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I always wanted to breastfeed and I have always wanted twins, but actually finding out that I was having them, at my 11 week ultrasound, was a bit of shock! However, I was determined not to give up my breastfeeding dream.
I was, like most people, concerned I would not make enough milk. I did all the research on positions, latch, potential problems, recipes for lactation cookies, nursing clothes, lactation consultants, and anything I could find that I thought might be helpful. I really loved the book, “Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More” and found it helpful in preparing for problems I could have, dealing with NICU, and premature babies. I made sure to have a class at the hospital on breastfeeding twins. I had everything ready.
I lived most of my pregnancy in the thought that “If I just think positively, everything will go my way”. I was in serious denial. I even had my ‘magical plan’ that I called it for how everything was going to work out. Of course, that didn’t work and if you read about my twin’s birth you will see how fast my ‘magical plan’ went down the drain. My twins were born at 36 weeks and 6 days, so one day shy of what is considered ‘term’ and three weeks and one day shy of their due date. Therefore, they were still considered premature. I was very fortunate that they did not have any health concerns and were given to me right away to work on breastfeeding. I did skin to skin time right away, held baby A (Aella), while I was pushing out baby B (Astrid) for a little while (till things got a little crazy and dad held her), had a nurse help with breastfeeding, and lactation consultants visiting me twice a day. The hospital did everything they could to help me and get me set up the best way possible.
Everybody kept telling me, “It’s supply and demand, you need to up your supply.” I knew this, read about it, and it made sense, so I kept going.
Breastfeeding was going okay, we weren’t getting much sleep, but doing relatively well, and my back (from the epidural and awful beds) started to get pretty sore. The babies were born around 1am on March 22nd and we were going to go home Friday morning, the 24th, but the night before things took a turn. Aella wasn’t eating enough, her blood sugar was dropping (Astrid’s was too, but not as much). We got no sleep, my boobs were killing me from constant feeding, babies were working too hard to eat, everyone was exhausted, and I started to feel defeated. The pediatrician said to start formula, so they could get more food and spend less energy getting it. I didn’t have the energy to fight it. I was also told that I would have to start pumping and giving them formula as well. All of this news, on no sleep, was pretty hard for me to deal with. In the morning I told them I wasn’t ready to go home and because they were still monitoring their blood sugars, I was allowed to stay. I had the day to start formula, figure out pumping, schedule follow up appts at pediatrician and Lytle Center (breastfeeding support), get organized, fill out paperwork, ask a thousand questions, and try to prepare to go home.
Had a day of supplementing with pumped milk and formula, until my milk came in (less than 24 hours on formula). At home, I was breastfeeding and bottle feeding my pumped milk. Monday, the 27th the pediatrician said I can try breastfeeding on demand and wake them up if three hours has passed. This was great! I loved getting away from the pump, bottle, and formula. I am amazed at the moms that can keep up with breastfeeding, pumping, and formula feeding, I found it completely exhausting! I even had my husband home to help me and felt that I couldn’t keep up with it. Luckily, Wednesday the 29th, we went back to check their weight gain and make sure only breastfeeding was working. Our pediatrician said that they are gaining weight appropriately, which is fantastic! However, they both are so small, percentile wise, that he really wants them bigger. Astrid was not even on the growth curve for her age, which I found out later is very common for twins. Consequently, we had to fortify my breastmilk for a short time (was only 5 days, till our next appt, to check their weights), which means that I had to add a little bit of powder formula to my breastmilk and feed them that about two times a day. Not great, but I thought it would be worth it, if it helped them to catch up in size.
The next weight check went great! Both babies were up to the 5th percentile, so I got the go ahead to start breastfeeding on demand and not worry about waking the babies up for feedings or fortifying my milk. I was so beyond excited!
