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.