Breastfeeding ... Where to begin? When I was pregnant, I didn't think that breastfeeding would be for me. I was totally okay with formula feeding and not really interested in even trying. I was overwhelmed just thinking about trying to breastfeed twins. I did lots of reading on breastfeeding and especially, breastfeeding twins. I was interested, intrigued, and curious about how other mamas (if at all!) did it.
From what I read, it seemed that breastfeeding twins was totally possible! I could even feed them at the same time (tandem) in a couple different positions (football or stacking). I decided I would try breastfeeding, but I wasn't going to put any pressure on myself to commit to it. If it didn't work, I'd just switch to formula. Easy enough, right?
When we went to our prenatal classes, there was a breastfeeding course. The video made breastfeeding seem to easy, so enjoyable (??). I thought to myself, oh I can totally do that. Latching? Oh yeah, I got this! So then I started to get a little over confident, but I was feeling more positive about trying this new experience out.
Before I gave birth to my babes, my nipples started to leak the colostrum, so I thought it was a good sign that I was getting ready to produce milk. I was excited, thinking of what my body could do! I was fascinated in our prenatal course about all the benefits of breastmilk and how totally magical it could be. I went to a Breastfeeding Mamas course in the spring and was also TERRIFIED of the scary things with breastfeeding: mastitis anyone?! I also told everyone that if I ever got bit while feeding, I was done. Well, I've been bit and pulled on, but I still keep chugging along.
Okay, let's get back to the beginning! Once I had my c-section (and I was completely loopy because I was knocked right out for the surgery. Read my story here.), I got back up to my room and swear (but who really knows because... drugs) that I hardly got any skin-to-skin time and cuddle time with my boys before it was time to try breastfeeding. I basically just sat there and had nurses grab at the babies and my boobs to get them latched. It hurt. It was uncomfortable. It was weird. I was propped up with about 5 pillows, and didn't realize how hard it is to hold 2 newborn preemies at the same time to feed them! The whole set up was exhausting. We tried the football hold to start. It was really tough to get the boys at the right height and angle to get them latched and keep them latched. They were learning, I was learning. It was a huge learning curve. The video they show you had a prenatal class is like an 8 month old who knows how to latch perfectly and can hold themselves up. They should show a newborn to give you the real picture! It was not at all what I expected. And then because my milk hadn't fully come in, they wanted me to express milk and pump. What an achievement it was to fill a plastic spoon of milk or pump 1 mL (1!!). Every small success, felt like a large success in my books!
Tim and I wrote everything down. We used the whiteboard in the hospital room. We kept track of time, side fed on, how many minutes, and then how much expressed milk I pumped, and how much expressed milk the boys ate. Pumping was horrible. I felt like a cow. I hated the feeling of it. One of my nurses said, "just pump until you can't stand it anymore." At the beginning, I could only handle pumping for a few minutes. And, my nipples were so sore! They were cracked, red, and bloody. One of the first days, I was feeding Jude and he popped off, and there was blood all over his mouth and cheek! Tim and I freaked out, but were assured that it was okay, and he should just keep feeding through it. That was the only time my nipples bled. We later joked that Jude was a vampire!
I guess the part I disliked about breastfeeding in the beginning was what an ORDEAL it was. It just took so long and I couldn't do it by myself. With twins, it wasn't really a bonding experience when I tandem fed. There I sat, completely exposed, with two babies feeding off of me. I had to sit still and prop their heads up with my hands. I literally couldn't do anything but sit. And I would just cringe at the feeling of them sucking and feeding. We continued with this set up for every feed because that's what the nurses suggested. Looking back, I wish I had just told them that I was uncomfortable and that I wanted to try something else.
We got home from the hospital when the boys were a week old. We continued with this set up for a day and a half. I walked around the house topless and often had Tim, my mom, or my MIL grabbing at my boobs to help me get the boys latched or unlatched. At this point, I really didn't care, but with each growing day I got irritated with having to have so much assistance and being so exposed. I got annoyed with people grabbing at my boobs. I didn't feel like they were mine anymore. Their only purpose was to feed the boys.
We went back to the hospital on Day 8. Read the full story here. By the time I was back at the hospital, I had decided that tandem feeding and the football hold were no longer for me. I tried feeding one baby just cradled in my arms and it was SO much easier! I didn't need help, I didn't need all the pillows, I didn't even need the couch! I could sit on the floor entertaining one baby and feed the other! It was glorious. The nurses were surprised that I didn't need any more help when I was back on Day 8. They were surprised I was no longer tandem feeding. And even though I was only feeding one baby at a time, the feedings really didn't take any more time. Without the extravagant set up, I was way quicker with the latch!
There were exceptions to when I would give in and tandem feed. If you are a twin mama, you know what it's like when you have two hungry babies and how do you choose between the two?! I would sometimes tandem feed at night when they both woke up at the same time (which usually didn't happen!) or during the day if my help couldn't calm one down. Now, I would stack the babies and I only needed one small pillow. I got so good at this that I could even hold my phone in one hand or read my book off my iPad!
I remember the last time I tandem fed. I just couldn't stand the feeling of it any longer. I hated the sucking feeling X2. I told Tim I was no longer going to tandem feed and that whoever was helping would just have to comfort and entertain the other baby. Yes it was hard to listen to a baby cry for 20 minutes while he waited his turn, but it was SO much better. I began to enjoy my feedings and one on one time with each baby. I could breastfeed anywhere!
I continued to breastfeed the boys every three hours (during the day) until 6 months. Since then, we have been doing some solids so now I only breastfeed about 2-4 times a day. And the boys are 8.5 months and they just have quick feeds. Usually under 10 minutes per baby. I know that my journey in breastfeeding is coming to an end. I am starting to mourn my experience with breastfeeding. It is bittersweet. I can get out and do things and I don't deal with impatient hungry babies as much (they do love to eat). But, it's become so second nature and I enjoy my quiet time on the couch with each boy. Breastfeeding has also played a big part in losing the baby weight (my experience) and breastmilk is so magical! It's cured a few cuts and eye infections! I usually try and pump 1-2 times a day (during naps or before I go to bed) so that I have a stash. But, I don't produce as much milk anymore, so I usually only have a few ounces in the freezer at a time.
My babies were not exclusively breastfed. Since 6 weeks old, we have always given them a bit of formula right before bedtime. We started with half an ounce and now we're at 5 oz. We've been at 5 oz for months now. I would like to start to ween them from the formula, but I haven't quite conquered that challenge yet. They are weening themselves off breastmilk. They eat a lot of veggies, baby cereal, soft foods, and baby crackers. I think they are so used to have breastmilk from the breast and bottle, and formula, that they just sort of go with the flow.
I will be sad when my breastfeeding journey is over. It was hard at the beginning, really challenging and there were times I wanted to give up. I guess I wanted to prove to myself that I could to do it. I started with small goals and then each month I just kept saying, "okay, another month" and now I don't want it to end. The only thing I know is that when the boys are old enough to ask for milk I will for sure be done. No thank you! But for now, we will keep with our routine. I enjoy our mornings in bed feeding and cuddling the boys. I know that the day is near where they will no longer want to do that. I am getting emotional just writing this and thinking about how far we've come!
I know I am lucky. Not all moms are able to breastfeed. Not all moms want to breastfeed. I say just do what works for you and what works for your baby! #FedIsBest.
Thank you for reading!
MRS. + MAMA