Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How to (Breastfeed Twins) Part 2

In Part 1, I talked about breastfeeding in the NICU, the early days and latch issues as well has how we did things for the first 6 weeks. In this post I will share about:

*Feeding one at a time
*Balancing breastfeeding twins with another child in the mix
*Milk Supply Issues 
*When things don't go as planned

How To (Breastfeed Twins) Part 2:

It was around month 3 when I decided that tandem feeding was hurting more than helping. I was really having a difficult time latching them both myself without one falling off while the other was latching and so on. 
I did watch this video and it really helped, but I just wanted to be able to do all of this without help (because that was reality) so I started feeding them one at a time. 
I would grab the one showing the signs of hunger first and feed, while the other one was in the swing or the bouncer safe and sound...usually with a pacifier in case his brother was taking too  long :) 
Sometimes the waiting baby would cry.
That was probably the hardest part, and something that you would never have to deal with if you only had one baby, and something that wasn't fun...and it wasn't all the time, but it did happen. 
I would remind myself that they are okay, and just hungry and would be fed shortly. 
I would burp one baby, and then switch them out. 
Feed the next, and swing/bouncer the other!

What worked best for me was assigning one breast for each baby. 
I did this because Camden, who was tongue tied for awhile, until we got that clipped (if you are having breastfeeding issues, I would look into this, it causes so many more issues than you can imagine!) would feed better off of one side. It hurt me less and he was more efficient. 
He was never the strongest breastfeeder, so I wanted to make sure we could succeed in every area possible.
I read a lot of information about assigning a side, and what could possibly happen, but after that research and talking with our LC, I felt like it made sense and would be just fine. 

Switching from tandem to one-on-one was such a stress reliever, and although I was feeding for longer periods of time and it wasn't as "time" efficient as tandem...the stress relief, combined with one on one time was so worth it. 

I am glad I did tandem, but I wish I would have started feeding them separately sooner to save myself some pressure.

Having two small babies to feed, in addition to a 2 1/2 year old was extremely tough. 
I would try and make sure that before I sat down to feed the babies, he had a drink and snack available, his toys were out and accessible and more often that I'd have like, the TV was on. Sometimes, you have to let go of some prior "rules" and realize that life happens and you need to adjust. 
I read that when people would tandem feed, they'd have their arms available to read books to another child or do whatever. 
That just didn't happen....the babies were wiggly and I sat in a chair, there was no extra room.
But once I switched to solo feeds, I did have a free arm to help in minor cases, and it was much easier to quickly set ONE baby down and rescue Jack then setting them both down...because it's such a process to get them latched to begin with!

It was tough on this Mama's heart to be strapped to a chair every 2-3 hrs for 20 minutes at a time....while having another child who needed me. 
Very tough. 
But this would have been difficult while bottle-feeding as well, so it was more the "having two babies at the same time" struggle than it was a breastfeeding struggle. 

Milk supply. Two babies=twice as much food you are producing. 
You can't be silly and try to cut calories while breastfeeding to begin with, not if you want to give your baby the best.
But when there are two babies, you have to eat more than you normally would.
You are feeding two humans!

The body is so cool.
God did such an amazing job....with breastfeeding, the more they suck the more you produce. Which is why they often have you pump after feeds when your babies are small and still adjusting to breastfeeding. 
My milk came in rather quickly for a c-section and I had more than enough in the beginning. 
The times we weighed them after an LC visit, it was evident 'they' were doing their job.

Something happened, and I can't really pinpoint it to this day. 
I would guess stress and fatigue. 
One day they just started eating for shorter periods of time.
I was concerned they weren't getting what they needed because they went from eating 15 minutes each to 5-8 minutes.
I had read that as babies got older, some of them became so efficient, they got all they needed in that time. 
But I wanted to be sure, so we went in to the LC. 
She timed our feed and then weighed the boys.
They got a huge amount in a super short time!
I was so excited.

Well, it wasn't too long after that that we had a visit with our Pediatrician and their weight gain had dropped significantly, like drastic. 
We made another appointment with the LC.
She asked if I thought my supply was low, but I didn't think it was. They hadn't shown signs of it...being fussy or unsatisfied after feeds.
But I went to work, started using fenugreek and goats rue, drinking the Mother's Milk tea, eating oatmeal and drinking almond milk...doing what I could to help bump it up.

Well, over the course of those days the boys both began refusing to breastfeed. 
They were screaming.
They wouldn't settle, they would come on and off....and if I tried to pump it was ounces less than it had been. 
I was so discouraged.

