Breastfeeding twins, the story so far…
When we started telling people that we were not only pregnant again, but pregnant with twins, one of the first, and most common things, that came up, was how I was going to feed them. It seems in many ways an odd question to ask a mother-to-be – I mean, does it matter? Obviously I AM going to feed them, which should surely be the most important thing?
Still. It was the cause of many, many conversations, discussions, and even disagreements. Having successfully and easily breastfed their sister for over a year, I knew that I really wanted to breastfeed my twins. But even I wasn’t sure initially if I would be able to. It was one of the first things I worried about once we were told it was twins. Can you actually feed two babies entirely on breastmilk? Will you make enough milk? How do you do it? Who goes where? How many hands do you need? Do you have to ‘top-up’? Can your body manage it? Will it be exhausting? What happens when they get a bit bigger? How can you ever do it out of the house?
Dealing with Doubt
Many people were sure that I couldn’t do it. And the reassurances that it didn’t matter if I couldn’t breastfeed them came thick and fast. I know these people were trying to help, trying to be positive – but the constant assurances that it doesn’t matter if you can’t do something you really want to do kind of has the effect of making you believe you can’t do it either. For a while I found myself saying: “I’d like to breastfeed, but we’ll just have to see.” I didn’t dare to publicly state my total and complete commitment to breastfeeding, because I wasn’t sure I could do it, especially because so many people seemed sure I couldn’t.
It was only when I started to hear from friends and family about anecdotal experiences of other mothers with twins breastfeeding that I started to feel more hopeful. A text from my sister in law saying: “My friend is a single mum with twins and she exclusively breastfed her twins,’ were like music to my ears. I read and re-read these positive messages constantly. I reached out to anyone I was put in touch with who could share their own experiences with me. I listened to their positive stories and I started to feel more sure that I could do this. It was when several people then recommended the fantastic book – Mothering Multiples – produced by the fantastic La Leche League which deals heavily with breastfeeding multiples – from what to do in the first few hours, to stays in the NICU and troubleshooting a myriad of problems – that I began to feel even more confident and really own my commitment to making it work.
Owning My Decision
And in fact, as time went on, this became a clear goal for me – when I considered birth options and how labour would progress, one of my key considerations was avoiding a situation where the babies or I would be too traumatised or exhausted to establish feeding early. I knew this mattered to me, and I knew it was important. So I kept this at the forefront of my mind until the moment the boys were born.
But still doubts remained – I had found breastfeeding Munchkin so easy, but then she had been an absolute trooper at it – textbook latch, born ready to feed, hungry but always satisfied by what I had. I even remember the first time she latched on, the tight pulling sensation in my breasts was like an old friend, there was even something familiar about it. I thought: “Of course, that’s how it’s supposed to feel.” It was like I’d done it before, a latent memory rising from the deep recesses of my brain. I still can’t explain it, aside from saying that it must have been something to do with that incredible mothering instinct and baby bond – somewhere, my body and baby knew what to do, we’d got this.
But – because it had been so easy – it meant I had no experience of difficulties. I had never expressed. I didn’t own a bottle or know how to sterilise one or make up formula. I didn’t know what I would do if they couldn’t latch, or how I would manage if I had to express. I worried about tongue-tie issues, mastitis, cracked nipples. In the end though, I realised there was nothing I could do, but try, with all my might to feed them. That I could use the experience I already had, the wisdom of books and midwives, the advice of friends and give it the best go I could.
And so, three weeks ago my boys entered the world, yelling with life and ready for milk. I breastfed them both within an hour of them being born, and despite my C-Section and their 36 week arrival, I was able to latch them both on, at the same time. The feeling of that familiar tug on my breasts, their little hands curled on my chest, their faces pressed against me, sucking with all their might was incredibly special.
I was amazed how quickly everything I knew came back to me, how much I actually did know, and how simple – but beautiful – the act of my feeding my children felt. From the moment they both started to feed, I knew – come hell or high water – I was going to make this work. Of course there were some challenges up ahead. The blood sugar tests required in hospital over a 24 hour period for premature newborns were difficult and stressful (but, with hard work and R’s support, we passed them); the pain in my nipples was like nothing I’d experienced before, the double whammy of two babies learning to latch was something I hadn’t anticipated; the short and constant feeds in the early days took time to get used to; the pain of my c-section recovery and my obvious tiredness made it all the harder to find good positions to feed in, and I had to sleep sitting upright for a week.
But we got there – and the boys were back to their birth weights by Day 11. To say my midwife was astounded is not exaggerating – she seemed genuinely shocked, and impressed. “For breastfed twins, that is just amazing,” she told me, over and over again. I soaked up her praise – even though our breastfeeding journey thus far has been relatively easy in comparison to others, it’s still been something we’ve had to work at, and it is something I am proud of. There are those that would have you believe feeding two is impossible. It has been amazing to discover that it is not.
Tips For Feeding Two
- Support is key – you need those close to you to be on-board with this, they need to want it to work possibly even more than you do. Husbands, partners, mothers, sisters, friends – in the early days surround yourselves with those who will champion you and support you. Reach out to those who have done this before, or can reassure you when you’re worried. This was invaluable to me in the early days.
- Ask for Advice – I asked every single midwife that I saw in hospital for help – I allowed them to manhandle my boobs and latch the boys on and then when I could do it myself I got them all to check the boys’ latch constantly. I listened to their advice about how it should look, and when I got home I checked again each time I was visited.
- Read Up – knowledge is power, and here, it is even more so. The aforementioned Mothering Multiples book is essential reading – I read and re-read chapters about latch and feeding style and the early days after the twins were born and found it both helpful and reassuring.
- Take your Time – I have no plans until Christmas. Literally. It has been so freeing and so good for us to know that all I have to do all day is sit about and feed my babies. That’s it. If I do nothing else all day, then my day has been full and successful. This means I don’t have to worry about getting dressed or sticking to a routine or feeding two babies in public. In the comfort of my own house, I can sit in bed all day and just feed, feed, feed if I need to. Bliss.
- Don’t Rush Tandem Feeding – while some people do advocate getting this perfected as soon as possible, I personally think it’s a case of each to their own. It isn’t something you should really attempt until the babies’ latch is good anyway, and it can be quite stressful to try and manage both babies on both boobs. I actually don’t like tandem feeding much either – it turns something intimate and warm with one of my babies into a situation where I feel like a cow being milked. I do it when I need to, when both of them can’t wait, but mostly, I feed them separately and so far it’s working for us.
- Be a Part of the Community – everyone with twins recommended the Breastfeeding Twins & Triplets UK Facebook Group – they all said how wonderful and supportive it was. And they weren’t wrong. The women on here are so positive, so kind, so encouraging and incredibly well-informed about breastfeeding. Every single query I’ve had has been answered quickly and expertly, and I – like so many other women – could not have done this without them.