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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Breastfeeding Twins- It is Possible and Enjoyable (My Breastfeeding Story)

When I decided to start blogging again I knew I wanted to share my experiences as a twin mom in order to help others and sharing my breastfeeding story was at the top of my list.  This is a long one, but if it can help another twin mommy (or mom of a singleton) I want to get it out ther!  So here it is- my twin breastfeeding story.

A Little About My Background

I am a Registered Dietitian and starting in 2009 I worked for the WIC program which provides nutritional and breastfeeding education to Women, Infants and Children.  When I started this job I didn't know a lot about breastfeeding (other than my Mom had nursed me and my siblings and my sister nursed all of her children).  I learned so much about breastfeeding during that job and became a Certified Breastfeeding Educator.  I also learned that a lot of women struggle with nursing and there is a lot of misinformation out there. I truly believe all women who want to nurse should be provided with support and resources to make it happen!

Reasons I Chose to Nurse my Twins

The first reason I chose to nurse my twins is because there are numerous studies showing that breast milk is the most nutritious food for babies. I won't site all of these but there is a pretty comprehensive list at Kelly Mom.

Second reason was financial. My main goal was to stay home with my twins for as long as possible. Making the decision to nurse (especially with twins) is a huge money saver.

Other reasons were I didn't want to have to deal with washing and making bottles for twins and breastfeeding is a lot better for the environment than other alternatives.

How I Prepared

I read a lot. The best resources I found were other twin blogs of moms that had successfully breastfed twins. Kelly Mom is the best resources I have found. La Leche League is also very helpful, although I have found it difficult to make it to our local meetings with both babies!

I also prepared mentally by acknowledging to myself that it wasn't going to be easy at first, but I was going to do it and that it would be worth it in the end (it was definitely worth it for me).

I arranged to have as much help as possible. Without my mother and mother in law staying with us the first two weeks I don't know if I could have got my milk supply established!

From Birth to Home

My twins were born via C-Section only slightly early at 36 weeks and 3 days. During delivery I did not get to do skin to skin on my face but they did bring the babies to my face right after measuring/weighing them. I was in recovery for a little while and then they brought Sissy to me (probably within an hour) and I was able to do skin to skin and nurse. Bubby had to stay in the nursery due to low blood sugars and my husband informed me that they had to give him a bottle of formula or they would have to start an IV with sugar water.  This was upsetting to me as I had hoped to exclusively breastfeed and not have to give them formula.

During our hospital stay I got to nurse Sissy a few more times and try to nurse Bubby, but after a day or two the Dr. no longer wanted me to nurse because they were losing too much weight and not keeping their blood sugars up. So I met with the lactation consultant, let her know that I wanted to nurse no matter what and she had me start pumping every 3 hours. It was exhausting- pumping and then going to the special care nursery to feed the babies bottles of formula and expressed colostrum.  Finally they turned the corner and started gaining weight.  They still didn't want me to nurse, but said I could start trying once I got home.  When leaving the hospital my milk hadn't come in yet and I was worried and scared that they wouldn't be able to latch once we got home. On top of that I hadn't slept more than 2 hours at a time in the past 5 days. And then we started our adventure at home.

 My twins passed out after nursing

Nursing at Home, Pumping and Weight Struggles

After we arrived home I started attempting to let the babies latch one feeding at a time. I would follow it up with a bottle of expressed milk- then a formula bottle- then I would go pump.  We were on a 3 hour feeding schedule (all day and night) so it seemed by the time I got done pumping I would have about 20 minutes until it was time to nurse again.  Both had trouble latching at first and I used nipple shields to help them latch better.  My milk came in around 10 days pp and by the two week mark I was no longer having to give formula bottles. 

I remember having to do a lot of motivation for myself in the early days- I used the metaphor of a marathon to keep me going. "It's a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn't matter how slow you go, just keep moving." And that motivated me to keep pumping, keep trying to latch, keep rocking them to sleep, etc.

Because we were doing the nursing and bottles there were only a few times they didn't gain as expected- one of those times being when I was trying to transition to just nursing.  Due to pumping so much I had developed an oversupply of milk and when I tried to switch to exclusive nursing Bubby was only getting the fore milk (high in sugars and low in fat) and not enough hind milk to help him gain weight. At 6 weeks postpartum I stopped pumping on a regular basis and it took a few days for my supply to even out, but it did and they both started to gain good amounts of weight. This was a real turning point for me in my breastfeeding journey- they were nursing exclusively and I was done having to pump milk, feed bottles and do all the dishes associated with that. About 2 months out I weaned them off the nipple shields which simplified things as well.

Tandem Nursing and Nursing Away From Home

As I worked on getting the babies to latch I also worked on getting them to tandem nurse. I knew it would make my life a lot simpler once I could feed them both at the same time.  I would get the one who was hungrier latched and then work on getting the other one latched without knocking the first one off. We mostly did football hold in the early days.  I also used the MyBreastFriend Twins Plus nursing pillow which was a life saver.  

When they were small I would nurse them individually any time we had to nurse away from home- usually trying to make sure I fed them before they were both hungry at the same time!  As they got older and were able to support themselves a little it became easier to nurse without the nursing pillow- I would hold one in a cradle hold and the other in a football hold using the first twins' legs as a head support.

Growing Babies

As they grew they went through all of the common nursing phases- distractibility, growth spurts and biting. Having them tandem nurse did add a little degree of difficulty to these phases, but I feel like once we got the tandem feeding down it really wasn't a lot more difficult than nursing a singleton.  But I will say the 3 month growth spurt was difficult for me physically. I remember drinking glass after glass of water and still feeling thirsty and eating snack after snack and still being hungry. And being exhausted... but like all things it passed.

Looking Back

Sissy and Bubby are 17 months now. I nursed them until 15 months and I can't say that I have any regrets about how long I nursed them.  I know that I gave them a great start nutritionally, we had tons of amazing bonding time (with all three of us together and me individually with each of them), and I saved a lot of money in the process.  

Nursing my one year olds!

Whew, that was a lot for one post. I am sure I forgot some important details and if any expecting twin moms (or other moms) have any questions I would love to be able to answer them for you! I do plan on making a post about my top tips for nursing twins and I will link it up when it is done.

Thanks for Reading,


Stephanie said...

Good for you! My (almost) 18 month old still nurses, about 4 x / day. I'm sort of ready to give it up, but he is still very interested. So I'll continue until his second birthday.

Katherines Corner said...

precious babies. Lovely post. Hugs

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