Breastfeeding Twins: My Story....So Far
Before my twins were even a thought in my mind I can remember in early 2017 preparing for surgery on my right breast and thinking about breastfeeding one day. I have fibroadenoma and a cyst in my right breast had to be removed after it had doubled in size. I can remember asking the surgeon if the removal would pose any risk to my ability to one day nurse a baby. She said there may be a chance that a milk duct could be damaged but there would be no way to know if there was damage until I had a child and that many women are unable to breastfeed in general. I can remember thinking "hmmm, well I guess I'll see one day".
Flash forward to my twin pregnancy. If I am being completely honest, I had no idea what I was getting into. When someone would ask if I was going to breastfeed my twins I would say "That's the plan! But we will see what happens". It was something I wanted to do but had absolutely zero expectations as to what it would look like. I can remember going to a Birthing Class at the hospital that we were planning to have our twins at and several of the mothers discussing a breastfeeding course they had attended and how helpful it was. I remember thinking "That's nice......but I'll figure it out''.
My extent of planning for breastfeeding was as follows:
-Pick pump provided by insurance
-Purchase twin breastfeeding pillow (oh yea....i was going to tandem.....should be super easy..........)
-Buy Nipple Cream!
Oh....were you expecting more...because...there isn't any more. In my head I had this beautiful image of nursing my babies for the first time and it just coming so naturally to me, and I mean women have been doing it forever, how hard can it be?
On October 28th, 2018 after an emergency c-section Hannah and Jonah entered the world at 35 weeks and 4 days of gestation and each weighing 4 pounds and 13 ounces. After being wheeled into recovery, I was able to hold my babies and nurse them for the first time. It was........nerve-wracking, scary, awkward, and all the things I had not imagined it being. I only held and nursed one baby at a time at first. They were so tiny, so very tiny. Not long after I nursed them for the first time I was asked by a nurse if it was okay if she gave them each Similac Neosure Formula. She expressed that because they were so small they wanted to make sure they had supplemental nutrition. I said yes. I had two premature babies and I was not an expert in what was best for them and knew at that moment they needed more than I could give them at that time. And so began my love hate relationship with Neosure.
Jonah had to go to the NICU for around a day and a half to monitor his breathing while Hannah was able to join me in the hospital room. Within about 1-2 hours after getting settled in the room our first lactation consultant came in. She was pleasant and showed me how to hand express and how to latch with Hannah. I was told to nurse every 3 hours for 20 minutes minimum, pump after every feeding, and provide up to 10 milliliters of Neosure after every feeding. The lactation consultant provided me with syringes to put my colostrum into so that my husband could bring it up to Jonah in the NICU and told me how very important it was that I make sure he got my breastmilk. For the next few hours I followed these guidelines and nursed Hannah, hand expressed colostrum drop by drop into syringes getting a few golden milliliters at a time, sending it with my husband to the NICU, giving Hannah Neosure, and pumping. Some time a few hours later a second lactation consultant came in and threw my whole system upside down. She suggested I nurse Hannah a different way, and said I should only be giving 5 milliliters of Neosure after a feeding , and I should nurse every 2 hours, and I wasn't drinking enough water. I nodded, listened, and then adjusted again. It wasn't until around a day later when Jonah was able to join us in the hospital room that we had a lactation consultant from the NICU come in. She had approached my husband in the NICU and had seen the syringes he had brought up for Jonah and said " I am sure your wife is tired but if she would like I would be glad to come talk with her". She was the first person to ask before coming in, and that didn't make me feel overwhelmed or like I was doing something wrong. I attempted to tandem feed......and failed miserably...but she helped show me how to comfortably nurse each twin on their own and reassured my choice to use neosure and the importance of them gaining weight and getting in nutrients that a full term baby may not need as desperately. She encouraged me to rent a hospital grade pump for a few weeks to help increase my supply at home.
