I’ve been feeding the twins for over five months on breastmilk alone now. In the early days, as you’ll recall, there were challenges, but it felt manageable. Five months in, I can honestly say that overall it has still been great, but there have been some hard, dark days and some really difficult times too.
I don’t think we’ve ever perfected a textbook latch from either boy, so marathon feeding stints at night can be a bit painful in the morning (thank you Lansinoh); and Monty has especially had periods of time when his feeding has been really up and down, screaming at the breast, refusing to feed. There’s also been more sickness than I recall, especially from Felix, who would have had me claiming “reflux!!”, if I hadn’t had more knowledgeable people around me reassuring me that it was normal, and that he’d grow out of it (he has). I’ve never really mastered tandem feeding, despite researching and purchasing numerous twin feeding pillows and trying different positions. I do it now, but only when I absolutely have to.
And there have been doubts – mine, and everyone else’s too – terrible, terrible nights of no sleeping, and worries about what was causing it and was it my milk, was it quantity or quality – could I really actually make enough? There have been shouts of “formula!!” and “time to wean” coming from all corners, and there was a desperate baby rice purchase made only last week. (It’s still in the cupboard, unopened). So, its been hard too. Feeding two is much harder than feeding one, it’s constant, all the time, and the worries and doubts are doubled. If it wasn’t for the amazing support I found at La Leche League, at times, I don’t think I’d have got through it.
As with anything though, being informed and having the right mindset is essential. Here’s what I’ve learnt since those early days:
- Breasts are a factory, not a warehouse – they don’t store milk, they make it as they are stimulated by a baby sucking. Which is why feeding on demand is vital.
- A soft breast is a healthy breast, and even when you think there’s nothing in there, there is. In fact, ultrasounds done on breasts have found, even after a marathon cluster-feeding session, that breasts still have 25 per cent capacity available. The more milk you remove, the more production goes up.
- Sleep is developmental – and is often entirely unrelated to food.
- A baby’s sucking motion is by far the most efficient way of removing milk from a breast than a pump. Don’t assume, if you’re pumping, that this is all your babies are getting, they may well be getting much much more.
- Some babies (i’m looking at you Monty) don’t like to suckle at the breast all day for comfort. (Who knew?). They want to get in, eat, and get out of there. Don’t think you’ll amuse them for hours in a coffee shop by constantly attaching them to your breast. Oh no, they would like to know what else you have to offer – toys, shiny distractions, walking around, bouncing, a nap.
- The cross cradle isn’t always the best position, especially with twins – the rugby hold is better, but the position much favoured by the experts is the laid-back or biological feeding position. Give it a try, it’s lovely.
- Dummies can make you miss feeding cues. It’s all to easy to be halfway through feeding a fussy baby and stop, and give them a dummy. It takes practice to ensure you resort to the dummy last, not first.
- Pumping is SUCH HARD WORK. I know some women who pumped for weeks and months to ensure their babies had breastmilk for as long as possible. Honestly, I salute you with every fibre of my being.
- It’s important to continue to acknowledge the maternal connection between you and your baby that is so important for successful breastfeeding – on several occasions, when feeding has got a bit stressful, going back to basics, getting into the bath with my boys and feeding them in the water, feeling the connection of their soft, warm bodies on mine, has seemed to reset everything. Skin-to-skin is vital, use it as much as you need to.
- Support continues to be important, perhaps more so when sleep and developmental leaps start to rear their ugly heads – you will have doubts, you will feel uncertain and confused. Keep listening to those who have your back and want you to succeed, tune out those who are waiting for you to fail. Search for local groups and online forums that make you feel comfortable and supported, go to meetings, ask for help when you need it.
- Trust your instincts – always.
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This is fabulous! Hope new mums can find this, as it could really make a positive difference to someone who is struggling with the early demands of breastfeeding.