basin full of warm water with soap added. Don’t put them in a basin with other shared dishes.

Use a rag or brush to scrub parts. Air dry the parts in a drying rack once they are rinsed and all soap has been removed.

There are some parts of a breast pump that can go in the dishwasher, but it’s important to follow the instructions for your specific pump to make sure the parts don’t get damaged.

Baby twin sisters holding their own bottles with one smiling and the other looking serious.

Breast Milk Storage Time

How long you can store breast milk depends on where you are storing it. Different rules apply based on the temperature, storage type, and freshness of the milk.

If you are storing freshly pumped breast milk at room temperature, it can last for four hours.

In the refrigerator, breast milk can last for up to four days if it is stored properly in a container or bag made for breast milk.

If you put your freshly pumped breast milk in the freezer, it can last for a year. However, some experts recommend using it within six months.

It’s also important to remember that breast milk is made for your babies at certain stages of life. Breast milk for a newborn is not the same as breast milk for a 6 month-old. Nutrient content can vary as your baby grows, when they are sick, or even just at different times during the same day. 

That’s why you should use frozen milk in the order you put it in the freezer, and always keep accurate dates written on the outside of the freezer bags.

How To Store Breast Milk in Fridge

Store breast milk in the back of your refrigerator because it will stay cold longer. Make sure it is in a clean container, and use it or freeze it within four days.

Can You Mix Breast Milk From Different Days?

It is possible to mix breast milk from different days. However, some rules apply. Freshly pumped breast milk can be added to refrigerated or frozen milk once you cool down the pumped milk.

Adding fresh, warm breast milk to cold or frozen breast milk will cause it to thaw and can lead to issues with bacterial growth.

Can You Freeze Breast Milk?

Yes, you can freeze breast milk. Use appropriate bags for freezing breast milk, and it will keep in your freezer for up to 12 months. However, it’s best if you use it within six months.

Make sure to write the date on each storage bag so you will know when it is no longer safe to use.

Can You Freeze Refrigerated Breast Milk?

If you do it within a certain amount of time, you can freeze refrigerated breast milk. However, the sooner you freeze it, the better.

The longer it sits in the fridge, the more likely bad bacterial growth will be a problem. If you don’t use or freeze your refrigerated breast milk in four days, you need to throw it out.

When To Start Freezing Breast Milk

You can start freezing breast milk anytime you want. If you pump and want to store it for later, pack it properly and put it in the freezer.

It’s especially wise to freeze breast milk if you don’t know when you’re going to need it and don’t want it to go to waste.

Make sure to put dates on your breast milk bags before freezing them so you know when the milk is no longer safe to use.

How Long Is Breast Milk Good for After Thawing?

Once frozen breast milk is completely thawed, you have 24 hours to use it before it needs to be tossed. 

Tips for Increasing Milk Supply

  1. Ensure your babies are latching correctly. This will help with nursing and pumping and can boost your supply.
  2. Massage breasts before and during feeding and pumping
  3. Try lactation cookies meant to boost supply
  4. Eat a balanced diet 
  5. Seek a lactation consultant for help

Closing Thoughts

If you choose to breastfeed your twins, pumping can help keep your supply strong while allowing you to put milk back for when you need it.