Laura wrote a wonderful post this week on how hard it can be to breastfeed multiples and how it sometimes just doesn’t work. Sometimes, giving up breastfeeding is the best choice to make for your family. It wasn’t the choice that I made, but I also wasn’t faced with the hurdles that she had to cope with. I always feel weird when people are impressed that I breastfed my twins to a year. Because, while it was hard work, we had a couple of things happen that let this work for us. We also DIDN’T have some things happen that would have gotten in the way of breastfeeding working for us. So, here’s my story of what made breastfeeding work for me.
Factors that allowed us to breastfeed:
1. Twin moms make good friends. When my babies were 2 weeks old, we met a neighbor who had nine month old twins. (Ok, so she came running out of her house when she saw us walk by with the duoglider and two infants.) She dragged me (keeping her babies awake for their naptime so we could all go) to a local breastfeeding support group that was fantastic. The LC had twin granddaughters herself and was totally supportive of exclusively breastfeeding twins. I learned so much from her. Thank you, neighbor. (She also taught me swaddling, introduced me to Happiest Baby on the Block, and watched my kids for me one glorious morning so I could sleep for two hours. Love her!
2. Long prengnancy, healthy babies. I carried my twins to 36 weeks 2 days. They were sleepy, slow eaters, but they could both suck. Although they did not get to breastfeed until about 12 hours after birth, due to my own recovery issues and their need to be monitored in the nursery for a few hours, they had no NICU time. This let us practice breastfeeding from the get-go, although boy was it slow at first! Danny had to be stripped down to his diaper each time (talk about effort!) and poked and tickled to stay awake. Abigail refused to be awakened to eat, but when she wanted to eat, she was insistent!
3. Supportive doctor. My pediatrician never pushed supplementing and was very supportive of exclusively breastfeeding. She never made me worried about their weight gain and never suggested supplementing. She didn’t know a lot about breastfeeding, but that was ok. I knew a great LC!
4. Fat babies. They were big babies (5lbs 15oz and 6lbs 6oz) for 36 weekers and once home, gained weight quickly. (Think a pound a week each for a while–it was shocking!). I stopped worrying about whether they were getting enough milk from me rather quickly. Then, if I was at class and needed to pump, and the pump only produced 4-6 ounces, I didn’t freak out about my milk supply dwindling. I KNEW that the babies were growing great, and that pumps don’t get milk as efficiently, so I wouldn’t obsess about small amounts of milk (too much).
5. Say no to the pump! I pumped only once a day, just to get a bottle for Seth to feed them at midnight, so I could skip that feeding and sleep longer. I hated pumping. Ugh. If I’d had to do this six times a day, I’d have lasted about 2 weeks. I have so much respect for moms who do it long-term.
6. Lots of help! Seth took 6 weeks off of work (2 weeks of paternity and 4 weeks of vacation) when the babies were born. My mom stayed for the first two weeks after they came home from the hospital. All this help let me focus on breastfeeding the babies (I think I wore a hole in one corner of the couch, I sat there so long!) and not on anything else. I still got to eat and wear clean clothing. (I really think life would be better if Mom still lived with us, but no such luck).
7. Feeding one at a time. I didn’t tandem feed. This works for some people and they swear by it, but I hated it. I couldn’t get both babies to attach right. I didn’t like how it felt. I felt like a cow. I gave myself permission to give this up and just feed them one at a time. Nice snuggle. I liked it. And, it worked for us.
8. No sore/cracked nipples. I didn’t have a lot of pain. It certainly hurt when they latched on for the first few weeks (ow!) but overall, I didn’t have a lot of pain. And, the mastitis waited until 6 weeks when BFing was already established. Ouch. That was no fun.
9. No schedule! I fed on demand. This helped with milk production, but also helped keep the kids satisfied and full. It let me avoid the need to supplement out of a fear that the babies weren’t getting enough. (This of course is not the case for people whose babies AREN’T gaining weight). I have to credit the LC again here, who would say to us every class THE BABY WILL NEVER RUN OUT OF FOOD. Apparently, babies can trigger a second let-down even when the pump can’t. Who knew? There were nights when I would feed the babies one after the other from 5pm to 7pm, when they would finally stop eating and go to bed. Maybe even 4pm to 7pm. I would sit on the couch with one and watch tv. Seth would have the other one with him. Then we would switch. And switch. And switch. Full babies, relaxed mommy (LOVE my DVR) and great milk supply. This feeding on demand also let me let the kids take 3 hour naps, and then have me feed them when they got up, and an hour later when they were hungry again. I NEVER woke them upa t night. We didn’t do a regular every three hour schedule until…hmm, maybe 5 months?
10. Sidelying position. A nurse in the hospital spent the whole morning before discharge helping me get the babies to latch on and eat. The LC at the hospital had already told me that no one BF’s twins, and that you formula feed one and BF the other, then switch for the next feeding. (Uh, what?!). Anyway, this nurse taught me how to BF in the sidelying position, which my babies took to immediately, even though they had trouble latching on in any other position. For the first few days home, I only fed them in the sidelying position. It was also the only way to feed them at night, lying down in the dark with them next to me in bed. Not ashamed to admit there were a number of times I fell back asleep. At the very least, you don’t have to be all the way awake. Even now, at 12 months, when they wake up in the morning, I bring them in one at a time and feed them lying in our bed. It’s a great snuggle and a nice way to get awake in the morning. This position got me through all those night feedings.
11. Not working full time. I’m a stay at home mom, at least 90% of the time (still finishing classwork and dissertation writing). BFing is so much easier than pumping at work three times a day.
Laura mentioned that she’d love to see this post, because her perception was that all moms of twins went through the struggles she did and she wasn’t strong enough to stick it out. They don’t! While breastfeeding twins is always a challenge and always work, for some people, a confluence of happy events makes it easier than for others. I hope my list of what made it possible for us helps other moms, either to make breastfeeding work, or to give up that guilt over not breastfeeding that’s so tricky to leave behind. Now that they’re one, we’re on to the next new challenge….weaning.