The “Art” of breastfeeding twins
Much like an artist who has feverishly painted multiple canvases before getting the final amazing finished product she was hoping for, such too is the art of breastfeeding twins. Not only is there no “right” or “wrong” way to do it, it often takes many different trials on many different “canvases” before you find the style and format that works the best for you. Here’s my story of the trials and tribulations to find the “art” in breastfeeding my twin girls. Enjoy.
The first year of my twin’s lives has proven to be the most difficult, yet rewarding, year of my life.
While I was pregnant with my girls I had decided, like many other twin moms, that I was going to give breastfeeding my best shot when the girls were born. I knew from talking to other twin moms not to have too high of standards, to not feel bad if I only made it a couple of weeks/months, and to not be afraid to supplement the girls with formula if they needed it. I was very hopeful though – my mom had successfully breastfed all three of her children - and my mother in law had successfully breastfed all three of her children as well. Although…none of those children were twins. Regardless, I had a wonderful support system, so as long as my body cooperated and produced copious amounts of milk, I was willing to rise to the challenge.
If only it were that easy.
My girls entered into this world at 36w2d via C-section. They were 6 lbs 1 oz and 6 lbs 4 oz, and while they appeared healthy to me, they quickly made their way from the Operating Room to the NICU. Brianna was having breathing issues and required a CPAP and Olivia had low blood sugar. Within 10 minutes of their birth they had been whisked away from me and down to a different floor on the opposite wing of the hospital. So much for getting a chance to breastfeed my girls right away and bond with them as I had hoped…
Things only got worse from there. I had preeclampsia (the reason for the early delivery), and within 12 hours after delivery my blood pressure skyrocketed to very dangerous levels. The doctors and nurses wouldn’t let me get out of bed. I couldn’t go and see my babies, and my babies couldn’t leave the NICU floor to come and see me. I couldn’t nurse them. I was forced to use a pump to try and express milk for them. As a first time mom to newborn twins in the NICU, the support I was provided for breastfeeding and nursing was definitely inadequate. Sure, once my blood pressure stabilized and I could go down to the NICU to see and nurse my girls I could work with the lactation consultant, but by the time a lactation consultant was even available it was already Day 4 of my little girls lives and my milk had already come in.
Thank God for my wonderfully supportive friends and family who encouraged me to keep pumping and nursing, or I definitely would have already given up. My girls weren’t gaining weight appropriately, and “had” to be supplemented with formula in the NICU. I wasn’t producing enough milk to feed both of them. One of the nurse practitioners in the NICU actually told me “not to bother” pumping/nursing because it wasn’t worth the effort to get such a small amount of milk. I was devastated. I kept nursing, and pumped every single time after I nursed to encourage my body to produce more milk, but I also supplemented the girls with an ounce of formula after each feeding to make sure that they were getting enough nutrition. I kept telling myself to hold out and not make any decisions regarding breastfeeding until our girls were home with us.
After 8 days the girls left the NICU and came home. They still weren’t gaining weight well, and in order to be discharged we had to agree to weekly visits from a home health nurse where she would weigh the girls and assess their growth and development. I hated those visits. Weight gain was slow, and the entire process was exhausting (nurse baby A, nurse baby B, pump, do it all again an hour later) and painful (literally…my nipples were like raw hamburger at that point!). Eventually we graduated from those awful home visits, and I was given permission from our pediatrician (at about 3 weeks old), to switch from breastfeeding plus supplementation with formula to just breastfeeding and supplementing with pumped breast milk. I was SO relieved.
Everything after that point went so much more smoothly. Sure, I still nursed baby A, nursed baby B, and then pumped each time, but the feedings soon grew further apart, from every two hours, to every 2.5 hours, to every 3 hours. I was also able to get to the point where I could pump and then feed both girls at the same time with the milk that I had pumped. This saved a TON of time and made me feel like I had more time to do other things, other than be the resident milk cow (which I most definitely was!).