I was given the option of a perscription drug to help increase my supply.
But the one drug is known to cause or can make worse any postpartum depression. 
And with the stress, pure exhaustion and emotional drainage I was experiencing, I didn't think that adding that sort of thing to my body was wise.
The other drug was ridiculously expensive.

I called my LC and explained that they were basically refusing to eat from me, no matter what I did. 
So, she said they had to eat, so to give them a bottle of breastmilk and continue to try breastfeeding when they were more relaxed and pump like crazy.

To make a long story short, my supply never got back up and they began to enjoy the bottle more and wouldn't even latch. 
So, over the course of the next month I pumped and used the frozen milk and bottle fed them. 

When Things Don't Go As Planned it's easy to get down on yourself. 
I remember thinking, before the twins came, how incredible it sounded, a Mom breastfeeding twins. I mean, I very much thought it sounded like the most amazing, almost impossible thing in the world. I started researching and realized, hundreds and thousands of Mom's had succeeded. I realized, I could try and do this thing!
I would tell people of my plan, and sometimes the response would be, "Yeah, that's great" and it would make me pause and think, "Do you realize what a feat that would be?!" You should be saying, "WOW! That's amazing, incredible, you are amazing! Just even wanting to is amazing! Awesome, I really hope it all works out! Breastfeeding is hard! TWO babies!!! WOW!!" 
Because, that's what I would think when I heard of someone doing it. 

There is major pressure to breastfeed in general out there.
We all know the benefits are undeniable and we all know it's the very best thing to feed your baby.
But, you know what. 
Sometimes it just doesn't happen.
Sometimes you can't ( I don't care what La Leche says)
Sometimes you can't for physical, emotional or personal reasons. 
And you know what?
That is OKAY. 

And it's okay to start and to try, and there are no rules. 
You don't need to do it for anyone else.
I'm sure someone is reading this story and thinking, 
"Well, you should have done this, or you could have done this, if you really wanted to"
But they aren't me. 
They don't know every detail of what we tried or didn't and they sure didn't live in my house those months. 
The fact is: some babies are easier than others, some people have everything fall into place. 
Others do not.
But we are all trying to do the very best for our children, and that may look very different.

I really hated stopping breastfeeding. But it was more because I was competitive with myself about it, and deep down I really had wanted to make it one year.
It wasn't convenient for me, feeding twins.
It was so stressful that it didn't feel like sweet, luscious "bonding time"- it was work.
I was so thankful to have been able to do it for the 5 months we did it, and thankful that I had frozen milk to use after and thankful I tried.

I was relieved when all of the pressure was off of me. 
The bottles, those were a pain to wash and prep. 
And the formula wasn't cheap 
(although Costco's is the cheapest and made by the same company as Enfamil and branded just for Costco (Kirkland)

I made it farther with the twin's than I did with Jack (milk supply issues made more difficult by his severe acid reflux and colic)
I had hoped to have one easy breastfeeding experience, where you just have the baby attached all day long and you feed them out and about with just a blanket and no boppy.
The one where you just lie in bed and roll over to feed and then back to sleep.
I dreamt of that.
But that wasn't for me. 
My road was tough, in fact, it was by far the hardest thing I have done.
But I am glad I did it while I did it, and I am extremely proud of myself. 

So, when things do go the way you planned, it's okay. 
Thank goodness there is formula to feed them and that they don't starve. 

To sum it up

Breastfeeding twins CAN be done. You need support, and you should read up on it before they come. 
Talk to other twin Mom's and watch videos and read books and talk to your hubby about it.
Ask questions.
Read up on milk supply before they come, and get yourself a really really really good pump.
See if you can rent a hospital grade pump!

Talk to your LC before they come, your pediatrician and see if they have experience with Mom's of multiples breastfeeding, and if they don't...find someone who does.
Support is key!

Make sure your friends and family know. Make sure they know that life in the first few weeks might not be conducive to them just popping in to see the babies, because you will most likely be feeding them and there is just no way to do that discreetly. :)

I would love to answer any questions you have so please e-mail me!

Below is a list of great resources for you and I hope that it will help you succeed!

This book was fabulous! From pregnancy, to NICU, to home and the toddler years! All things TWIN! Mainly for breastfeeding, but also for much more!

La Leche (while I think they can be quite harsh and a little 'uppity' they do have great resources and support

Breastfeeding Twins- great site!!

KellyMom was one of my top places to go for information on breastfeeding in general!

This site has great info on bumping up your milk supply!

bohomama is a friend of mine who had NICU babies and is still breastfeeding at 8 months. She has some great posts and also a great list of resources!

Dakotapam is a blogging friend who breastfed her twin girls for over a year and was a great encouragement. She has tons of posts and will also chat via email with you about any concerns or questions!


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