I decided early on in my pregnancy that I would give breastfeeding my twin babies a wholehearted attempt. Having breastfed our first daughter, my thoughts towards it were simple. I would give it a good go and if it worked, it worked, however I would have no problem shifting them to formula if I was not producing enough milk or found it too overwhelming. To my surprise I ended up lasting a whole 13 months. It was far from easy and there were many times I wanted to give up. I set myself small goals/milestones in the beginning and never really put an end date on it. I figured I'd know when the time came. My hope in writing this blog is that it may assist or encourage another mum with their own breast feeding journey, especially in a time of hardship or uncertainty with the process.
I am not sharing my experience because I think its the only road to take or because I think I am superhuman for being able to do it. I know there are many women out there who have a much harder, even torturous time with feeding than I did. I am sharing it because I really benefited from reading other mums blogs when I started out, some of which I took on board and some of which I didn't. Whether you agree or disagree with my approach, I am proud of myself. I'm all about supporting each other with whatever parenting road we choose, or have no choice to take, because at the end of the day a happy mum is more important than a miserable mum and a baby with a full belly is paramount no matter how they are fed!
Our fraternal twin girls were born at 35+5 weeks and spent exactly one week in special care. They were a great weight, 2.67kg and 2.97kg which made them relatively strong. One benefit of them spending the week in the special care nursery was that I received supervised assistance for every feed. When they had their feeding tubes in, the nurses would extract the breast milk from their little bellies and measure exactly what they had drank from me. If required, they would be topped up with a bottle of either formula or expressed breast milk.
The importance of expressing in building supply
Having previous experience in breast feeding definitely helped me in the beginning as I knew what to expect. On both occasions the first month was tough going, so the fact that I had done it before, settled my anxiety and helped me relax into the process easier. One thing I hadn't done with my first daughter was express after every feed to assist in producing the extra milk! This in itself was exhausting. As soon as I had finished each feed I would hook up the double breast pump and pump away for 15 minutes. Initially it felt like I was achieving nothing as I was getting barely anything out, but then around day 4/5 the engorgement set in and out she flowed. Whilst I resented every minute of the extra work as it took away from cuddle time with the girls, without it I truly don't think I would have been able to build up my milk supply simply from feeding alone.
The day before I was due to leave the hospital with my girls I was frantically calling local hire stores in search of a hospital grade double breast pump. When I told the lactation nurse that I wasn't able to get one she gently touched my shoulder and said, "You are going to be fine, trust your body keep doing exactly what you have been doing here and you won't need it" She was right. I never needed it again. Once we got home I took over a large portion of the lounge which permanently housed my feeding pillow, snacks, a large leak proof water bottle, a burping towel (or several) and the TV remote. From that moment on, I never used a breast pump to increase my supply again.
Looking after number 1
It is so easy for us mums to forget about ourselves when we are caring for newborns and in some cases other children. I truly believe looking after yourself and refuelling is extremely important to assist in producing quality milk for your babies. I always made sure I drank lots of water, this wasn't hard as the thirst I felt whilst feeding was similar to running a marathon (I would imagine), so I highly recommend having a big bottle always in arms reach. Most days when l was at home with the girls by myself I would hardly ever eat a decent meal as I simply didn't have the time or any free hands. So I always tried to have healthy, hearty snacks handy that I could grab on the run or eat when I was feeding. I found that boiled eggs, cheese and crackers, muesli bars, bananas, nuts and yogurt pouches were good easy options, as well as dark chocolate...... I craved chocolate!!!
A good double feeding pillow
I was generously given a 'My Breast Friend' double feeding pillow from a fellow twin mummy and used this pillow on my first feed through to my last. I honestly believe I couldn't have tandem fed without it. If your currently pregnant or just new to tandem feeding and you don't have a great feeding pillow then I highly recommend purchasing one.
Tandem feeding twins
I chose to tandem breast feed for the entire 13 months. I found it difficult at first handling two babies at once but eventually the three of us had our routine down pat. I chose to tandem feed as I found it saved me time especially in those early months. I was able to do it hands free once they had latched on and the demands of a toddler constantly loomed so I wanted to feed them in the most efficient way possible. Supporting this efficiency was the fact that when I tandem fed I found my let down was much faster with two babies working at it, when I fed them separately I found they had to work a lot harder to bring on the let down and the feed would take triple the time.
The only times I would feed them Individually was when I was out in public or during night time feeds from about 3 months old. I found I was too sleepy to handle two babies at once in the middle of the night on my own. During the night feeds, I would feed whoever woke first, put them down, and then wake and feed the other. If they were both awake my husband would quickly get up and help me set up. It sounds tricky but it worked best for me and is what I found easiest. As they got older, they were much more efficient with their feeds and I could have them both fed, happy and back to sleep within half an hour.
