Thursday, March 1

breastfeeding twins... brace yourself


When I was pregnant I googled away trying to find posts on breastfeeding twins.  I always wanted to breastfeed, was determined that I was going to try as hard as I could to make that wish a reality and of course did the only thing I could to prepare myself... research.  Well... I didn't find a lot... and what I did find was usually a woman talking about how she relegated herself to a mattress on the floor with her twins and did not leave said mattress for several months, emphasizing how she had 24/7 help bringing food to her and changing the twins' diapers.  This was not the experience I was looking for.  The mere thought of living on a mattress like a human cow made me feel claustrophobic.  I didn't find it the least bit encouraging.  So I turned to books.  One book helped.  It was called Mothering Multiples.  At the time I felt that it was quite dated (and it was) but looking back it made the whole breastfeeding twins thing more realistic.  It made it look hard, with lots of potential obstacles, it made me realize that this wasn't going to be easy but for each obstacle there were options to overcome it.

Now I am going to be honest, I seriously had no idea how this whole breastfeeding thing was going to go down.  I mean I would stare at my nipples and wonder where exactly the milk was going to come out... I kid you not.  I had never seen anyone breastfeed... ever.... until we watched a video at our prenatal course.  Thank god we watched that video.  It prepared me for the whole nurses grabbing my boobs at random thing in the hospital... made that seem completely normal.

So here I was in labor and quite curious as to how that liquid gold was going to show up post delivery, stressing about the likelihood that I would not be allowed to have skin to skin contact with the babies right after delivering and how hard it might be to get them to latch on.  Well I did get that skin to skin surprisingly and when we were back in our room and I tried the first baby on they latched right on.  Then the second one did the same.  I was lucky.  I know that.  Of course it hurt like hell but that didn't matter to me one bit.  Unfortunately I did run into a real obstacle that first day.  I came down with a case of severe pre-eclampsia and had to be on a mercury drip for 24 hours.  Our babies could not stay with us because of it.  Andrew went and got them for every feed and as long as I wasn't shaking I got them on and feeding.  We were constantly reassured that they were doing great and the lactation consultants at the hospital were pleased with what they were seeing.  The second night was another story.  At this point they were cluster feeding... all night long... and I was cracked, bleeding and stressing about giving them something other than my boobs.  The one thing I failed to mention in my birth story was how conflicting the opinions were of the staff at the hospital.  So much pressure from some to supplement with formula and so much encouragement from others that they were getting enough and I was doing great.  That night we supplemented.  I felt so torn but in retrospect feel fine about it.  They were hungry and I needed a break and in the long run, it made no difference since I was determined to keep it up.

My milk came in five days after giving birth.  My boobs felt like cement, they were obscene.  I've always nursed the girls one after the other.  In the beginning they ate at least every three hours (I say at least since the day I read Why African Babies Don't Cry I started nursing every time they cried... and it worked... read it...)  and it took each of them about forty five minutes to eat... so yeah... I was like a cow but I didn't care.  I did have lots of help and found the hardest thing for me was just all the time spent sitting nursing.  At first I nursed them during the night as well but a few weeks in we started supplementing them with formula one feed a day (the last one before bed) and then through the night we would feed them pumped breastmilk, Andrew would do the first feeding and I would do the second).  This system worked great.  We could get some sleep again.

It hurt every time they latched on until they were eleven weeks old.  I remembered reading in books pre delivery that it usually takes up to six weeks to get into a good breastfeeding groove with one baby so I think eleven weeks with two was realistic.  At eleven weeks they were taking about twenty minutes each to eat.  So much better.  Now they take about five minutes to nurse... amazing.  Isla is exclusively breastfed now and Alice is breastfed through the day and then gets a bottle of expressed milk at night and a bottle of formula for the dream feed.  Alice loves the bottle so this works for us.  Of course now they eat solid food too so that's a whole other time commitment.

Some of the key things that made this whole thing work for us....

Support... Andrew was in on this 100% and encouraged me through the early pain but never once pressured me to keep it up.
Pump... want to breastfeed twins?  Buy a good pump... not a handheld pump... a double electric pump.  Yes you will hate pumping but in the beginning I pumped after every single feed to get my supply up (and also to make bottles so I could run out to the gym and miss a feed a couple of times a week) and now I pump so that we'll have expressed milk for Alice's bottle before bed and to add to the cereals that the girls are eating.
Food... lots of it.  We were lucky in that Andrew's Mom brought over soo much food.  You will be hungry, very hungry and with all of that breastfeeding you will forget to eat and then your stomach will remind you and you will not have the time to make something.  So either having a Mary Poppins like figure who will magically show up at your door with food or preparing a ton of food in advance would be a good strategy.
Nursing tanks... buy some... I have three and wear them on a rotation.  It just makes your life easier.
Nursing cover... the first time I nursed them in public was when they were eight weeks old.  It was sunny and hot out and I was out with another twin mom at a coffee shop.  I felt so liberated after that outing.  I was not the woman on the mattress, I was out in the sunshine living while breastfeeding.  (If you want to breastfeed boobs out in public all the more power to you!)
Nursing pillow... not the double mammoth twins one.  I had the jumbo pillow.  I tried the whole tandem thing and it didn't work for me.  I mean I can do it now but I value that one on one time with the girls and feel less like a cow when only one is feeding.  Get the Neka pillow, you'll love it.
Beco Gemini Carrier... I breastfeed the girls walking around while I am in the mall.  If you see me out I might literally be breastfeeding while talking to you.
Determination... because the days and nights are long in the beginning and you might be plagued with plugged ducts along the way and you might just want to quit.
Booby tubes... these are amazing.  Buy them.