I attempted to regularly nurse the girls at the same time using a twin nursing pillow (it has worked for a lot of twin mommas!), but I found that the nursing pillow wasn’t incredibly helpful until the girls had decent neck control (3-4 months), and even then I had one good breast feeder, and one not so good breast feeder who I couldn’t keep latched. It became common for me to nurse baby B while daddy fed baby A a breast milk bottle that I had pumped. It worked for us, so that’s what we did.
When I started back to work at 12 weeks my breast pump “Bob” (as my husband and I named him) became my new best friend. Literally. I never left home without it. I pumped every 2-2.5 hours, for 20-30 minutes per pumping session. I had an entire second set of pumping gear at work. I had two pumps - a Medela Pump in Style and a Medela Freestyle. I had battery packs, I had car lighter adapters, I had spare parts galore. I had about a gazillion bottles...so many that the nanny has a hard time making them all fit in the cupboard when she did the dishes (LOL).
To say I was well equipped may have been the understatement of the year.
I was incredibly fortunate. My body was able to produce enough milk to feed both girls exclusively, and I even had 5-6 oz a day left over that went into my freezer supply. Here’s a sample view of what my refrigerator looked like on any given day:
|This is what is popularly known in breastfeeding circles as "The Stash"|
I realize how fortunate I am. This did not come without some serious commitment on my part though. Here is what my daily schedule looked like when I went back to work, up until the girls turned 1:
5:30 AM get up - nurse Brianna.
5:50 AM Pump.
6:25 AM Shower.
7:15 AM Go to work.
8 AM Pump.
10:45 AM Pump.
12 noon Eat lunch.
1:30 PM Pump.
4:15 PM Pump.
5:30 PM – Go home.
6 PM eat dinner.
6:30 PM– nurse Brianna/Olivia.
7 PM Pump.
8:30 PM Bathtime and Bedtime.
9 PM Pump.
11 PM Pump, then go to bed.
My whole life was built around nursing and pumping! I had no idea it would be such a time commitment when I signed up for this breastfeeding gig =). By the time the girls hit 12 months old I had spent the equivalent of a full 60 days (24 hour days) nursing and/or pumping. Wow. WOW! But you know what? I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. I am SO lucky that I was able to nurse and feed my girls’ breast milk for as long as I did. I was so very blessed. And the bonding I had with my girls was simply amazing. I would highly encourage it.
Oh! And if you are going to breastfeed, I highly encourage investing in some nursing tops and tanks. I wear nursing tanks every single day (instead of nursing bras) and I love them! The tanks help to shape your post pregnancy belly a bit too. . .we can all use that, right? =). Nursing tops are perfectly designed to be stretchy and conceal the fact that you are breastfeeding an infant. I found nursing bras to be clunky and uncomfortable and non nursing tops to be a pain since you have to take them off to feed or pump. . .maybe just me. . .=)
So, for the new twin mommas out there, please know that breastfeeding may not be the right decision for everyone, but I do encourage you to at least give it a shot – make your own canvas per se. It is hard, and no lie, it is painful, especially at first, but the benefits to your baby are astounding (assuming your body cooperates!). Overall though, please remember that you need to do what is best for your family. If formula is best for you, formula is best! If breastfeeding works for you, absolutely 100% go that route! Dabbling in both breastfeeding and formula is perfectly acceptable too!! And of course if you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding twins (or otherwise!), I would be happy to answer them for you =). I am currently nursing and pumping for my new son Hudson who is 2 months old, so I can totally relate from a singleton standpoint too=).
So there it is, my breastfeeding twins experience, in a nutshell. I’d love to hear your experiences too! What helped make you successful? What pushed you towards failure? What would you have done differently if you could do it all over again?
Thanks Olusola for allowing me to guest post on your blog!!! =).
Isn't she sweet? She writes an awesomely informative post for my blog and then thanks me for it! Visit Megan's blog to read heartwarming posts of her life with the twins and the handsome little man Hudson. If you're anything like me, you'll become her lifetime blog stalker too.