I am definitely pro breastfeeding and all for women getting them out whenever and wherever they feel comfortable. Personally, I found that I was a little reluctant to do so. I wasn't comfortable tandem feeding in public or in front of most people to be honest. I can't pinpoint the exact reasoning behind it, but in the early days I was borderline a recluse as it felt like all I did was feed and the privacy and safety of home was where I was most comfortable doing so. As a result of my shyness with feeding, I have all of two photos. Something I regret wholeheartedly because looking back it was such a special and amazing experience which not many people get to have.
Sticking to a routine
I am fond of routine and structure in my household so I chose to follow a fairly strict timetable from the outset with my girls. The routine was simply Feed, Play and Sleep. I never fed my babies to sleep or on demand and always fed them together or immediately after each other. I was extremely strict on waiting a minimum 3 hours before feeding them and I only ever offered them one side each feed. I then swapped them over the following feed. Once they fell asleep (as newborns), lost interest or started playing around I pulled whoever was finished off and began the burping process whilst the other one finished. There were times, (growth spurts, super hot days, leap periods) when I did feed them under the three hour mark but they were minimal. I was conscious not to feed them as a settling mechanism because I knew that if I fell in to such habits I wouldn't be able to keep it up as I mentally couldn't handle having them permanently attached to my breasts. I also had to consider our three year old Maddison, who's world had just been completely rocked by these two little babies. There were many moments I resented the thought of breast feeding - those three hours roll around quickly, so god only knows how she felt about two tiny invaders constantly attached to her mummy!
Due to the pace of life with three under three, I rarely expressed to build up a supply of breast milk for others to give to the babies in the event I wasn't around to feed. At around the four month mark I went out for dinner with friends and left my husband with the girls. From this moment on, they refused to take a bottle, dinner was cut short and I rushed home to feed our screaming babies. We tried several times to feed them with a bottle of both breast milk and formula but they simply refused. I decided that it wasn't worth the stress and pretty much gave up. I would also be on the verge of developing mastitis every time I missed a feed, even after attempting to express. For some reason I didn't seem to get a lot of milk out even with a double Medela pump, it was never enough to drain them and I would be left still feeling heavy and sore.
How I began the weaning process and introduced cows milk
There were many moments where I had simply had enough and longed for a full day where I wasn't required to feed but after each bad patch, which usually coincided with a leap period or growth spurt, the girls would settle again and we would sail through until the next hurdle. At 9 months after a bout of mastitis where I would sit and sob through pain for every feed, I went to my local baby clinic to seek some advice on weaning. At the time they were having 4 breast milk feeds (morning, morning tea, afternoon tea, evening) and three solids meals. I was feeling trapped and really resenting the whole feeding process. I was advised to drop the afternoon feed that day and up the "real food". And just like that I was down to three feeds (sigh of relief). The nurse also suggested I start offering a sippy cup with cows milk in it at lunch time, not to replace a feed but to get them use to the taste and concept. They mostly played with it for the first week or so but it didn't take long for them to guzzle it up. At 11 months I dropped the middle of the day feed and replaced it with a sippy cup of warm cows milk. At 12 months, I dropped the morning feed and at 13 months I dropped the night time feed. I really enjoyed the last month feeding my girls and felt a great sense of sadness (I cried) during their last feed but to be honest I really was ready and surprisingly they were fine with it. Not once did they grab for them or attempt to feed from me after that last feed. I believe this is due to me not demand feeding and not allowing them to use the breast as a settling mechanism. They were strictly for food only and once they had replaced it with the cows milk they simply didn't require them anymore.
The Pro's of breastfeeding
Looking back now I loved that I was able to breastfeed for as long as did, I'm extremely proud of myself despite wanting to give up umpteen times. I'm thankful for the support I received from family and friends and most importantly my husband, I couldn't have got through those early months without him by my side for a lot of the feeds . For all of you out there starting, settled in or finishing up it was far from an easy journey for me but the benefits far outweighed the negatives and if I had to, I would do it again in a heart beat.
*We didn't have to worry about preparing, cleaning, storing or putting away millions of bottles, teats, sterilisers, caps, formula containers, thermoses, fridge bags and god knows what else.
*I am confident we saved a bucket load of money not having to buy formula or bottles and all the above paraphernalia associated with them (or wine). Fiji anyone?
*I was able to eat half a block of chocolate a night and not put on weight
*Breastfeeding gave me a non optional rest period where I was actually able to sit down and enjoy some quiet time with my babies.
*Most importantly I was able to nourish my babies with breast milk just like I had done for their big sister and ensure they were protected with lots of powerful antibodies. My husband would probably add that a major benefit for his is that he was saved from those nasty middle of the night feeds - most of the time, lets face it, no one is ever really safe from an uninterrupted sleep with twins and a toddler in the house.
Now as I watch my two hurricanes sucking back a strawberry milkshake and I sit contently sipping my flat white I can reflect on how fortunate I was to be able to breast feed twins, but at the same time think, thank god i'm done! Cheers.
Riley (L) Ava (R) holding hands during one of their feeds.
One of my last feeds with my girls. As mentioned, I regrettably have no photos of me feeding, the only one I do have, I am not looking at the camera.