As I have stated, I had and have been pretty lucky. My main problem, suprisingly, was too much milk and fast let down. When I was in the hospital and had help from so many lactation consultants, they had me pumping every three hours, which is great to build up your supply. When I got home, with my rented hospital grade pump, I continued to pump for a while during the bottle, formula, and supplementing phase that I talked about. Towards the end, when I started to phase out pumping and supplementing to switch to breastfeeding on demand I had quite a bit of milk frozen and more supply than I needed. I would get pretty engorged and the babies would have a harder time latching and didn’t eat enough to empty my breasts. I tried to not pump, so that my milk supply would regulate, but sometimes I was too uncomfortable and had to pump some. On the occasion, I could just stand in the hot shower and let my milk just kinda drain, for lack of a better word coming to mind. Finding time to take a hot shower though, was not easy.
Once my supply started to regulate some I still had the problem of a strong and fast let down. When Aella would start eating and my milk would let down, she would start to choke, unlatch, and scream at me. It was awful. I would try to hand express some milk and continue feeding her, but she would be so upset. Laying on my side and feeding her seemed to help slow down my milk (works well when she is sleeping/bedsharing), but it didn’t always work. Leaning far back, almost laying down, would help since my milk was working against gravity and would just flow out of her mouth when it was too much. I had so many times of her unlatching and screaming as my milk is spraying everywhere. It was a messy disaster. It also caused a lot of pain and discomfort for her. With all the screaming, gulping of milk, and mess of eating would lead too a lot of gas and spitting up. So much spitting up. Then, the pain of gas would cause her to not be able to sleep and I would have a cranky, overtired, gassy, hungry, and spitting up mess. Luckily, Astrid (baby B) was a little chunk and had no problem eating and passed her sister in weight by 1 month old. I called my local lactation consultants for help, but the only advice they could really offer was what I was already doing and that she will get better at ‘handling’ it when she is a bit older. I was told, “Aw, that’s the best ‘problem’ to have, I am so happy to hear that”. Well, I rather have too much than not enough, but it was definitely a problem for me and Aella.
Consequently, the plan of waiting for her to get older didn’t work for me. Again, going against advice of the professionals, which I don’t recommend, I assigned a baby to a side. Aella would get my less active breast, which was my right side, during the day and Astrid would get my left. During my pumping days I realized that my left breast would produce more milk and faster than my right. At night I decided to switch, since I was laying down and Aella could handle my left side then. This seemed to help and after about a week Aella stopped choking and seemed to do just fine. Was assigning a breast the reason? Did my milk just even out more? Did Aella mature enough to handle it better and it was just a coincidence? I really don’t know, but whatever the reason I am glad that it seems to be fixed.
I do have the occasional fun of having a clogged duct. It usually happens if I am wearing a nursing bra and the babies decide to not eat as much that night (because they are starting to sleep longer stretches!). The mix of tight clothing and not enough eating, leaves me with large painful lumps. Once I wake up, I use a combination of hot shower, massaging, gel heat packs, and lots of breastfeeding, which usually clears them up in a day or two.
Now that they babies are two months old, we have a pretty good rhythm with breastfeeding, but we do still have our problems. Tandem feeding feels like a sport sometimes, trying to feed them both, burp them, and not have two hungry and mad babies. However, when I manage to feed them at the same time, I do feel like supermom. So much so that I got professional photos of me breastfeeding. Just couldn’t help myself, during their newborn photo shoot.
Some days are great and some are a mess. There have been many days that I wished I pumped and let others help with feeding. In the end, I am glad I chose breastfeeding and that it worked out for me. Feeding two is never easy, but it’s worth the double snuggles!
I would love to say that breastfeeding is easy, natural, and can work for everybody. That it is a supply and demand kind of thing and if you continue to feed your babies, with maybe some pumping in the beginning, that you can make breastfeeding work. Yes, this plan works for a lot of moms, but it also doesn’t work for a lot of moms. There are so many factors out there for why people feed their babies the way that they do and I firmly believe that you should never judge another parent.
No method of feeding twins is easy! Weather you are breastfeeding exclusively, pumping, supplementing, formula feeding, or doing a mix, fed is best. At the end of the day, babies need to be fed and they need a happy mom/dad. Do what works for you and your family. If I had to go back to work, only pump/bottle feed, or had to cut out dairy from my diet I don’t think I would have managed.
*Nothing I say should be taken as medical advice! Please see your pediatrician or lactation consultant for help.*