The first week home was absolute insanity. For my husband and I we committed to a schedule pretty much immediately. If you breastfed twins on demand....more power to you.....I honestly don't know how you did it. We lived by the schedule. The schedule was.....and still is to an extent everything. After some trial and error it was a feeding at 6:00am, 9:00am, 12:00pm, 3:00pm, 6:00pm, 9:00pm, 12:00am and 3:00am......REPEAT! A feeding took about an an hour and a half and consisted of nursing each baby for around 20-25 minutes separately and giving each baby around 1oz of Neosure after each feeding. My husband had to help me at every feeding in the beginning. We were exhausted getting maybe 1-2 hours of sleep at a time. At some point within the first or second week I began to pump at night and we began to give bottles of pumped milk at the 9:00pm, 12:00am, 3:00am and 6:00am bottles. We made this transition for two reasons- an attempt to get them to "sleep better at night"....we thought if we knew they were getting a certain amount of milk they may sleep better (newsflash.....didn’t work) and also so that my husband and I could each take a feeding on our own and get a little more sleep. He took the 12:00am and I took the 3:00am. I would pump and bottle feed at the same time and eventually got a night feeding down to an hour. I would use a handsfree pumping bra (an extremely helpful amazon purchase) and would bottle feed the twins at the same time in their bouncers. I could pump a good amount of milk to the point where after doing this for 2 months I had built up quite a freezer stash of milk.
Nursing on the other hand took some time to master. Once my husband returned to work I was determined to master the ever so difficult "Tandem Feed". I had a special breastfeeding pillow just for this and I was going to do it! It took some time to get it down and a lot of propping heads, and maneuvering babies in various positions and sitting awkwardly so the babies didn't get a face full of boob, but I did it! It was one of the most empowering things I had done, knowing I could do it on my own and feed them at the same time. I had started to get attached to the idea of breastfeeding...quite literally, and began to despise the Neosure. I knew that it was helping my babies grow, but I selfishly wanted to be the reason for their growth solely. I couldn't wait for the pediatrician to say "okay you can stop the Neosure" but it wasn't until 2 months in that we were able to. I really can't tell you why i despised it so much. It helped my babies grow, it provided them with nourishment specifically formulated for premature infants. Whenever I look back and think about the feelings I had at that time, I still am unable to put words as to why I felt the way I did. Part of me felt that I should be all that my babies need and I didn't like to think I wasn't enough for them. I am going to take this opportunity to thank Neosure for helping my babies grow. I can look back now and see how important it was for them to get as much as possible and Neosure was calorie dense and provided them that. I was glad to see it go though. For 1 month I got to exclusively breast feed my twins and I loved it! They began to sleep longer at night and I didn’t have to wash bottles! Hallelujah!!!Then the time came for me to return to work.
On January 28th, 2019 I went back to work. Hannah and Jonah were 3 months old and I was a mess! The plan was to pump at work. I had done some trial runs the week prior and set up my office at work to be more comfortable. The first few weeks were tough I struggled to produce enough milk for them. I would sit at my desk, watch videos of them, bring their pajamas from the night before to hold and have their smell. I had finally got to a good place and was making enough and then at around 4 months we suspected Hannah may have had a milk protein allergy. So I stopped consuming all dairy and bye bye went my supply. Within a month I had gone through most of my freezer supply and was feeling so defeated. we eventually found out Hannah didn’t have a milk protein allergy and you better believe I devoured a milkshake in no time. It took a while for my supply to increase again. I tried various supplements, increased pumping and tried to be as relaxed as possible.
Throughout all of this I had my husband. I don’t know if I could have done all of this without him. He knew how much breastfeeding had become important to me. We had briefly discussed formula when my supply had tanked, and I told him I didn’t want to discuss it again at this time and he said “what can I do to help support you”. My husband was my pumping cheerleader. I had a goal to be able to have enough milk for my twins to be able to go away with my friends for a weekend in June. Every night when I wouldn’t want to pump he would encourage me, wash my pump supplies, buy me endless chocolate chip cookies, and sit with me and help me relax. I would often get frustrated when I would not make as much as I needed or wanted to make. On nights when I only made a few ounces he would say and continues to say “ That’s a few more ounces that you didn’t have before“. He handles my milk like the precious liquid gold it is and reminds me every day how hard I work. Did I mention how much I love this guy. By the time the weekend had come I was so proud of the 180 ounces I had managed to freeze.
So here we are 9 months into this breastfeeding journey. If you would have asked me a year ago how long I saw myself breastfeeding I would have said ”I don’t know we will see” and the answer remains the same (some new teeth are starting to make me question that at times). Right now my goal is a year, but if I am being honest it’s less about making it to a year and more about my choice in how I choose to provide for my babies. Not all women choose to breastfeed or can breastfeed. Whether you nurse, express milk for a bottle, supplement with formula, formula feed completely, or your child needs a feeding tube, you are nourishing and providing for your child and that is the most important thing.