People ask me now how much longer I will nurse the girls and I honestly don't know.  I am pretty sure I will keep it up until they are a year old.  It's gotten so easy now.  We are so lucky.


19 comments:

  1. You are amazing! And so super insightful! Not to mention fabulously sweet for dishing all your secrets to success!!!
    I totally book mark every product you mention in **hopes** to be using it soon!!!

    You completely rock!!

    The girls are super gorgeous! And growing into their own. You are one lucky lady..I applaud you!

    HUGS!

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    1. Thanks so much! I'm rooting for you guys!!!

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  2. Wow, I am so amazed at you! I wish I could have kept breast feeding so much! I miss that special time with my daughter.

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  3. Your daughters are too cute! Loving the blog! Great job =)

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  4. Good for you babe!!! I'm so proud of you!!

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    1. Thanks and hoping you'll be on your road to IUI very soon!

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  5. Hi Ashley,
    What breast pump do you have/recommend?

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    1. I have the Medela Pump in Style and I am very happy with it. The thing that makes it totally easy though is a pumping bra (should have mentioned that in my post) - it's so you can go hands-free when your pumping which you will want to do believe me. Also if you are near as Babies R Us their babyfest is on and the pumps are 15% off which they never are.

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  6. this is a wonderful story. thanks for sharing :)

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  7. Good job Mama!! Have you had any problems with blocked ducts? I breastfed my twins exclusively for 6 months, but I kept getting blocked ducts... very common with moms who produce a lot of milk (hello twins!). Anyways, I got REALLY sick with Mastitus and my milk supply suffered GREATLY! While recovering, at one point I pumped only 1 oz out of each breast TOTAL! I'm now only producing enough for one, which I worked REALLY hard to get it back up (pumping, fenugreek, etc). I still breastfeed both in the morning when my milk is the highest. It has been SUCH an emotional roller coaster for me and I've shed A LOT of tears. Rocco is my booby boy so I'm still bfing him exclusively. Maximus is VERY temperamental and prefers the bottle. I had to reach the point of not feeling guilty that one baby wouldn't have complete breast milk. It also has made me feel better since I make all their organic food at home... they get the best! Sorry for the long comment, but this hit home with me!

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  8. Thanks for this post. My twins are due soon and I REALLY want to breastfeed exclusively if possible. I've tried to learn as much as possible and I'm trying not to be scared...I know all sorts of things can be hard and go wrong, but my mom keeps telling me nursing was super easy from the start for her (although she only had 1 at a time)...so it's not for sure going to be difficult...but I am as prepared for it to be hard, hard, hard.
    It's great you've had so much success despite some setbacks...

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  9. This post is very insightful and helpful. I only have one lo to feed but I'm already feeling the strain of trying to provide. I admire your determination to breastfeed your twins :)

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  10. Awesome post on breastfeeding & way to go for continuing through the difficult times. My initial goal with BF'ing was also 6mths and now that we're at 8mths I'm thinking I'm going to attempt a year as well. We'll see but we're also into such an easy stride with it I hate to give it up. I also feel incredibly blessed Ian event took to nursing since I had to pump exclusively at the beginning due to his long NICU stay.
    Thanks for sharing such great advice & tips and your girls are absolutely adorable!

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  11. Your sweet daughters are beautiful! So glad breastfeeding has worked out so well for you. Unfortunately, my milk never really came in so I had to give it up when my daughter was two weeks old. Oh well. I tried! If it would have worked I would probably still be nursing her at almost three.

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  12. just reading this now but I love all of your tips! We are about to do our second IVf cycle anf if we end up with twins this time I am 100% going to consult this post! I was so determine to breastfeed my daughter (which we successfully did...almost too successfully since the rascal would never take a bottle) until she was 14 months old. I can imagine it's so hard with twins but you did it!

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  13. Hey! It's Candice again - we emailed awhile back right before my twins were born, and I was asking you about your Belly Bandit. Anyway, I have to know more about how you nurse the girls while walking around the mall! I am still hanging on by a thread exclusively nursing them (thrush, low supply etc), but I have to admit I feel tied down. It's hard to go anywhere because I feel like I have to find a secluded spot and sit down for 45 minutes just to nurse each of them. It's crazy! How do you discreetly do it while they're in the carrier? I have a moby, an ergo and a baby bjorn...wonder if I could do it with those. I can't imagine how amazing it would be to nurse them so easily out and about. Please share more!

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    1. Hi Candice, does your ergo have like a hood or something that comes up high behind the baby's head? My beco gemini does. So what I do: Wear either a nursing tank or top where the top still covers you when you nurse (like one made by boob nursing) and then wear a sweater on top of your carrier - like do the carrier up and then put the sweater on top. Make sure the sides of the sweater are flowing or just generous. I loosen the waist strap on me on the carrier with they baby in it and lower it a bit and then lower the baby down a bit and a bit to one side (the side of the boob they're going to nurse from) then I pull up the head support on the carrier so it's behind their head. I pull the sides of the sweater out to the side and whip out the boob. Their head should be behind the carrier and the sweater should cover any side boob exposure. If someone were to stand right in front of me and look down my shirt then might see something... but really people don't get that close and if they did I wouldn't care.

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    2. Oh and Candice I am so sorry that I never got back to you about the belly bandit. Did you end up getting one. I blame it purely on just having too much going on.

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