*I’m posting this on my iPad and for some reason it’s being challenging. So, if the format is wonky, I sincerely apologize!!*
I always considered myself to be pro-breastfeeding. I couldn’t see, growing up, why anyone would do differently. My mom breastfed my younger brother and me, and I knew without a doubt I’d do the same. Then, I found out I was pregnant with twins. I still insisted I would breastfeed them – how hard could it be? I had two breasts, after all. One for each baby! If I’d had any idea of just how much we’d go through to get our babies my milk, I think I would have been much less confident in the idea, though I’d like to think I still would have gone through with it. I’m sharing
my story here in the hopes that I can inspire another twin mom to persevere and nurse her babies!
Our daughters are now seven weeks old, and I’m proud to say we are still breastfeeding. Our journey hasn’t been typical, however, and that’s why I’d like to share it with you. To start with, my labor was induced. Although I started at 4 cm, after nearly 15 hours in labor, I was only at 6. Exhausted, sick, and hungry, I opted for a C-section. About 45 minutes later, our daughters entered the world. They were
big and healthy, 7 lbs 2 oz and 6 lbs 2 oz. When I came into the recovery room, my husband and the nurses brought them over and I obediently tried to breastfeed them. Still groggy from the anesthesia, I didn’t have much luck getting them latched on. Both girls were drowsy by then as well, and we opted for some cuddling and bonding before we were brought to our room and told to get some rest.
The next day passed in a blurry haze. I was still extremely nauseous from labor and in a lot of pain from the surgery. All of the medications left me groggy and disoriented. When the girls cried, I was able to help soothe them, but holding them was difficult so they snuggled next to me in my bed and then went back to their bassinet. I tried again to feed them, with little success, and a lactation consultant
came in to see if she could help us. They worked on latching the girls on, and told us that we would eventually succeed if we kept trying. So we kept trying. As the day wore on, though, all we saw were hunger signs, despite frequent nursing. The nurses assured us babies would get all the nutrition they needed from me in the first few days, and my body would adjust to make enough milk. The twins seemed to have missed this memo, however, and so had my body. What no one had told us was that Pitocin, which I was on for almost 30 hours straight, delays milk production, and having a C-section delays milk production as well. To top it off, I had two hungry babies to feed. The odds were not in our favor. By ten-thirty that night, both girls were crying and screaming with hunger.
In desperation, we asked for some formula to feed them – anything to calm them down so we all could get some sleep. We were told that they didn’t need formula; we just needed to keep trying to nurse. Since they still weren’t latching (we found out the next day this was because they were both tongue-tied), this was a very painful proposition for me, and I knew it wasn’t satisfying their hunger. At eleven-thirty, when the night nurse came on duty, she immediately seemed to grasp the situation. Within half an hour, we’d been introduced to the Supplemental Nutrition System (SNS), which I know now is commonly used in the NICU to feed premature babies who can’t nurse yet. Our nurse brought in a bottle of donor breast milk, flexible tubing, and a small syringe. Each girl was given a few milliliters of milk through the syringe and tubing. My husband was able to finger-feed the girls through the tubing (they sucked on his finger) and I was able to use a shield and the tubing to simulate nursing and allow the girls to practice latching without causing so much pain. I was also introduced to pumping at this point, so we could use this system to feed the girls any pre-milk I was producing along with the donor milk. We slept for a blissful couple of hours and then did it all over again. Feeding became complex and time-consuming, but it was finally productive.
By the time we left the hospital after five days, each girl was taking almost an ounce of milk at a time. My milk still had not come in, but the lactation consultant seemed confident it would, and it finally did the first day we were home. We were told to supplement with formula as needed until I was making enough milk for both babies. I diligently nursed and pumped, alternating babies, and my husband bottle-fed the other pumped milk followed by formula if needed. Nursing one took almost half an hour, so feeding was very time-consuming. We followed this model until he went back to work after 2 weeks. Once I began staying home by myself, I tried to simplify things by pumping and bottle-feeding only. I kept this up for two weeks, until I realized it was too inefficient. Giving up breastfeeding altogether crossed my mind more than once – in fact, more than once a day at first! Luckily, one day the girls were hungry and I hadn’t pumped. Something clicked, and I realized I could save so much time if they were able to just nurse. I gritted my teeth, latched the hungrier of the girls on, and we’ve never (well, hardly ever) looked back!
Coincidentally, at that point (around 5 weeks, I think) the girls had practiced with the bottles enough to become more effective at nursing, and so I was able to go from pumping 8-10 times a day to pumping 2-3, depending on our schedule. We have tandem nursed, but have found it’s faster and more efficient to nurse one after the other (plus I love the one-on-one bonding time!) I also got their tongue-
ties clipped, which has made nursing and latching even more efficient! We are still supplementing, but our girls get about 80 percent of their nutrition from my milk, and I am so happy that we didn’t give up. Although not every twin mom goesthrough all of this (some go through much more!) I know breastfeeding is not as easy for every mom as she thinks it might be, whether she has twins or a single baby. I hope my story inspires someone else to keep trying and do whatever she can to help her baby (or babies!) get some of mama’s milk – you will be surprised at how rewarding all the effort can be!
Sarah is a young Catholic wife and mother to twin baby girls, who writes over at “… and twins make four!” She loves to run, cook, bake, write, keep house and spend time outside.
Great big “Thank You!” to Sarah for her Guest Post and for sharing her story for all of us!
I am *technically* on vacation right now, so I’ll be running a few oldies but goodies over the next 12 days, but I will try to pop in with some original content as well.